Rise of the Guardians Directed by Peter Ramsey
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law DreamWorks Animation
Rated PG | 97 Minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2012 Purchase Tickets on Fandango
In DreamWorks Animation’s latest film, Rise of the Guardians, Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is a teenage rebel who has no interest in being bound by responsibility and just wants to use his magic staff to spread winter and cold for the sake of snowball fights and school closings.
But everything changes when Pitch Black (Jude Law), the Boogeyman, plans to engulf the world in fear and darkness.
The Guardians – Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the Sandman – enlist Jack to join their team to stop Pitch and protect the children of the world.
Based on William Joyce‘s The Guardians of Childhood book series and The Man in the Moon short film by Joyce and Reel FX, Rise of the Guardians is directed by Peter Ramsey and executive-produced by Guillermo del Toro and Joyce.
Guillermo del Toro helped shape the film adaptation by working on story structure, themes, and character design. Under his divine influence, Rise of the Guardians sets a different tone for family movies – by injecting dark, moody, and often poetic imagery into an otherwise standard holiday kiddie flick.
You can see his influence in the design of characters like Tooth, the mythical tooth collector and the Guardian of Memories. Tooth is part human, part hummingbird – an inspired design that operates on a logical, functional level. Assisted by mini-fairies, she collects the children’s teeth, which hold their most precious memories.
Sandy (The Sandman) is the Guardian of Dreams and does not speak, but rather communicates through sand images that he conjures above his head. If the film had only featured Frost, Santa, and the Australian, boomerang-slingin’ Easter Bunny, Rise of the Guardians wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting – but Sandy steals the show as the silent-but-strong chubby Guardian of Dreams. His epic mid-air battles with The Nightmare King, Pitch Black, are reminiscent of Neo’s Dragon Ball Z-esque brawls with Agent Smith in Matrix: Revolutions.
In terms of animation and design, my only complaints involve the film’s villain, Pitch. He’s the boogeyman – the embodiment of fear – and he’s just some pale dude in black who looks like a cross between Edward Cullen from Twilight and Goth Hugh Grant. The Nightmare King should be terrifying – he should command legions of horrible monsters and plague the world with fear and darkness – but instead he just kind of makes horses out of black nightmare sand and sends them running around stealing children’s happy thoughts.
Jude Law’s voiceover is rather uninspired – and does little to scare or impress. It seems like a lot of animated films, especially those by DreamWorks, get hung up on the idea of casting big names to voice their characters – and seldom does it really matter. Shouldn’t the focus be on who can best bring the character to life, instead of saying “Oh, let’s slap Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman’s names on this!”
Chris Pine’s Jack Frost is supposed to carry the emotional weight of the film, but an underwhelming voice performance combined with a rather generic design (he looks like a shoeless Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance) leaves you waiting for Sandy, Tooth, or Santa’s crew of elves and yetis to show up and liven things up.
I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of a) animated family films and b) holiday-centric movies – so Rise of the Guardians should have put me through the ringer, but it didn’t. While I do find problems with some of the casting and character design, I did find the film to be a rather enjoyable, impressive animated feature that should delight families this holiday season. I didn’t hate it, and that’s saying a lot. Maybe, in some small way, its message of believing in the magic all around us melted my iced-over, cynical, 27-year-old heart – or maybe it was Global Warming, I don’t know.
P.S -NOT a prequel to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole P.S.S – NOT a prequel to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy P.S.S.S – It’d be a lot cooler if it was…