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Western Animation / Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a 2010 animated film adaptation of Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a series of children's fantasy novels, directed by Zack Snyder and featuring the voices of Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, and Joel Edgerton, among others.

The story follows an owl named Soren (Sturgess). He and his brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), are kidnapped by evil owls and taken to a sinister realm called St. Aegolius's, where Kludd is recruited into their Doom Troops and Soren is put to work in a massive owl sweatshop putting together pieces of a superweapon. At St. Aegolius's, a villain named Metal Beak (Edgerton) is building up his forces, an army called the Pure Ones, with the intent of conquering the world of owls.

Soren and a friendly elf owl (Barclay) he meets escape and go on a quest to find the Tree of Ga'Hoole, the legendary home of a race of warriors: the Guardians, who are sworn to fight evil.

In theaters and on home video, the film was accompanied by an original CGI Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon; "Fur of Flying".

Not to be confused with Rise of the Guardians

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Comic Relief:
    • Jatt and Jutt. Especially jarring as they were humorless monsters in the book.
    • While Twilight did crack jokes in the books, he and Digger were overall grounded characters. The movie, on the other hand, largely makes them into comic relief sidekicks.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Played With with Kludd. While he is very much a villain by the end of the movie, in the beginning he isn't that bad, opposed to his book counterpart, who may have literally hatched out evil. In the beginning of The Capture he already hated Soren the moment his brother hatched, and was quite mean to him, and deliberately pushes Soren out of the hollow in hopes of killing him. Wherein the film, he's a young owl who doesn't really enjoy legends, is a bit misguided in his thinking of Tyto "superiority", and is jealous of his brother. He has better relationships with his siblings; actually being concerned about Eglantine getting "day-mares", and having a bit friendlier rivalry with Soren. Soren even teases Kludd several times and vice versa, and Kludd has been nice enough for Soren to care for him, unlike at the beginning of the books. Indeed, perhaps if this Kludd was never subjected to the Pure Ones wrath or has made it to the Great Tree, he probably would have grown up a more decent owl. It's even implied that the only reason he stayed with the Pure Ones in the first place is that he's fallen in love with Nyra as opposed to falling for the view of Tyto supremacy.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Most noticeable with the Band.
    • Twilight has the Jerk with a Heart of Gold aspect dialed way down, and his penchant for rhyming taunts gets swapped out in favor of making him a Giftedly Bad Warrior Poet.
    • Digger, on the other hand, has his Cloudcuckoolander tendencies turned up to eleven.
    • Otulissa is made much sweeter and is even Promoted to Love Interest for Soren, wherein the books she was so stuffy and uppity that it took a while for the rest of the Band to even start befriending her.
    • Finally, Gylfie gets hit with a bit of Adaptational Wimp due to the St. Aegolius plot being greatly cut down, with Soren masterminding their escape.
  • Adapted Out: Skench, Spoorn, and darn near half the St. Aggie's owls are removed and replaced with the Pure Ones. In the book, the Pure Ones do end up occupying St. Aggie's, but only after driving its current occupants out.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Kludd. He has no interest in stories about the Guardians and is mostly annoyed at Soren and Eglantine acting them out.
  • Angrish: Nyra does a couple of these.
  • Animal Gender-Bender: During his training at St. Aegolius, Kludd develops a rivalry with another owlet just as skilled as he is. The grunts made from Kludd’s rival indicate he is a male, even though he has the coloration of a female Tasmanian masked owl.
  • Anything but That!:
    Digger: Oh no! Not the lute!
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Of all the Guardians in the film, only Allomere is referred to as "Lord" [name of Guardian here].
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Owls are unable to move their pupils, which is why they can rotate their heads almost 360 degrees.
    • Barn owls have dark eye irises, in the movie they are contrasting with pupils for expression.
    • Queen Barran and Marella are noticeably smaller than their mates. In reality, female owls are bigger than males (as is the case with most birds of prey).
    • Soren is noticeably smaller than his parents, unlike real fully-fledged owls.
    • Long-eared and Boreal Owls are too large in the movie.
    • Among the owlets of St. Aggie and Tree are white ones supposed to be Snowy Owls, in reality, chicks of this species are grey.
    • Also, the toes of Boron, a Snowy owl, should be densely covered with feathers.
