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The Owls of Gahoole

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NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Nurse Cindyism.

Young forest owl Soren (voice by Jim Sturgess) wears a leaf as a helmet as he animatedly plays make-believe with his little owlet sister Eglantine, also known as “Egg” (Adrienne DeFaria). Their parents as well as older brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) watch on as Soren tells the story of Metalbeak’s defeat, including the mask now worn to cover his mutilated beak. Egg pouts behind her own leaf-covered beak, saying that she wanted to play Lyze of Keil, the hero of the Great Battle of the Owl Kingdom that occurred years ago between The Guardians of The Tree of Ga’Hoole and dreaded Metalbeak’s crew known as the “Pure Ones.”  Next time, it is promised, as tomorrow is First Branching and the owlings are directed to bed. To Kludd’s dismissal of the tales as mythical, father Da comments that these stories are part of their culture and history; just because you cannot see something doesn’t mean it is not real. The family nursemaid, a red grandmotherly snake Mrs. Plithiver, also known as Mrs. P (Miriam Margolyes), clicks her forked tongue and directs the li’l owls to sleep.

The next day is First Branching and Da guides Kludd and Soren in their flying lessons. Kludd falls clumsily then watches jealously as Soren’s first attempt is far more successful. Cut back to their tree home, where parent owls talk while Egg makes her first pellet (a regurgitated mass of her latest mousy meal). Mrs. P slithers in pride despite Egg’s stunned dismay.

Soren invites Kludd to practice flying with him, offering him the advice to picture where he’d like to land. They both begin to try yet plummet to the ground. It is not the fall that shakes them but the realization that they’re at the worst possible place for an owl and cannot fly up to safety. As a forest animal stalks towards them, two scraggly horned owls snatch the owlings in their talons. It quickly becomes clear, this is not a rescue but a kidnapping by the Pure Ones.  In flight, Kludd bites his captor and is dropped into a waterfall while Soren watches helplessly. As the three owls head into the sunset, they encounter more Pure Ones also carrying hatchlings. The owl who dropped Kludd gives the stink eye to nearby colleague Grimble (Hugo Weaving), whose talons are wrapped around Gylfie (Emily Barclay), a small and terrified elf owl. Soren, though equally scared, introduces himself.

Into the night they fly until the owlings are deposited roughly onto a mountain cliff. Here they informed by Nyra (Helen Mirren), Metalbeak’s mate, that they are now at St. Aggie’s because they are orphans, abandoned by the families. Soren seeks out Gylfie, assuring her they will stick together. Upon hearing Nyra’s decree that in return for their keep, the owlings will serve the Pure Ones, Gylfie protests. Nyra dubs Gylfie and Soren alike as “Pickers,” rather than Soldiers; as they are ushered away, Soren spots and calls out to Kludd who was recaptured. Nyra challenges Kludd, who denies knowing his brother. Stunned, Soren is led away as Nyra nods in approval.

Gylfie and Soren are shuffled among other owlings who are directed to sit facing the moon. Gylfie warns Soren, this will lead to “Moon Blinking” where birds fall asleep and awaken forgetting everything they’ve ever known. Together, the two agree to play along until they are strong enough flyers to escape and get help for the others. The sun rises to Gylfie and Soren finding themselves surrounded by Moon-Blinked owlings, eyes clear and sensibilities dulled. To avoid arising suspicion, they pretend to also be zombiefied and Moon-Blinked however Grimble is watching them closely.  Gylfie shudders as they learn in the Pelletorium that to be a Picker entails the icky task of sorting through another owl’s pellets to pick out a fleck of metal which is then to be delivered to a glowing force field guarded by a red-eyed bat. Soren is chosen as the first volunteer to bring forward a metal fleck; he grapples under the swirling force and is slow to recover. The Pure Ones boast, they’ve almost gathered enough metal flecks for the Lord Tyto (Metalbeak).

Up in another tree, two mask-wearing owls converse. One is Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) himself, who promises control of the Western Kingdom and the Tree to the other. The birds part.

Grimble leads Gylfie and Soren away to his hollow, where he reveals that he will teach them to fly. Although he is with the Pure Ones, he does not consider himself to be one of them. He too was captured and protested.  The Pure Ones retaliated by seizing his family and threatening them harm unless he did their dirty work. Reluctantly, Grimble agreed yet hopes to find redemption in helping Gylfie and Soren escape.

