I never read any reviews for "Guardians", and had no preconceptions about the film before I saw it. I was pleasantly surprised. The visuals alone are breathtaking. It's a grand testament to the animators and their talents. More so, however, the film develops lovable characters (Gylfie, Digger, Twilight, and Lyes of Kiel specifically), and an identifiable lead in Soren. Its themes explore the validity of honouring our culture's legends, defending the innocent, and self-sacrifice for what is right. It is unashamedly a book adaption--though I never felt as though the film tied itself down in unnecessary exposition.
Instead the film thrusts its viewers into the world, mythos and story of the Owl Kingdoms...and succeeds. Its characters are humorous and lovable, its plot includes betrayal, friendship, honour and justice. And as a book adaption, its pacing is well developed and reworked into an understandable screenplay.
Now, would I recommend it for a younger audience? No, not necessarily. It does not employ a Disney or Pixar-esque family quality about it. Parents should know that there may be some scary moments for your young children. Does it leave some things unexplained (such as the "blue-lightening" as described in the editor's review)? In a sense, yes, but this in no way hinders the plot or the understanding of the risks that exist for our heroes. Though I can understand how some might consider it slow or muddled, I didn't find that. It had me, and I was enjoying every moment of it.
Some of todays animated films (and television programs) are regrettably damaging. So much of it centres around pathetic humour, and a lack of reverence. Children need to be inspired; this is what equips them to better live in a world which presents both real difficulties and hardships as well as great beauty and life. I feel that "Guardians" draws our attention toward the latter. Its deals with healthy dreaming, the love for old stories and legends, the choice to do what is right, the betrayal of close friends and family, the need to seek out justice for the innocent and the reawakening to the grim reality of war.
I heartily recommend "Legend of the Guardians".