Rise of the Guardians is the first of the holiday films in 2012, but they did it a little different. Instead of picking a single holiday to focus on, they decided to avoid the trouble and make it about all of them. You’ll get to watch Santa, The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, and The Sandman all light up the screen! Rise of the Guardians (ROTG) really encompassed every holiday of the season, unless you’re Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist. Don’t get me wrong, ROTG tactfully avoids the subject of religion, but it is worth noting that you’re not going to see any Menorahs.
The film follows the protagonist, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), as he goes from a lonely troublemaker to a full-fledged Guardian of Childhood. He’s joined by Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman. This dream-team of childhood heroes has to stop the Boogeyman, Pitch (Jude Law), as he seeks to corrupt the children of the Earth and destroy all hope. To be honest, ROTG is more of a, “Chase Movie” more than anything. While the plot does advance at a steady pace, it never develops beyond catching and stopping Pitch. With that noted, I have to say that I was shocked to see such character development out of a children’s movie. Not only does the main character have a solid character arc, but the side characters come into their own over the course of the film. This doesn’t completely make up for the lack of plot, but it certainly makes the ride more enjoyable.
The animation in ROTG was up to par with most CGI films, but nothing spectacular. The settings frequently switched between the fantastical and realistic cities, but they kept the same cartoon-y feel. The characters themselves had fluid motion and were well detailed, often showing minute details. For example, Santa’s tattoos would move and flex with his arms and the Sandman’s hair and clothing obeyed gravity. One problem with the visual effects is that they are nearly over-used in every scene. Whether the characters are battling monsters or chatting in Santa’s Workshop, there are constant colors and explosions littering the screen. Your eyes will never have a moment’s rest during the film, darting from one dazzle to the next. You’re not going to be left in awe from the visuals, but ROTG holds its own.
This film takes an interesting twist on the traditional characters, making these childhood legends into badasses. Santa speaks with a Russian accent and wields two swords. The Easter Bunny is now a no-nonsense Aussie, who flings boomerangs as weapons. While these changes seem silly at first, it fits the style of the film. It would be more silly to imagine a traditional Easter Bunny tearing through crowds of shadow-monsters. Not only were the characters well animated, but I was surprised to see that a film like Rise of the Guardians had such a star-studded cast. Very rarely does an ensemble work together this well. While some characters may have been more prominent than others, all of the voice talents exceeded my expectations.
Unfortunately, Rise of the Guardians does suffer from its fair share of faults. First of all, there is certainly more flash and bang than there is plot. Parents may still enjoy the little jokes and quick moving story, but boredom is never out of reach. Secondly, it felt like they weren’t sure what to do with the villain. While watching the movie, they consistently bounce his character from being pure evil to being a relatable misfit. This wouldn’t be so bad, if they didn’t end the movie without resolving his character’s inner strife. Finally, despite the film being based on magical characters, it never succeeds in creating a sense of wonder or enchantment on screen. The mystic powers and visuals seem to fall flat, as if the magic had lost its charm on the film’s characters.
All in all, Rise of the Guardians is up to snuff for modern animated films. Its quick pace and well thought out characters make it easy to enjoy yourself while watching. Even though it will never stand up to the best creations of Disney/Pixar, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little pointless fun during the Holiday season. So, if you’re looking for a movie to see with the kids, take them to Wreck-It Ralph. If you guys have already seen that, then go check out Rise of the Guardians.
I Give Rise of the Guardians 3 “Simple-Minded Elves” out of 5
By Blake Edwards