Exciting and poignant pro-life movies are rare. Rarer still are Pro-Life movies for children. However, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (released to the box office on September 24, 2010, and now available on DVD and Bluray), fits the bill for parents who are looking for a movie that is both kid-friendly and unequivocally Pro-Life. Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) is director, and the story is based on the first three books of Kathryn Lasky's young adult novel series Guardians of Ga'Hoole.
The film follows Soren, a Barn owlet who is fascinated by his father's tales of the heroic Guardians and the evil Pure Ones. Legend goes that the Pure Ones desired to enslave all owlkind under the rule of a superior owl race. The Guardians fought back, and during their last bitter battle, Soren's hero, Guardian Lyze of Kiel, disfigured the leader of the Pure Ones by cutting off his beak. The Pure Ones retreated, and their leader now hides his shame under a metal mask. Soren takes this legend to heart, but his brother, Kludd, regards Soren's belief with scorn, until one night when the brothers fall out of their hollow and into the talons of the Pure Ones. Soren escapes and, with some new friends, seeks the legendary Guardians to once again defeat the Pure Ones.
Although the story is set in an imaginary owl kingdom, the evil that it portrays takes its cues from our own human history. Lasky's works frequently center on historical human rights violations, and her Legend story is no different. Metal Beak, the Pure Ones' leader, is an unmistakable Hitler figure, however the Pure Ones' agenda—from “moonblinking” so-called inferior owls into slave-like submission, to breeding a pure warrior owl race—also echoes ancient Sparta, the African slave trade, and, even if unintentional, Margaret Sanger's eugenics crusade and Peter Singer's corrupt definition of personhood. All of these human rights violations share a common principle: that there are inherently superior and inherently inferior people. The Pure Ones also embrace this principle, and they act on their conviction by either dispatching with, or using the “weak” for their own utility.
The Guardians' mission is in direct opposition to the Pure Ones'. They vow “to make strong the weak, mend the broken…and make powerless those who abuse the frail,” and they react to the Pure One's aggression by sharpening their battle claws. Their willingness to fight is portrayed as just, however they do not glorify combat. Lyze of Kiel corrects Soren's grand impression of warfare by telling him that “It's not heroic; It's hell. It's doing the right thing, and doing it again and again.” Realistically, war is destructive and miserable, and one would be hard pressed to find a war hero who felt heroic about taking another man's life, even the life of his enemy. This is an important Pro-Life lesson. We vow to protect all innocent human life from conception to natural death, but it is also a very grave thing to take the life of an enemy in war or in self defense.
This lesson finds immediate application in our current news: Osama bin Laden, hostile jihadist and 9-11 mastermind, killed thousands of innocent men and women both here in the United States of America and abroad. To protect innocent people from future attacks, it became necessary for bin Laden to be captured or assassinated, and on May 2 President Obama announced his death. His death was celebrated all over our nation, however, it would be inconsistent for the Pro-Life body to uncork a bottle of champagne in honor of his death. If we did, we would be indulging in the very sinister Culture of Death that we are working to defeat.
Figuratively, we are at war with the Culture of Death, and our battlefields range from the courthouse to the sidewalk of an abortion facility. We must treat our enemies with dignity. We must pray for them, yet be ready to meet them on the battlefield. In this figurative battle, our prayers, our intellect, and our sincere compassion are our swords and shields.
Legend of The Guardians is very Pro-Life, and is the only film, to my knowledge, that handles such dark themes in a way that is accessible to children, without diluting the life-or-death seriousness of the antagonist's malice. But despite its seriousness, Legend is also a heartwarming (or as the owls would probably say, “gizzard-warming”) tale of faith and friendship. Children will enjoy the antics of Digger and Twilight, two of Soren's companions, and will be enthralled by the slow motion action scenes, for which Snyder is well known. There is an uplifting sequence of life at the Guardians' home, the Tree of Ga'Hoole, set to (what else?) Owl City's song “To The Sky.” Not only that, but it is a visual work of animated art—it is not cartoonish, but more like a moving painting, and contains all the saturated colors and fantastic fights that hallmark Snyder's artistic style. Legend does contain violence, which results in one kill, and a few intense moments that may be too scary for very young audiences.