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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Soren, voiced by Jim Sturgess, from the animated film "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole."
The visually engaging 3D animated adventure "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (Warner Bros.) offers family audiences a sound, if not overly original, narrative of downtrodden right versus overweening might. But intense scenes of animal combat preclude endorsement for the very youngest of this otherwise unobjectionable tale.

Director Zack Snyder's somewhat bulky adaptation of the first three novels in Kathryn Lasky's popular "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series of children's books centers on plucky owlet Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess).

Raised on bedtime stories about a legendary band of heroic warrior owls known as the Guardians, young dreamer Soren—who aspires to follow in the Guardians' footsteps—finds his courage put to the test when he and his brother, Kludd (voice of Ryan Kwanten), fall from their nest while learning to fly and are kidnapped.

Transported to the dark lair of a force of militaristic owls who call themselves the Pure Ones, Soren is consigned to slavery by their scheming sovereign, Queen Nyra (voice of Helen Mirren). But the cynical Kludd—who resolutely denies the existence of the Guardians—turns collaborator and is assigned to military training as one of Nyra's minions.

Soren befriends and protects diminutive fellow captive Gylfie (voice of Emily Barclay) and, with the help of a sympathetic guard, the pair escapes. They embark on a trying quest to enlist the help of the Guardians—who prove to be real after all—to defeat Nyra's malicious plans for using secret technology to dominate all other owls.

Along with story elements that evoke traditional tales of chivalry—including Soren's eventual squire-like apprenticeship with knightly Ezylryb (voice of Geoffrey Rush), a veteran Guardian—there are also strong echoes of the ideological struggle underlying World War II.

Thus the Pure Ones, who worship power and brute force, spout rhetoric about the superiority of their subspecies that recalls the Nazis' malignant racial theories. Under the leadership of the Churchillian Ezylryb and his cautious fellow commander, Allomere (voice of Sam Neill), by contrast, the Guardians—whose motto is "mend the broken, make strong the weak and vanquish evil"—resort to force only with reluctance and in the cause of justice.

While a series of harsh, though far from graphic, airborne duels between owls armed with razor-sharp metal talons reinforce this peace-loving message, they will likely scare small fry who may also be disturbed by the variety of dangers to which Soren is subjected.

As for adult Catholics, they may be left pondering the fact that Nyra's nightmarish realm is called the "St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls." Is this meant to be a jibe at totalitarian doublespeak or a swipe at church-run institutions? As penned by John Orloff and Emil Stern, the script gives no definitive hint.

Passing references to an owl deity named Glaux are equally vague. Is this simply the owl name for God or are the nocturnal birds on to something we humans have missed?

"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" will be shown on both Imax and conventional screens.

The film contains strong, though stylized, violence and situations of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Hildegard of Bingen: 
		<p>Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian--where to begin describing this remarkable woman?</p>
		<p>Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of St. Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she'd received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her <em>Scivias</em> (<em>Know the Ways</em>). Pope Eugene III read it and in 1147 encouraged her to continue writing. Her <em>Book of the Merits of Life</em> and <em>Book of Divine Works</em> followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux.</p>
		<p>Hildegard's visions caused her to see humans as "living sparks" of God's love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation; Christ's redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes. </p>
		<p>Like all mystics, she saw the harmony of God's creation and the place of women and men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries. </p>
		<p>Hildegard was no stranger to controversy. The monks near her original foundation protested vigorously when she moved her monastery to Bingen, overlooking the Rhine River. She confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for supporting at least three antipopes. Hildegard challenged the Cathars, who rejected the Catholic Church claiming to follow a more pure Christianity.</p>
		<p>Between 1152 and 1162, Hildegard often preached in the Rhineland. Her monastery was placed under interdict because she had permitted the burial of a young man who had been excommunicated. She insisted that he had been reconciled with the Church and had received its sacraments before dying. Hildegard protested bitterly when the local bishop forbade the celebration of or reception of the Eucharist at the Bingen monastery, a sanction that was lifted only a few months before her death. </p>
		<p>In 2012, Hildegard was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI.</p>
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