Rise of the Guardians is based on a book series by William Joyce called “The Guardians of Childhood,” and guard our childhoods these mythic characters do. DreamWorks is an interesting animation studio, to say the least. It is one studio that is usually hit hard by “the nostalgia effect” as my roommate Kellie likes to call it. The Nostalgia Effect is when you remember a film from your childhood as being absolutely amazing, but when you go back to rewatch it as a teenager or an adult, it just doesn’t quite hold up. They’ve been working to change that, though, and a few film franchises have come out of DreamWorks that are just as good as we remember from the first watch. Rise of the Guardians, and the sequels I bet will follow, are probably going to fall under the How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek category. (For those of you playing at home, that’s the category to be under.)
I’m a bit biased about this film, and have been for a really long while, because I’m a huge Jack Frost fan. Jack Frost was the first boy who wouldn’t grow up that I loved deeply. (The second is Peter Pan, but that’s a different conversation all together.) Rankin-Bass’s 1979 TV special Jack Frost was my favorite stop-motion Christmas-themed film. So, when I saw the first trailer for Rise of the Guardians about four months ago, I was elated. What’s not be excited about? Jack Frost, Russian Santa, Australian Easter Bunny, a hummingbird-human hybrid Tooth Fairy, and an adorable Sandman all make for a great cast of legendary characters that any child (or adult) will recognize and relate to. PLUS THERE ARE YETIS!
Rise of the Guardians is a film about believing. It’s a story about what happens when children believe, and then what happens when they stop believing. The guardians are chosen by The Man in the Moon to protect the children of the world. At the start of the film there are “the big four,” as our protagonist Jack Frost (Chris Pine; Star Trek & Carriers) calls them. North, aka Santa Claus, played by Alec Baldwin (The Cooler & 30 Rock) is alerted that something utterly fearful has begun. He calls together the other guardians, including Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman; X-Men & The Prestige), Tooth (Isla Fisher; Wedding Crashers & Confessions of a Shopaholic), and Sandy.
Once the big four are gathered The Man in the Moon tells them that he’s chosen a new guardian, Jack. They discover that Pitch Black, an incarnation of the Boogyman who is voiced by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes & Cold Mountain), is causing fear in the children of the world. Together the five guardians must protect the children who believe in them from Pitch as he turns the goodness of dreams into nightmares.
There are a few problems with the film, but that’s to be expected. A film is never perfect, and children’s films even less so it always seems. Overall, though, it was a fantastic ride. It was a story that was predictable in some places, but utterly fun throughout. It was, essentially, Jack Frost – magic, fun, and heart wrenching. PLUS DID I MENTION THAT THERE ARE YETIS? Sorry, but I’m really excited about the yetis. Also, there’s Alec Baldwin voicing a Russian Santa. What’s not to love? The look of the film is stunning and totally gorgeous. The play with shadows, usually because of Pitch, was visually interesting and I was never bored with any of the images. All the elements that are important in an animated film came together to create a really awesome movie that audiences of all ages will enjoy.
I anticipate that the target audience is going to love this film, and so will the teenagers and adults in their twenties who think it looks badass. There are a lot of weird things that our generation will appreciate, and there are small references to older literary works, like Aesop’s Fables and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that the Easter Bunny doesn’t fail to deliver It’s a great film, and if you like slightly campy myths and legends (of the Christian and Norse variety), then you’ll love this film. And maybe you’ll want to read Joyce’s children’s novels for more background on the characters – I know I do!
I give Rise of the Guardians 8/10 Pocket Protectors for a cheerful bit of mythic fun (and yetis).
– Emily Frances Maesar