Meanwhile, Nyra is directing Kludd and the other would-be-Soldiers to prove their ability by tracking a bluebird. It is a competition, she reminds them. At the risk of his own life and expense of the others, Kludd reaches the bluebird first. Nyra is pleased and asks if his brother is as good as he is; she then catches him in a lie about how Soren fell on his first try flying. Kludd is downcast at Nyra’s disapproval.

Grimble is continuing with lessons in flying as well as keeping strong in spirit for Gylfie and Soren’s escape. A spying Pure One leads an attack on Grimble’s home; Nyra and Kludd join in. At one point, Grimble has Nyra pinned to the ground and is prompting Kludd to join his brother and return home. “I am Home,” Kludd pronounces as Nyra takes advantages of Grimble’s disbelief and overturns him. Gylfie pleads with Soren to leave with her and they depart, pursued by the Pure Ones. In flight, Nyra and Grimble grapple until she drops him to his death. Gylfie too is wounded yet she and Soren escape the reach of the Soldiers. They continue onward, to realize in suddenness, they are indeed flying and it is better than they ever imagined.

Nyra meanwhile commends Kludd’s choice to stay as promising and asks what else he can offer. Kludd answers, his young sister.

Gylfie and Soren land in a field. Soren offers to capture dinner in the form of a moth, only to be informed by another Owl, Digger (David Wenham) that it was his dinner instead. Soren makes apology and asks for a place for them to hide and rest. Digger agrees to offering them a place to rest and leads them to his shared hollow. Treemate Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) arrives, carrying dinner – in the form of an objecting Mrs. P. Greatly relieved, she quickly wraps herself around Soren in embrace, explaining she went out searching for him and Kludd. Upon learning of his mission to find the Guardians of the Great Tree so as to overthrow Metalbeak and the Pure Ones, Mrs. P agrees as long as she comes along. Together with their new owl friends, the band depart across the Sea towards the Tree; Mrs. P being carried within the lute of Twilight, who we learn is a poet warrior musician…Digger protests the musician title more than once.

Back at the Pelletorium, Nyra informs Metalbeak that practically all of the needed metal flecks have been collected. A line of owling-Soldiers stand before him, including Kludd, who is directed to step forward.  Initially too scared to move, Kludd eventually responds. It is then revealed that Eglantine is shaking in terror within her brother’s shadow. Metalbeak commends Kludd as weakness is not of their character. Kludd agrees, to Egg’s horror, as “We are Tytos.”

Meanwhile, Soren and his crew are resting in a faraway tree. Gylfie and Digger are each nuzzled beneath one of Soren’s wings. Twilight perches nearby, playing his lute and singing a gradually louder and louder lullaby, “We are asleep, we are now asleep, we continue to sleep.” Soren shushes him and Twilight sings more softly.

Flying along the next morning, the band are overcome by crows who steal Twilight’s lute. They soon remember, Mrs. P is inside the instrument. Twilight propels Soren into the gaggle of birds; he rescues Mrs. P who dizzily asks if she can do that again. Twilight is praising Soren’s flying abilities when they discover, they are in the presence of a prophesying porcupine. The Oracle dubs each of the group with a role – Twilight is the Strong and Noble, Digger is the Tracker, Gylfie is the Navigator (who doubts; due to her questioning his authority), Soren is the Leader and Mrs. P the Heart of this new family, strong of spirit even if weak in feather.

The group travels on, into an ice storm. Wings frozen, Digger starts to fall into the ocean. Soren goes after him. Moments before submerging into the icy water, Digger is rescued by a white owl wearing a helmet. Another white owl approaches the stunned Soren and guides the friends to follow. They have arrived at the Tree and these are the Guardians.

Light shines through the myriad of branches as Soren looks on in awe. Owlets learning to fly, glistening waterfalls, families of owls and choirs of owls peacefully go about their day. At the Council, led by the King and Queen Guardians, Soren speaks of the injustice of the Pure Ones. Council Members, especially Lord Allomere (Sam Neilla) are in conflict as some disbelieve the validity of such a young owl’s accusations, stating these are simply words. Soren argues, he believed in the Guardians when he only had words to go by. The King Guardian agrees and sends Allomere to investigate. As the Council ends, peculiar Guardian Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush) applauds Soren’s efforts. Glyfie comments, he seems odd. Another Guardian-in-training, Otulissa (Abbie Cornish), agrees as she leads Soren and Gylfie back to their friends at dinner. Otulissa explains along the way about chores or skills they will be training in, such as tracking, navigating, combat, healing and blacksmithing. Soren listens intently with love-struck eyes which leads Gylfie to roll her own. After the band reunites, the training begins. Sore spends extra time with Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush), who tells him the lifeblood to the Tree is Fire.