    • Digger mentions dingos climbing trees, something real dingos can't do. (He is a Cloudcuckoolander, so he may just be getting his facts wrong.)
  • Asshole Victim: Allomere being dragged off by bloodsucking bats so they can drain his blood and kill him after he was betrayed by Metal Beak. Given that he led the Guardians right into Metal Beak's trap, deceived them into believing he was not allied with the Pure Ones, and almost had them killed alongside the moonblinked owlets via the bats, all so he can become the King of the Great Tree after buying into Metal Beak's false promises, he definitely had that one coming.
  • Avenging the Villain: Soren's reaction to Kludd's death is to find Metal Beak and make sure he can't destroy any other young owls' lives. The fact it's his own brother that was brainwashed into trying to kill him and "dies" in the process might have something to do with it.
  • Badass Bookworm: Ezylryb is apparently known more as a scholar than a fighter if his interactions with Allomere and the others at the tree are anything to go by. Lyze of Kiel, however, is a famous warrior…
  • Bantering Baddie Buddies: Jatt and Jutt are a near-identical pair of horned owls working for the Pure Ones who engage in a silly conversation about intimidating stares while kidnapping Soren and Kludd.
  • Bat Out of Hell: With blades on their wings!
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The fight in the forest fire between Soren and Kludd.
  • Battle Couple: Nyra and Metal Beak are an evil example.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mess with Ezylryb, and you'll be messing with Soren.
    • By the time the fight in the forest fire happens, you can tell Kludd's had his pushed way too many times.
  • Big Bad: Metal Beak.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Digger, who speaks with an Australian accent like most of the Band, becomes accepted as a Guardian and therefore a soldier with the rest of the Band at the end of the film. So in Aussie slang that would make him Digger the Digger. Who digs.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The Guardians vs. the Pure Ones, forming a classic good vs. evil dichotomy.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Given that the movie's based on a children's book series and is thus at least partially aimed toward a younger audience, not a single drop of blood is seen anywhere in the film. A deleted scene had a particularly egregious example where an owl loses a talon on-camera and doesn't bleed at all.
  • Body Horror: Metal Beak's beak was clawed off during a fight with Lyze.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Twilight. He is shown to be a surprisingly good fighter in the final battle.
  • Book Ends: The movie begins with Soren listening to one story from his father, and it ends with Soren narrating his adventures to a group of young owls, one who has a helmet made of leaves, just like the one that Soren had at the beginning of the film.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Arguably Kludd, who was subjected to the full force of Nyra's propaganda and bought it, hook, line and sinker. Soren certainly blames the Pure Ones for what happened to him and refuses to believe Kludd really feels like that deep-down inside. Turns out he probably does believe it, though whether it would have ever surfaced without Nyra's help is ambiguous.
  • Bravado Song: When Twilight asks Digger for a battle song, he sings, "Into battle we do fly! No matter if we're going to die!"
  • Break the Cutie: Eglantine, after being abducted and brainwashed by her own brother..
  • Broken Pedestal: Ezylryb is Lyze of Kiel, and he is the first to tell Soren that the stories he heard in his nest weren't as clean as he believed…
  • Bullet Time: The movie is directed by Zack Snyder, after all. Has the advantage of making the aerial battles easier to follow.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Barn owls are always referred to as "Tytos" — their Latin name — presumably due to a lack of barns in the setting.
  • Canon Foreigner: One of the Guardians (and traitor), Allomere, was created exclusively for this film. He is not seen in any of the books.
    • The Echidna is also a character made for the movie.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Jutt, who mentions that he has been working on his "evil stare".
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Echidna gives each member of the Band titles which seem to be Informed Abilities — "you are the tracker, you are the navigator" and so on — but each member of the Band actually shows these skills, some of them before they are given the title: Gylfie recognizes constellations and thinks she could find her way by them when they are being moonblinked, Digger is the first of the Band to notice the tell-tale signs of combat when they arrive at the Pure Ones' base, Soren is a better natural flyer than his brother during branching and flys by gizzard alone during his escape from St. Aggies, Mrs P. goes searching for Kludd and Soren, and Twilight is freaking Huge.
