Image Entertainment // 2009 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // July 18th, 2010
A magical story of an unlikely friendship.
Skellig: The Owl Man is fascinatingly strange in its storytelling. It lacks the charm of the Harry Potter franchise, but still manages to keep one's attention to the end with the serious subject matter and believable characters.
A boy and his family move into a dilapidated house just itching for renovation. The mother is expecting, the father is stressed out, and with spiders and cobwebs everywhere, Michael is hard pressed to like his new home. While rummaging around the property, Michael stumbles across an old shed with an inhabitant who he assumes is homeless or possibly a junkie. Unlike anyone Michael has ever met, Skellig is downtrodden, hopeless and an all around grouch. Michael and friend Mina slowly nurse the reluctant Skellig back to a healthy state only to discover that Skellig has a pair of wings and an array of powers which could be of help to Michael's now prematurely born sister.
With scampering British children in school uniforms and a title sequence in gold lettering, I couldn't help but compare Skellig: The Owl Man to the Harry Potter franchise. Both incorporate a level of fantasy that appeals to children, but unlike the Harry Potter series, Skellig is heavily set in the real world. Based on the best selling children's novel by David Almond, Skellig: The Owl Man starts off in a straight forward enough fashion -- a boy moves into a new home and is learning to adapt to new surroundings. He meets an odd man and they form a sort of friendship, although the stranger is less enthusiastic about his inviting new acquaintance. Seeing that the stranger is not well, the boy helps revive him back to health. However, the more we learn about this stranger Skellig, the more offbeat the story gets.
Tim Roth as Skellig never misses a beat and we can tell there is something odd about his character from the get go. Roth's facial expressions exude that of a self-loathing individual, but Skellig is more than simply depressing in his mannerisms, he is downright unfriendly. He consumes bugs, has an overly gray appearance, and seldom moves from his corner of the shed during the first half of the film. Soon thereafter, Michael and his girlfriend learn that Skellig has long, gangly wings, both of which look highly malnourished.
From the point in the story in which we learn about Skellig's wings, I must admit that I was curious where the film would go since it took so long to get to this important discovery. Sadly, I was ultimately reminded of the writing present in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which at the final moment, the kids conveniently discover that the tears of the phoenix can miraculously heal. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was that plot points were written into the story not because they seemed like logical choices in the writing, but simply because the story couldn't have moved ahead otherwise. In the same way, Skellig regains an abundance of powers that aren't really explained, but are necessary to well...somehow bring the film to a resolution. Besides having an inexplicable pair of wings; Skellig can open doors, change the weather, put people to sleep and thankfully heal wounds. Once this revelation was made known, it didn't take a millisecond to figure out how the story would end. I may be wrong for not accepting that, since this man has wings, he could just as easily have a wealth of unrelated powers. Still, I was a little bothered how that which was unexplained and made little sense before, made even less sense as film went on.
Although the story may be somewhat lackadaisical in the writing, it is worth noting that kids and adults around the world have loved the book since it was released, and with much reason. The children in the story are highly relatable and our protagonist Michael Cooper faces some heavy situations, including a stressful home life and a hospitalized baby sister whose death is a very real possibility. Michael can only escape to help Skellig for a short time before the demands of his life are back at the forefront. For these reasons, the peculiar story about an owl man with wings remains surprisingly well grounded in the end.
Skellig: The Owl Man is a film that asks the viewer to ignore the logical questions that may come to mind in order to accept the way the story unfolds. That is completely okay. After all, it is a children's film and it doesn't need to be taken uber-seriously. The acting is good, the characters are likable, and I was ultimately satisfied to finally find a children's film with no talking animals.
Skellig: The Owl Man is bizarre because of the character of Skellig with his unexplained powers. Still, the film is entertaining and will appeal to younger viewers, especially those who enjoy the fantasy genre. It lacks the imagination of the Harry Potter series, but at the same time remains grounded in real world situations.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated