Nestled atop a tree in the Forest Kingdom of Tyto is an ordinary family of barn owls: Mother, Father and their three kids, Soren, Kludd and Eglantine. Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), white-faced with a screaky English accent, is the middle child and dreamer of the bunch. While he can't yet fly, he dreams of someday soaring among the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a mythical band of warriors who, as his father's stories have it, fought an epic battle against the Pure Ones to save all owlkind. His older brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), mocks the notion because he's jealous of Soren and his big ambitions, and he feels neglected by the family. Eglantine, a baby girl, seems to be following in the footsteps of Soren.
Kludd's resentment, alas, has dreadful consequences when he and his brother decide to practice flying late in the night. Flapping their wings from branch to branch, the siblings get in a fight and end up falling from the tree, only to be snatched up by two Pure Ones. They are taken to a desolate orphanage called St. Aegolius Academy, where hundreds of young owls are being "moonblinked" into child soldiers for an army led by Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) and his queen, Nyra (Helen Mirren). There, Kludd is manipulated by Nyra, who feeds off his envy, into believing that his home is now with the Pure Ones, turning him against his family, while Soren and his new friend Gylfie, a tiny elf owl, hatch a plan to escape.
Once free from the Pure Ones, after flying for the very first time, Soren sees his dreams becoming a reality as he proceeds on a quest to find the Great Ga'Hoole Tree, the home of the Guardians, which lies in the middle of the sea. On the way, he and Gylfie meet two humorous owls who join them on their journey: Digger (David Wenham), a burrowing little owl with no family, and Twilight, a self-proclaimed poet who plays the harp. The quest is long and difficult, with a storm blowing against them, but Soren and his friends eventually find their way. And with help from a wise old warrior named Ezylryb, they convince the Guardians to take action against the Evil Ones, leading to a great battle in which Soren comes face to face with Kludd, in a scene reminiscent of Star Wars and The Lion King.
As this suggests, the story, adapted from the book series of Kathryn Lasky, borrows heavily from other fantasy works and, in terms of originality, offers nothing relatively new. Such banality is made apparent, moreover, when Soren's father and Ezylryb tell him to use his gizzard, much like "use the force." The gizzard, like the force, exists to connect owls who delve into it with a deeper, spiritual reality. Even though building upon existing narratives limits it, the richness of those sources, nevertheless, provides The Owls of Ga'Hoole with a storyline proven to be entertaining and allows it to explore universal themes like good vs. evil, friendship, family, and spirituality.
The latter takes shape in Soren's faith. In the opening sequence, Soren talks about the Guardians with his family and tells his unconvinced brother that "just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't real," while the film's tagline is, "Our dreams are who we are." Such concepts seem humanistic (or, perhaps, owl-istic), but Soren's faith is not in himself; it's in something bigger, a higher power that exceeds him. And by believing in it, he, in turn, learns about more about himself and achieves the impossible—recalling the passage, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).