  • Child Soldier: St. Aggie's starts recruiting (read: brainwashing) the captured Tytos before they can even fly properly. As a result, they end up fanatically dedicated to the Pure Ones' cause.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
  • Composite Character:
    • Allomere seems to be one for Elvan, the Great Gray member of the Tree's parliament, and Dewlap, who ends up betraying them. According to concept art which labels his helmet as that of Elvan, it's possible that his role was originally meant to be given to Elvan (which would have made for a major case of Adaptational Villainy).
    • In the books, the Pure Ones (the Nazi by Any Other Name Barn Owl villains) are a separate faction from St. Aegolius (who plan to build an army of Brainwashed and Crazy owlets to Take Over the World and are studying the magnetic flecks). In the movie, the Pure Ones are depicted as a combination of the two, with the Pure Ones in charge of St. Aggie's and the St. Aggie's owls that appear answering to Nyra.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: How else do owls fly inside a burning forest without their feathers catching fire instantaneously? Rule of Cool is in full force here.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The events of the movie are shown as a shadow puppet theater.
  • Credits Gag: One of the shadow puppet owls does a little dance during the second half of the end credits.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Almost all of the deaths, but the deaths of Allomere and Metal Beak are particularly gruesome.
  • Cute Owl: Eglantine is an adorable young owlet. She is mostly fluff due to not growing into her mature feathers yet.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to other recent talking animal films. Well, compared to most animated movies in general.
  • Dark Is Evil: Metal Beak. He has dark grey feathers and is most certainly not a good guy. He is almost always seen in shadows to emphasize this.
  • Decomposite Character: In the original books, Metal Beak is Kludd, who killed the original Metal Beak off-page. In the movie, it seems as though Metal Beak is a title passed down to the Pure Ones' leader.
  • Deconstructed Trope: War Is Glorious is discussed. In-Universe, Soren was always fascinated with the glorious story of Lyze and the Battle of the Ice Claws. When he reads Ezylryb/Lyze's journal about that same battle, he's a bit surprised that it's less than palatable, to say the least. Ezylryb is straightforward about the true nature of war. It's not a game, it's not a heroic endeavor, but rather it's about fighting to the death in order to protect everything you hold dear. Ezylryb/Lyze's scarred appearance unto itself is a testament of this trope. One rarely returns from war unscathed or unchanged by the experience.
  • Defiant to the End: Grimble.
    Nyra: Would you wound your queen, Grimble?
    Grimble: You're not my queen!
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The "shadow theater" style credits at the end.
  • Die Laughing: Metal Beak chuckles a bit after being impaled on a burning stick by Soren, though his laughter quickly turns to gurgle.
  • Disney Villain Death: Implied to be Kludd's fate after he falls into a forest fire. He gets better, but that doesn't stop his screaming while seemingly falling to his death from being any less creepy.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Apparently "trusting your gizzard" works like this. Like Ezylryb tells Soren, the latter was doing good until he started using his head; "that's when you failed."
  • Double Take: The Echidna has one when he realizes he gave the role of The Heart to Mrs. P, who is a snake. Lucky for him, Mrs. P happens to be a very nice snake.
  • The Dragon: Nyra is both the general and queen of the Pure Ones.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: When asked why he chooses to be known as Ezylryb rather than as Lyze, Ezylryb replies that "Every owl in the tree knows who I am, so what does it matter what I call myself?" In which case, it looks like Otulissa is being quite insulting to a famous war hero when she refers to him as a "Gross old owl" and "[missing] a good bath". Also an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole; while Otulissa had the same attitude toward him in the books, Ezylryb's identity was not common knowledge in that continuity.
  • Eaten Alive: Heavily implied to be Allomere's fate at the hands of the vampire bats. He survives that in the video game adaptation, though.
  • Evil Counterpart:
  • Evil Is Bigger: Metal Beak is easily the largest owl in the film, and his long-time nemesis Lyze is one of the smallest. It also applies when Soren challenges him.
  • Evil Laugh: Metal Beak has a wonderfully disturbing chuckle in the back of his throat that is made of pure creepy.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When a recovered Eglantine tells Soren that she wasn't rescued, Kludd gave her to the owl who brought her to Ga'Hoole (i.e. Allomere):
    Soren: No, Eg, no. That's impossible. I mean, that would mean that Allomere would have to be a… be a traitor.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • After being implanted by Soren on a burning stick, Metalbeak lets out an amused chuckle.
    • Ezylryb/Lyze, when Metal Beak has him dead to rights. Soren bails him out, though.
    "Be done with it, then."
  • Face Framed in Shadow: This is how Metal Beak and Allomere are introduced to the audience.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Kludd.
  • Faceless Mooks: The Pure One soldiers. Not only do they wear face-concealing helmets, but while the Pure One initiates are being addressed by Metal Beak, one guard has a helmet that covers his face completely, no eyes at all.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: A buttload. Less than the books, and off-screen, but still. Allomere's is particularly unpleasant, not that it's undeserved…
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence:
    • Owls clawing and slashing each other apart, characters dying, bats tearing apart owls, some of said bats appearing to die via Neck Snap, impalements... No blood or wounds are visible though.
    • They actually toned down the violence significantly from the original book, which was not afraid to describe many of the Gory Discretion Shots in detail.
    • There is a deleted scene that has owls being enslaved, bats implied to cut a owl's wing (or at least its flight feathers, which is nearly as creepy) off, and a violent battle wherein a owl gets a talon sliced off in clear view of the camera.
    • If it weren't for Noctus saying that he was "bound to the earth forever," it looks like he is about to be decapitated.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Pure Ones believe that Tyto owls are superior to other owl species and are destined to rule over them.
  • Fastball Special: At one point, a group of crows has snatched Twilight's lute… which happens to have Mrs. Plithiver in it. They're unable to keep up, and Twilight offers to do a mid-air throw to get Soren closer.
    Twilight: I'll get you closer! We're going to lock talons!
    Soren: What?
    Twilight: Trust me! I know what I'm doing!
    Soren: Yeah, but have you done this before?
    Twilight: No, but I've always wanted to try it!
  • For Want of a Nail: Of the Spanner in the Works variety. Before flying off to save the captive owlets from the Pure Ones' clutches, Ezleryb/Lyze low-key gives Soren sound advice. He implies that rather than live out his dream of being a guardian in glorious battle, it would do a world of good if Soren stayed and took care of his moon-blinked baby sister Eglantine like a real hero would. Because Soren does just that, he's around to see Eglentine heal from her condition and unwittingly share important information about Allomere being a traitor. Had Soren not heard this from Eglantine and joined the Guardians, he would've shared in their fate of falling for the Pure Ones' trap.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Soren figures out that Ezylryb is Lyze of Kiel, the latter tells him:
      Ezylryb: What did you expect? Some Tyto Alba with gleaming armor and battle claws with the moon rising behind him?
Then when we get to the climax, we get this dramatic shot.
  • When Soren and Gylfie are learning to fly, Gylfie has trouble because of her small wings. Their teacher tells them that Lyze of Kiel had small wings. He is the smallest of the Guardians that we are introduced to.
  • Ezylryb telling Soren about the importance of fire, and that there is nothing more dangerous.
  • Formerly Friendly Family: Soren and Kludd start off close as could be, until they are kidnapped by the Pure Ones. At that point, Kludd slowly ends up believing the Pure Ones's mission and attempts to sabotage an escape attempt Soren makes. It ultimately ends with the two brothers fighting in a flaming forest followed by Kludd seemingly falling to his death.
  • From Bad to Worse: After falling from the nest, Soren and Kludd are attacked by a Tasmanian devil. Two owls come to their they can kidnap them to the Pure Ones.
  • Giftedly Bad:
    • Twilight's poetry. His lute playing is actually quite good, though.
    • Digger's jokes.
  • Gilligan Cut: When the owls fly into the hailstorm over the Watchers Island. (If not conforming to the exact wording of the trope, it's at least in the spirit.)
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Nyra, Queen of the Pure Ones who brainwashes, purges, and enslaves her subjects in accordance with Pure One philosophy
  • Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: When Twilight and Digger fly into battle at the end, Digger asks Twilight for a motivating battle song. What Twilight actually gives him is anything but, as he quickly devolves into lyrics about their imminent demise.
  • Good Animals, Evil Animals:
    • Both sides are made up of owls, but only the bad guys use trained attack bats (or perhaps the bats are evil and have an alliance with the villains, we're never told).
