What do talking birds have to do with the Jedi? Zack Snyder, who directed Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, an animated 3-D movie about flying, fighting owls based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky, knows it's an odd follow-up to Watchmen, 300 and Dawn of the Dead.
He really wants people to get excited about it, so he showed some footage to press on the Warner Brothers studio lot last week. If people were expecting 300 for kids, that wasn't Snyder's goal. He said he was inspired by George Lucas' epic adventure movies.
"I want to make an adventure film," Snyder said in an interview after his presentation. "It's more like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark than Shrek or whatever. Kathryn's book is full of wars and battles, so we just try not to decapitate anybody."
Earlier, Snyder had even shown a "use the Force" moment from the film. Soren, the hero owl, learns to fly in a twister. He "flies inside" the eye of the tornado by feeling the elements, as depicted by the camera zooming into Soren's pupil.
There's also a light and dark side in the owl world, too. Soren could be the Luke, and his brother Kludd could be the Anakin. "I don't want to say [Kludd]'s the bad brother, but he is sort of misunderstood, and he ends up going to the dark side," Snyder said during his presentation. "So it's the story of those two brothers and how they kind of choose different paths. Soren, being the dreamer and believing in these myths his father told him, pursues that, following his dreams."
So Soren has to find the Guardians of Ga'Hoole (the Jedi?) to stop the evil owls of St. Aggie's (the Empire?) from kidnapping baby owls and putting them to work or training them for the army. Okay, every movie has good guys and bad guys, but it's not too much of a stretch in the fantasy realm.
"In the end, it's good versus evil," Snyder continued. "That was another thing that attracted me to the story. You're really able to just say the morality of the movie is not complicated. It's a thing that you find in myth, you find in the greatest stories. Again, that's why I was really attracted to it."
Perhaps Snyder's comparison to Star Wars is even more basic. Star Wars is the ultimate adventure film taking us to a galaxy far, far away, from a long time ago. Ga'Hoole is another faraway, mythic place.
"I do love adventure movies, and I do love the idea of going to another place, visually to another world. That's a thing that I've always loved about movies and I loved about the ability to make movies and create a world and go there and experience, not just visually but emotionally, what those characters in that other world are going through."
Legend of the Guardians opens Sept. 24.