Rise of the Guardians (2012)
This week Rise of the Guardians comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD and I’m pretty excited about it! This might be a movie that does better in sales that it did theatrically just because there was a good deal of word of mouth about it. That’s what got me to go see it, in fact; people were really impressed by it and, since I love being impressed, I saw it too.
From the poster alone you can glean what the movie is about: folk tale heroes as you’ve never seen them before drag their reluctant newbie Jack Frost along for a fight against the powers of darkness. But the simplicity of the plot belies the depth for fun and originality the film possesses.
The charm of the movie is in the journey Jack takes to becoming a Guardian. Given his icy abilities by the all-knowing and ever-silent Man in the Moon, Jack finds himself all alone with no answers about what happened to him or why. The opening scene of his creation is subtle and poignant, not at all what I was expecting for the beginning of such an action-promising family adventure. At the start, all Jack knows is that no human can see him, meaning he can get away with anything suiting his mischievous streak just fine, even though it gets a little lonely. As he joins the Guardians to combat the vengeful Pitch Black, he must overcome his doubts in order to save the day. It might sound like run of the mill coming of age stuff, but between really engaging storytelling and voice performances it’s not. Normally you expect the antagonist to make a change as they overcome some less than perfect part of themselves. But here, the attributes that give these characters their power are also their flaws, and I loved that. The message was to see yourself from a different angle; you don’t necessarily have to change what you’re given just do something better with it. And when he realizes it, the payoff for both Jack and the audience is extremely satisfying.
Surrounding our hero are some really well structured and confident characters. The Easter Bunny is an Australian, anthropomorphic rabbit with a boomerang? Weird yes, but he owns it! And the tooth fairy is a bird-lady with a strange tooth fixation with smaller, adorable bird-ladies flitting around and doing her bidding. I’ll go with it. Unlike a lot of secondary characters in family films, they aren’t vehicles for wince-inducing one liners; they were clearly thought out and fully-formed characters before their lines were written. There is such a come out swinging commitment to the concept of each character that you just fall into the groove and find yourself laughing at Santa’s yetis ‘cause, duh!
The voice cast does a great job as well, with standouts in Chris Pine (can he just be a loveable skamp with access to powerful weapons all the time?) and Jude Law, who gives a despicable turn as Pitch. And a small nod to Hugh Jackman getting to use his actual accent! Huzzah!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the art direction in this movie. Oh God, is it pretty? From the way they animated frost veining across window panes to the glory that was Sandy and his expressive sand, this movie is just beautiful. I loved the wide shots of lumbering golden dinosaurs walking down sleeping city streets. It gives you chills. It’s great to see animated films flexing their muscles not just recreating the everyday world we live in but bizarre and surreal settings as well with the same vitality and detail.
So, all in all, I came out of Rise of the Guardians on a buzz. I had fun with characters in the movie and I kind of didn’t want it to end, and I hadn’t felt like that in a movie for a while. I would highly endorse putting a couple of bucks toward at least renting Guardians now that it’s out. It’s definitely worth a watch and you’ll more than likely have a good time doing it.
- For Rise of the Guardians: “The Force is strong with this one”