    • The Pure Ones consist entirely of owls from the Tyto genus (a.k.a. barn owls). Lampshaded by many characters, but notably Kludd in the line "Because we are Tytos!" in answer to Metal Beak's query of why the Pure Ones are superior. "Lower species" are reserved for the grunt work alone but do "stain" their feathers as a sort of uniform or show of loyalty.
  • Good is Not Nice: Eglantine is rightfully angry at those who brainwashed her.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Metal Beak and Ezylryb. Note, Metal Beak hides his scars but boasts about his badass, whilst Ezylryb shows how mangled he is but hides the fact that he's Lyze of Kiel.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Several major character deaths are done in this way.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In the climactic battle, King Boron throws one mook at another after escaping their grip.
  • Homage: The movie feels like The Lord of the Rings with owls, complete with the pure-hearted, humble hero character nigh-constantly wearing a worried expression.
  • Idiot Hair: Digger has an Idiot Feather, and is a more than a little featherbrained.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Metal Beak. With a burning stick for extra awesome.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Flying by instinct alone though a storm: Cool. Flying by instinct alone though a fire storm while dragging a burning pot of oil: Cooler.
  • Inertial Impalement: Happens at the climax of the final battle: Soren gets knocked onto the ground, his flaming stick nearby. As Metal Beak flies at him, battle claws extended, Soren grabs the stick and points it at Metal Beak, who flies onto it.
  • Informed Species: Gylfie is the only character who doesn't resemble her species. She's an elf owl, and she does look like one in the books, but in the movie, she looks more like a pygmy owl.
  • Instrument of Murder: Twilight brings his lute into battle. No points for guessing what he does with it.
  • Interspecies Romance: Grimble's mate (shown briefly) is a Spotted Owl, while Grimble is a Boreal Owl. In real life, those two owls aren't even in the same genus.
  • The Joy of First Flight: Soren and Gylfie are overjoyed when they finally figure out how to fly, and spend some time twirling in the clouds. Doesn't hurt that they just barely escaped being killed.
  • Killer Rabbit: The owls. Oh so much.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Guardians of Ga'Hoole resemble non-human, idealistic versions of King Arthur's knights, complete with a moral code in the form of an ancient oath to "mend the broken, make strong the weak, and without hesitation vanquish the evil."
  • Legacy Character: Kludd is implied to become the next Metal Beak.
  • The Legend of X: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the original books, and other movies made by Zack Snyder. That being said, this movie does earn its PG rating with its violence and dark thematic material.
  • Light Is Good: Played straight with Boron and Barran, the two leaders of the Guardians, who use golden helmets and have white plumage. Also with Soren, who has white and golden feathers.
  • Light Is Not Good: Nyra and many of the Pure Ones, who, being barn owls, have golden/orange and white feathers.
  • Logo Joke: Noctus flies by the Warner and Legendary Pictures logo.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Possibly, seeing as Kludd strengthens his resolve to stay with the Pure Ones with just one look at Nyra.
  • Masking the Deformity: The main antagonist wears a metal mask to hide his torn-off beak, earning him the nickname Metal Beak. Unlike most examples, what's underneath is never revealed.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The metal flecks; it is implied that they are magnetic (the lines of blue light emanating from then move from pole to pole like the lines of force around a magnet) and many birds are sensitive to magnetic fields, so the flecks could be functioning as an EMP, but this is never explained in-movie.
    • Likewise, whether trusting your gizzard is just trusting instinct or something more mystical is never elaborated on.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Grimble. Averted with Lyze — Metal Beak was going to kill in front of Soren, but he escaped.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Moonblinked owls have milky white eyes, giving them almost a zombie-like appearance.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The terrestrial mammalian life is quite obviously Australian, but the owls are from all over the world and the bats appear to be vampire bats.
  • Murder Ballad: Twilight's "inspiring" battle song. It's about all the horrible ways the protagonist is going to die in battle. He thinks it will inspire Digger.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    Grimble: I told myself that if any came along who were smart and brave enough I'd help them escape. (beat) You'll have to do.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Allomere looks remorseful when he sees the effect that the fleck trap has on the Guardians.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Pure Ones, and how. The villains are pretty much owl Nazis, complete with their own Hitler Youth. Nyra is a Sdrawkcab Name that really hammers the point home.
