Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rise of the Guardians

I am a fairly big fan of animated films. There are even a few animated films on my top 10 favorite movies of all time (see Lists). However, I was somewhat conservative about the animated films I saw in theaters last year. Perhaps it's the fact that I realize the target audience is much younger than me, but the only animated film I paid money to see on the big screen was "Brave", which I trusted to cater to both children and adults. So when "Rise of the Guardians" came out, apart from not seeing it in theaters, I had no idea what it was even about. The poster looked interesting, but I hadn't even glimpsed a trailer for this movie before popping in the DVD for this review. For those of you who also don't know what this film is about, I'll parse it out in a brief plot summary.

Jack Frost awakens from watery darkness by the Man on the Moon to find that he has the power to create snow and ice wherever he wants. So ecstatic is he to share his newfound gift, that he flies into a neighboring town only to discover that no one can see him. 300 years later, Santa Clause learns of an impending crisis that will extinguish the lights of all fairytale-believing children across the globe. Convinced this means the return of Pitch Black (aka, The Bogeyman), Santa assembles the Guardians - the Easter Bunny, the Toothfairy, and the Sandman - to join him in combating this new threat. Once the Guardians have gathered, however, they learn from the Man on the Moon that another Guardian is to be chosen - Jack Frost. Far from  dutifully heeding the call, Jack is struggling from an identity crisis, as none of the children of the world believe in him like they do the other Guardians (a fact that Pitch uses to his advantage).

As a lover of superhero films, I was delighted to see that this film is kind of an animated version of The Avengers. I really enjoyed the personification of each of these beloved characters and the new iterations that were created for this film. Santa has a Russian accent and wardrobe; the Easter Bunny is an Aussie complete with weaponized boomerangs; the Toothfairy is as knowledgeable about teeth as any dentist; and the Sandman doesn't speak at all, but uses his sand-manipulating abilities to project his thoughts in a mime-like way. I found each of these characters relatable and enjoyable, but also found their inner turmoil and relationships very intriguing to watch. The voicework in this film is uniformly excellent, with Pitch (Jude Law) and St. Nick (Alec Baldwin) as the slight standouts.

I really enjoyed the story being told here, particularly the discovery of Jack Frost's past and how that helps him to realize his "center". Each of the Guardians protects childhood in some way, but each of them is the Guardian of something specific. The revelation of each of these things come in such an organic way, that it really helps build the mythos that makes up this universe. The conflict is great and it sets up good, dramatic consequences for the actions of each Guardian in a semi-realistic way. While this never quite reaches the emotional depths of Pixar, "Rise of the Guardians" is definitely one of the better efforts of Dreamworks Animation Studios. If you like animated films and/or superhero films, go check it out on Redbox. I give this film three and a half stars.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action