Back at Pelletorium, Metalbeak is calling on his Soldiers/brothers, the red-eyed and mask-wearing owls. Metalbeak tells them, the mask conceals scars but the metal is the symbol of their pure resolve. He reveals his plan to set fire to the Tree. Eglantine begs Kludd to take her home; he agrees to do so the next day and steps to the side, allowing the moon to beam into her frightened eyes. At precisely the same time, Allomere and his Guardian crew arrive at St. Aggie’s. While the other Guardians want to proceed carefully, Allomere insists on another strategy which backfires. His fellow Guardians are defeated by a gang of bats and Pure Ones who have set a trap.

Ezylryb leads a flight class in the rain, encouraging the others with the possibility of “Baggy Wrinkles” ahead. Otullissa is exasperated but Soren follows his directions to fly into the eye of the twister. He abruptly loses his balance however, when he stops listening to his gizzard (i.e., guts) and trusts his head instead. Ezylryb assures him that it was an exemplary effort in any case and makes note in his book. Soren recognizes the stamp at the bottom of the page as that of the scribe and warrior, Lyze of Kiel. Ezylryb admits that this is also his name and acknowledges Soren’s surprise. Pointing to his scars and mangled feathers, Ezylryb states there is nothing glorious or beautiful or heroic even in being a warrior; it’s simply doing what’s right, over and over again.

Allomere returns, two Moon-Blinked owlets in tow – including Egg, to whom Mrs. P tends. The Council meets again and agrees it’s time to sharpen their battle claws. Soren asks to come; Ezylryb tosses him a battle claw (a piece of armor/weapon to strap over their own talons) and says he can either come along and get in the way or stay to tend to Egg and do some real good.

Masks and feathers take to the air as battle commences. Soren goes to comfort Egg, who awakens and tells him that Kludd betrayed her as well, giving her first to Metalbeak and then Allomere. Soren now realizes it’s another trap and goes to help the Guardians.

Nyra, Allomere and Metalbeak watch the battle from a high perch. Metalbeak explains the force field of the metal does not affect the bats as they have no gizzards. When Allomere asks for control of the Tree as promised earlier in the movie (he was the other masked owl negotiating with Metalbeak over shared control of the Owl Kingdom), Metalbeak orders the bats to drag him to his demise.

Soren, Gylfie, Twilight and Digger watch as the force field knocks the Guardians to the ground. Soren spots a small kettle dangling from a branch above and recalls what Ezylryb said about the lifeblood being fire. As the others go to fight the bats, Soren takes the kettle into the fiery forest below to carry the flames into the heart of the force field. The fire burns the rope of the mechanism revealing the metal and the force field vanishes. Soren tumbles, landing next to Ezylryb, who again calls him exemplary yet states they are not done yet.

The Guardians continue with battle and Soren is directed to stay and guard the owlets. He does so until he sees Kludd in battle. He flies to his brother in appeal; soon their talons are in collision and they grapple into the fire-kissed branches. Kludd strikes time after time as Metalbeak and Ezylryb face off. As they struggle, we see Ezylryb is approximately 1/3 the size of Metalbeak; he appears to be victorious until Nyra joins in attack.

Soren continues to defend himself with Kludd, appealing to his brother’s sense of honor. Kludd answers that honor is weakness and the Pure Ones believed in him when no one else did. They fight and fall further into the flames until Kludd slips, headfirst and broken winged. As Soren pulls his brother up to safety, Kludd lashes in attack, losing balance and falling. Devastated, Soren watches, his attention slowly called away by the war cries heard from Metalbeak and Ezylryb. He takes flight once more, still gripping the last flickering branch from where he tried to save Kludd’s life. Nyra watches and calls for a retreat as Soren defeats Metalbeak.

Ezylryb comforts Soren by saying he did what was right and he had done it well. The Guardians return to the Tree, where Soren’s parents and all the kidnapped owlets including Egg are healthy and well. The Guardians upheld their pledge, to make strong the weak, heal the broken, and vanquish the evil. With the Peace restored, they celebrate and recognize the efforts of Gylfie, Soren, Digger and Twilight, each dubbed by the King and Queen as official Guardians themselves.

Still, Nyra escaped and Kludd was never found, Soren tells the group of wide-eyed and leaf-helmet wearing owlets as he pauses to ask if he ought to stop lest give them daymares. Ezylryb points out that the new generation of owlings are eager for stories…And as another storm is brewing, they may just get lucky with plenty more Baggy Wrinkles ahead.

The band once again take wing into the crisp, star-filled sky.

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