Starring: Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”)
Written by: John Orloff (“A Mighty Heart”) and Emil Stern (“The Life Before Her Eyes”)

The sharp visual style of director Zach Snyder transfers over surprisingly well into the animated genre in the filmmaker’s first attempt with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Not without its narrative flaws, “Guardians” is still a darkly-imagined technical wonder and a rare case in recent animated films where 3-D actually adds to the experience.

In “Guardians,” owl brothers Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a flock of evil owls led by their queen Nyra (Helen Mirren) who is eager to turn them into slave laborers. The brothers go their separate ways when Kludd finds honor in serving the queen, while Soren escapes to search for the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole, warrior owls who are the only answer to defeat Nyra and her army.

Adapted from the first three books in a series written by Kathryn Lasky, there are points in “Guardians” where the names of characters and locations can be a bit difficult to follow especially for the young demographic Warner Bros. is aiming for. It’s evident when the trailer mentions the film has the same producers as “Happy Feet” but doesn’t include Snyder’s past accomplishments: “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” and “Watchmen.” Also, the soundtrack includes grating music by the band Owl City.

With “Guardians,” Snyder is still able to work with the elements of fantasy that were his calling card in his more graphic projects. Instead of zombies, Greek warriors, or superheroes, he is able to make these majestic birds come to life in the same way.

When the incredible attention to detail emerges is really when the film takes flight. Add to that a classy British voice cast to give life to all these beautifully-rendered birds and “Guardians” becomes an animation like none you’ve seen this year.

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