  • Never Found the Body: Kludd. A later shot reveals that he's still alive at the end, and might become the next Metal Beak.
  • Nightmare Face: Why Metal Beak wears his trademark helmet. Even brief glimpses of his face show he is a monstrous looking bird.
  • Not Brainwashed: Soren believes Kludd to be brainwashed by the Pure Ones and that he can still save him, only to find it's who he really is.
    Soren: I don't understand. How could you join the Pure Ones after what they did to us?
    Kludd: "What they did to us"? They believe in me like no one else ever has! Metal Beak says the strong will triumph, the broken are put out of their misery, and honor...honor is just another word for weakness!
    Soren: No, Kludd! I know you don't really think that!
    Kludd: Then you don't know me… at all.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: A few "aah's" are heard in some scenes with the Pure Ones and Soren, and chanting is heard in the climax as Metal Beak attempts to kill Soren.
  • Ominous Owl: Metal Beak and Nyra play the creepy owl factor for all it is worth.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Grimble informs the kidnapped owlets that they have not, in fact, been kidnapped but abandoned by their parents and that St. Aggie's is an orphanage put there to care for them for now on. Even he makes no effort to hide how blatantly false this is.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Only one owl out of the cast is wise,(Ezylryb) but we do spend the latter half of the movie hearing him wise at Soren.
  • Pale Females, Dark Males: Metal Beak has dark gray plumage while his wife Nyra has white plumage.
  • Pet the Dog: Kludd releases a small bird that he and the other Pure One initiates were trying to catch.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse:
    • Lyze is by far the smallest of the Guardians on the council.
    • During the Training Montage, there is a brief scene of Twilight getting clobbered by a pygmy owl (Primrose).
    • Gylfie is the smallest owl in the band and can quite handle herself amongst numerous vicious bats.
  • Playing Possum: Metal Beak does this once.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Although there are enormous differences between the books and the movie, most fans agree that the changes are true to the books' general spirit, and make it a very enjoyable film to watch whether you're a fan of the original or not.
  • Pretend to Be Brainwashed: Soren and Gylfie manage to resist the "moonblinking" by not falling asleep, but afterward have to pretend they're affected like the rest so as not to be found out.
  • Puns:
    • Soren's name sounds an awful lot like Soarin'.
    • Digger's dialogue is full of these.
      Digger: Knock knock!
      Gylfie: Who's there?
      Digger: Owls.
      Gylfie: Owls who?
      Digger: That's right! Owls hoo!
    • And again later:
      Digger: What does an owl say when he is attacked by crows?
      Gylfie: (hit by a crow) Ow!
      Digger: That's right! Owl!
    • Let's not forget the first exchange that set off the warning bells:
      Twilight: If I have to hear any more of his owl jokes…
      Digger: They're a hoot!
    • Since the German dub couldn't save those, they replaced it with an even worse one with "Uhu" (a large owl species, and a glue brand name).
  • Psychological Projection: A rare well-intended example. Kludd hasn't given Soren much reason to believe that his crimes must be brainwashing-induced or that a single conversation would snap him out of said brainwashing, but Soren is certain of these things anyway because he can't comprehend that anyone would think Evil Feels Good. Mind that Soren is very young.
  • Putting on the Reich: Big red vertical hanging banners with white logos in the center flanking Nyra whilst she makes a speech on why Tytos are the master race: this film manages to put on the Reich despite no-one wearing clothes!
  • The Quisling: Allomere, who sets up his own squad to be injured by the metal flecks. He is later ratted out by Eglantine.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Digger does this a lot. Might as well be his defining quirk.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking:
    • Nyra, who flies into the final battle without a helmet or steel talons and downs more birds than any other Pure One. The Pure Ones value strength above anything else, so it stands to reason that their Queen would be strong. It might be that Asskicking Leads to Leadership.
    • King Boron himself faces off against four Pure Ones by himself and comes out on top.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Boron and Barran (and in fact all the council other than Allomere) are quite happy to take Soren at his word that a legendary evil has turned up, and they promptly send someone to check it out. Pity that someone was a traitor.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • The Pure One Mooks get these.
    • Nyra's eyes are initially normal, befitting her projected appearance of a beautiful, reasonable and trustworthy authority figure, but the more furious she becomes, the redder her eyes get. At one point during battle, her eyes are as red as any other among the Pure Ones.
