I was expecting to pan this movie hard enough to require a new panning metaphor, but I ended up liking it. If you must know, what set me off was the whole "From the Producers of Happy Feet" plug, because Happy Feet was an adorable movie that turned into a preachy train-wreck in which Evil Humans are encroaching on the habitats of the Good Penguins. You'll forgive me for fearing that Evil Humans might encroach on the habitats of Good Owls, since the owl is pretty much the poster-child for that sort of message. Fortunately, this movie had no humans at all in it. Sadly, my showing had only four humans in it.
Anyway, the movie is a very straightforward anthropomorphic epic fantasy, which is, as I've been led to understand, exactly what the books are, though I expect the movie abridges them heavy-handedly. So... to enjoy this show you'll have to accept owls who write, work with fire, enjoy the benefits of advanced metallurgy, play musical instruments, have pet snakes, and, you know... TALK. That's part of the whole "anthropomorphic" thing. And part of the "fantasy" thing. If you're expecting clever insight into how actual owls act in the actual wild, stay home and watch March of the Penguins. Then pretend Morgan Freeman is talking about owls.
Here's what I liked: awesome visuals, combat sequences with iconic poses and judiciously applied slow-mo, and absolutely no shaky-cam. The voice actors were all spot-on, and their Australian accents gave the film a warm, friendly sound that took me back to my recent visit in Melbourne. Also, the 3D was seamless, at least from my seat dead-center of the theater.
Here's what I didn't like: predictable dialog, and zero subtlety. There you go, folks. Spoiler-free! Read the comments at your own risk. This movie is my new #8 for the year.