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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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Robert Bellarmine: When Robert Bellarmine was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect. A promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, he devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematize Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers. He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain. 
<p>His most famous work is his three-volume <i>Disputations on the Controversies </i><em>of the Christian Faith</em>. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity. He incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable. He developed the theory of the indirect power of the pope in temporal affairs; although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V. </p><p>Bellarmine was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that "he had not his equal for learning." While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities. He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor. He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and he used the hangings of his rooms to clothe poor people, remarking, "The walls won't catch cold." </p><p>Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church. </p><p>The last major controversy of Bellarmine's life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired. Bellarmine delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (the sun as stationary) was contrary to Scripture. The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proved. This shows that saints are not infallible. </p><p>Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

 
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