    • The bats.
    • When Kludd is revealed to be alive at the end, his eyes glow a sinister red as he looks upon the fallen Metal Beak's mask.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Allomere.
    Allomere: No! No, no, you promised me! You promised me I would be king of the tree!
    [Allomere is attacked by bats and dragged off into a nearby hole]
    Metal Beak: You should know, AllomereThere is only room for one king.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Boron and Queen Baran. They rule over the tree of Ga'Hoole, but regularly teach classes to the trainee Guardians, and lead their fellows into battle.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: Twilight takes Mrs. P to his and Digger's tree hollow with the intention of eating her, and at one point asks why are Soren and Gylfie talking to "dinner".
  • Save the Villain: Played with. Kludd becomes a full member of the Pure Ones and turns completely against Soren in the end, attempting to kill his own brother without remorse. After their fight which leaves Kludd with a broken wing however, he begs Soren to save him. Soren tries, only to find Kludd attempting to attack him again, which results in the latter accidentally sending himself plummeting into the fire below. He survives.
  • Scenery Porn / Scenery Gorn: The Guardians' Tree? Breathtaking. The Pure Ones' base? Terrifying. The entire movie is supremely gorgeous. Pick a shot, any shot, in this film; you could frame it. The trailers were especially fond of the slo-mo shot with the raindrops hitting an unbelievably detailed owl in flight.
  • Sdrawkcab Name:
    • Nyra, as mentioned above.
    • Ezylryb/Lyze, which is probably more obvious in the books where you see it written.
  • Sequel Hook: A still-alive Kludd picking up Metal Beak's helmet at the end.
  • Ship Tease:
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Pure Ones' helmeted, glowing red-eyed warriors look a lot like Cylon Centurions, especially in profile.
    • The bats look a lot like the Komori Ninja (bladed wings, proficient in science), but that's probably a coincidence.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Yes, owls do regurgitate mice in that manner.
    • Correct bird calls are used to represent the proper species of owls seen in the movie.
    • Barn owls always lay eggs to stagger the hatching of their young, resulting in owlets of different ages sharing the nest at the same time, just like Kludd, Soren, and Eglantine. Why? Because that way if there is a food shortage, it's far, far easier for the oldest sibling to resolve the issue, guaranteeing at least one will survive. Yeah Soren… you should have seen your brother's behavior coming.
    • There is even some Truth in Television to the flecks; many birds have a natural magnetic compass in their brains to help them orient and to supplement their inner ears; a really powerful magnetic field nearby can thoroughly disrupt their ability to orient and can induce vertigo in small birds. The rest is Rule of Drama.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Kludd gives several of these to Soren during their final fight, claiming that honor is weakness and Tytos deserve to rule while the weak should be put out of their misery.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Kludd and Soren show this early on while branching. Kludd seems to take their competition more seriously though.
  • Signature Instrument: Twilight the poet/warrior carries a lute (which Digger hates the sound of), but he's an owl so it's unknown where he got one from.
  • Sleep Cute: Gylfie and Digger fall asleep against Soren on a tree branch.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • In the book, Soren's parents are most likely dead by the time the Band reaches the great tree (though it's never specified quite when they die, the fact is we never see them alive again after Soren is kidnapped). The movie has them alive and well, actually making it to the tree themselves.
    • Due to changes between the books and the films, Digger's brother never appears in the film. Given what happens to him in the books, he's probably quite grateful for this.
    • For the same reason as the above, the deaths of Jatt and Jutt were also omitted.
    • Strix Struma gets to survive the climactic battle.
  • Squick: Gylfie's reaction to having to sift through other owls’ pellets in the Pelletorium is an In-Universe example.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • A song by Owl City playing in the background as they explore the tree, anyone?
    • There's a very subtle one in the bird-chase scene early on. The bird they're chasing is an Indigo Bunting. That means that the would-be Pure Ones were... bunting baiting.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Grimble, if he's as old as he seems. Right up until Kludd's betrayal he was more than holding his own against two Pure Ones and Nyra, who can down several Guardians completely unequipped, as stated above.
  • Superweapon Surprise: The Pure Ones pull this on the Guardians, and they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling owlets!
