Movie Review: Legend of the Guardians
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
We have to give props to a kids' movie that can portray an anti-fascist struggle, while downplaying the glamor of war. Soren is a young owl who dreams of meeting his heroes, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, who are legendary for defending the owls against evil forces. He and his brother Kludd are kidnapped by the fascist owls, "The Pure Ones", who recruit a select few from their species of owls to join their army and enslave all other species of owls. Soren escapes and flees to find the Guardians for help while his brother joins the Nazi owls.
Soren's journey to the Guardians requires him to learn to fly and take a difficult trip with a few fellow travelers who believe in the mission. As the Guardians gather information and prepare for battle with the fascists they learn that one of their leaders is working for the enemy and has betrayed them. This is a good lesson in the need for vigilance against spies and turncoats in the anti-fascist struggle.
Kludd's decision to join the fascists is played as a simplistic need for recognition after a childhood of struggling to achieve next to his brother. But this is not so far off. Fascism appeals to people who are easily convinced that their lack of success can be overcome at the expense of others. In Amerika we have a large labor aristocracy who are paid more than the value of their labor with profits brought home from exploitation of Third World workers; these workers have a material interest in imperialism. Those who are in the lowest stratum of the labor aristocracy look around and see that they are not achieving the same wealth as their peers. This group of people are the most likely to go for fascist rhetoric that blames their failures on immigrants and Third World workers with promises of greater wealth for those who deserve it (i.e. the white nation). There was no labor aristocracy in The Owls of Ga'Hoole but the oppressed nations were represented by the different species of owls who, just by nature of birth, were considered inferior to "The Pure Ones."
When Soren meets the Guardians he gets to know one who is somewhat crazy and a bit of an outcast, only to learn that he was the heroic leader in previous battles. From this owl Soren learns that war is not all glamor and has real consequences. The decision to fight the fascists was taken seriously with this in mind.
For a kids' movie, Legend of the Guardians has a lot to offer, but we'd rather see the oppressed nations (or species in this case), organize to rise up and fight for themselves. The movie makes that impossible by drugging all the slaves and implying that the rest of the owls from other species were completely in the dark about the fascist plot to take over the world. This plot twist might have been possible if they had gone further and The Pure Ones struck out in battle so that other species realized what was happening.
That a group of heroic owls had to save the world and defeat the fascists was made somewhat better by their failure due to turncoat betrayal requiring Soren and his fellow travelers to join the battle and save the day. At least this reinforced that anyone could be a heroic part of the anti-fascist struggle, not just the special heroes of Ga'Hoole.