Review: Rise of the Guardians – Holiday heroes save the world
The new computer animated film Rise of the Guardians borrows heavily from comic-books and the superhero film genre and throws a new twist on icons like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, casting them as protectors of childhood innocence. It’s a unique and welcome change from the standard holiday fare and it has some incredible animation to boot.
The heroes in Rise of the Guardians include the Sandman as a short & chubby dwarf looking character who communicates via emblems created out of his sleepy sand; Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), who is a surly swashbuckling German fellow with one arm tattooed with “Naughty” and the other with “Nice;” the Tooth-Fairy (Isla Fisher) as a weird hummingbird mutant creature; and the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) as a giant Australian rabbit with an attitude.
When North (Santa Claus) notices that the children of Earth are abandoning their belief in the good guardians, the “Fantastic Four” of fable enlists the help of Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who just might be a guardian as well, to go up against the Bogeyman (Jude Law) and prevent him from destroying the hopes and dreams of humanity. It’s a classic comic-book narrative that is delivered in a magnificent manner.
Each of the Guardians has their own unique powers and responsibilities and it’s up to Jack Frost to discover his if he is going to be able to save the world from Pitch (the Bogeyman), who has converted the Sandman’s good-natured fantasy sand-stream into a substance that triggers nightmarish visions.
The story is based on The Guardians of Childhood book series by author/artist William Joyce and it is the first feature film for director Peter Ramsey, who has contributed to the artistry of films as varied as Tank Girl, Godzilla and Shark Tale; and for me the art was certainly the star of this show. I’ve often bemoaned the fact that comic-book movies have not fully embraced today’s animation technology. Sure, CGI intermixed with conventional special effects is great, but Rise of the Guardians proves that a fully animated genre film can convincingly take you to very cool places a regular movie can’t. (Hint to whoever takes on the next Fantastic Four film reboot.)
The world of Rise of the Guardians is incredibly inventive and a lot of fun. My favorite moments took place in Santa’s workshop where the elves are more pesky than helpful and Yetis have been enlisted to build the toys. Santa’s electronic child-tracking interface and his sleigh were also awesomely cool, as was the not-so-jolly old guy himself.
This film might be a little dark for very young children, but older kids and adults will really enjoy the witty script by David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots). I’m not a fan of 3D films, but this movie makes great use of the technology (maybe the best I’ve seen) and it really immerses you into its animated world. Alas, like nearly all 3D films, this one made me cry and pout due to the muddy picture caused by the dark glasses and poor projection luminance. For this movie it really is a shame that the presentation wasn’t better, because the use of 3D was very well done and if you are not bothered by the muddy picture, then I absolutely recommend seeing it in 3D.
Rise of the Guardians is an instant holiday classic that is bursting with adventure and humor and I could easily watch this film any time of the year (holiday or not.) It’s the perfect flick to get you into the holiday spirit. Grade: 8/10