  • Those Two Guys: Digger and Twilight when we meet them.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • During their fight, Kludd breaks his wing and begs Soren to pull him up. He may have been trying for a Mutual Kill, but it was still a really stupid decision when there's a forest fire going on beneath them.
    • Arguably, Soren himself. He absolutely refused to believe Kludd could side with the Pure Ones, and as a result nearly gets killed by him.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The trailers billed the movie as an epic quest wherein Soren becomes his ideal (a Guardian) through many trials while trying to reach them. At least, to those that never read the novels.
    • The trailers also used a lot of lines and footage not in the actual movie, like Grimble explaining what the Pure Ones are doing, and parts of this trailer.
  • Unexpected Kindness: When Grimble, who works for the bad guys, takes Soren and Gylfie away and notes that his superiors won't be too happy when they find out what he's going to do to them, the two adolescent owls prepare for the worst… only for Grimble to reveal that he wants to teach them how to fly.
  • Volatile Tasmanian Devil: The movie starts off when protagonist Soren and his brother Kludd fall out of a tree (after Kludd tries jealously shoving Soren), and upon reaching the ground, are immediately attacked by a Tasmanian devil. Luckily (or unluckily), they are then rescued by Jatt and Jutt.
  • War Is Glorious: In classic Snyder style, battles are beautiful, stylized affairs — no gruesome injuries (except for Metal Beak's belly stab, which he arguably brought on himself), collateral damage to innocents, or landscape ransacking included. On the other hand....
  • War Is Hell: Ezylryb is a battle-scarred Old Soldier who despises the assumption that War Is Glorious, wears his scars openly to remind young owls of what battle actually costs, and bluntly says that Soren would be better off doing some "real good" rather than being Cannon Fodder. Soren gets a glimpse of what this means in his first battle, which is chaotic and terrifying. Instead of being triumphant at having killed Metal Beak, Soren is horrified at taking his first life, and the only comfort Ezylryb has for him is to reassure him he did what was right.
    Ezylryb: Well this is what it looks like when you've actually fought in battle. It's not glorious, it's not beautiful — it's not even heroic! It's merely doing what's right! And doing it again and again, even if someday you look like this.
  • Warrior Poet: Twilight likes to think of himself as one, though he's arguably better at the "warrior" part.
  • Warts and All: All his life, Soren has held Lyze in the highest regard, imagining him as "a tyto in gleaming armor, ready for battle". When he meets him, he's but a tiny, scarred owl named Ezylryb who sums up that War Is Hell. Nonetheless, Soren is not deterred by the truth and still treats Ezylryb with respect, as he is his mentor in utilizing his gizzard. And his advice to stay with his moon-blinked sister actually proves useful in saving the Guardians.
  • Weaponized Animal: The guardians and most of the Pure Ones wear battle talons, and the bats have blades on their wings.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kludd's supposed death isn't addressed when Soren reunites with his parents.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Kludd's "reason" for joining the Pure Ones.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Allomere is a little squeamish about Metal Beak's plans for the incapacitated Guardians, and asks if it really has to be the bats that kill them. Nyra replies that as the bats are immune to the effects of the superweapon, yes. This gets really ironic really quickly.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Possibly employed by Kludd in the burning forest, just before he falls into the flames.
  • You Are Number 6: The owlets captured by The Pures Ones and enslaved by at St. Aegolius' Academy for Orphaned Owls are stripped of their names and assigned numbers for easier tracking of them.
  • You Did the Right Thing: Ezylryb sums it up well for Soren in after the latter kills Metal Beak.
    Ezylryb: Soren... you did what was right. And you did it well.
  • You Have Failed Me: Metal Beak to the traitorous Allomere. May double as a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness moment. As Metal Beak put it, "You should know, Allomere… there is only room for one king."
  • You Killed My Father: Soren's reaction in a nutshell at Kludd's "death". An indirect example, as he directs it at Metal Beak even though Kludd fell due to his own actions, likely due to Soren holding the Pure Ones responsible for corrupting him.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Subverted. Soren is the middle child, but he fares far better than Kludd and Eglantine.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Grimble. He manages to hold off both Nyra and two other Pure Ones, and even when Kludd makes his Face–Heel Turn, he still has enough fight in him to ensure that Soren and Gylfie manage to escape.