[Review] – Rise Of The Guardians

30 Nov

Title: Rise of the Guardians
Year: 2012
Director: Peter Ramsey
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the book series by William Joyce
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo
MPAA Rating: PG, thematic elements and some mild scary action
Runtime: 97 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Metacritic: 57

If I’m to be perfectly honest, I’m quite disappointed by Rise of the Guardians. Not because it’s bad (it’s not) but because a part of me was really looking forward to it and thinking that it would be in contention for the title of best animated feature of the year. Granted, that would be a hard title to get considering how amazing Wreck-It Ralph was (I gave that one an A), but this one’s not even in the Top 5 and it just looked so cool to me from the trailers I’d seen.

It’s the 25th DreamWorks Animation movie and based on a series of children’s books by William Joyce and the talent involved is amazing. The director, Peter Ramsey, is actually making his directorial debut here but has served as a storyboard artist on films that range from Fight Club to Being John Malkovich to Minority Report, which is pretty cool. But then the rest of people here are just supremely lauded individuals, David Lindsay-Abaire actually penned the screenplay and he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Guillermo del Toro continued his involvement with the studio’s slate of pictures and served as an executive producer, the incomparable Roger Deakins advised on how to make it all look as real as possible and the voice cast is made up of Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Jude Law and Isla Fisher.

So, yeah, the talent involved was pretty crazy. But irregardless of that I just dug the whole idea of this one. It’s been compared a lot to The Avengers and for good reason, this is The Avengers for the kids who still believe in childhood myths. After all, the Guardians the title refers to are North (Santa Clause for most us), the Tooth Fairy, Bunnymund (or the Easter Rabbit) and the Sandman and then they enlist Jack Forst to help them fight Pitch, who’s basically The Boogeyman, the guy who feeds of fears and creates nightmares who’s here trying to engulf the world in perpetual darkness.

I really loved that whole idea, I thought kids would just have a blast with it and these characters would be the set of superheroes for those not yet old enough to check out the Marvel assembly of good guys. But truth is that in the end it didn’t do it for me because of the storytelling, the whole thing looked awesome and it moved at a wonderful pace and was just fun to watch unravel, but the characters were just okay and I wanted to learn more about them and get their whole stories explained to me. Pixar would’ve rocked the shit out of this movie.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this film is far from bad, it’s just that, like I said, I had, for some reason, rather lofty expectations going into it. Young kids will love it, I’m sure, they’ll be all into its hyperactive action comedy and love the story of Jack Frost and how he redeems himself and becomes a great leader. It’s just that I really thought this was going to be one of those animated films that really tended to adults as well, and as awesomely-made and sharp and colorful as the animation is, the same just can’t be said about the characters.

What’s worse is that that depth and richness I was so wanting did appear in glimpses at times. There’s a bit in which Pitch actually tries to get Jack Frost to join him as his partner in evildoings and you get a sense that Jack sees a bit of himself in this villain, sees that they’re both outsiders and it’s a thematic that’s portrayed in wonderfully nuanced ways along the film. It was sad, though, that that same care wasn’t evident in any other aspect of it.

That’s what ultimately did this film in for me at the end, that the storyline didn’t add up to anything special, in the end just feeling like yet another rehash of the old good vs. evil storyline. It will get your attention because of the awesome visual stuff but it will lose it the second the film is done because it didn’t offer up anything of substance. It’s the type of movie that just has you wishing it were better, which is something I’d never thought I’d say about a movie in which Alec Baldwin voices a Russian Santa and Hugh Jackman amps up his Aussie accent to play a tattooed-up Easter Bunny.

For some reason I’m actually kind of disappointed that this one didn’t do better at the historically record-shattering Thanksgiving box office weekend during which it opened (it’s gross of $23.8 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period was the lowest for the studio since Flushed Away). That illustrates my frustration with this one, I didn’t even love it and yet I’m kind of mad at its financial results because it means we probably won’t get a sequel, which could have possibly been used to explore a bit of the backstories of the characters or something.

I’m ending this review here. Props to Mr. Ramsey as far as the visual stuff went, and props to whoever had the idea to hire Mr. Deakins as a consultant, because this really looks terrific; the dream sequences with the Sandman, especially, look like something Studio Ghibli might have made. And while I’m sure kids will get a kick out of this and have a favorite Guardian and go buy the toy of it, I was left wanting so much more, I wanted to know the real story of North so badly, and whatever hints of nuanced depth that were thrown in at times to be held for prolonged periods. Anyways, Rise of the Guardians satisfies, that’s for sure, it just won’t blow your mind.

Grade: B

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One Response to “[Review] – Rise Of The Guardians”

  1. Tinsel & Tine December 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    I came at the film with an entirely different attitude – I thought Impressive cast, but the trailer featuring all those gnome like elves running around made the movie look very commercial. I felt the whole concept was cutesy at best.

    Boy was I wrong! Rise of the Guardians is absolutely engaging, interesting, spiritual, mature yet child-like and exquisitely beautiful. The film deals with concepts of finding one’s center; the insidiousness of fear and the higher consciousness and knowledge that each one of us possesses the power to bring light into the world and defeat the evil grip of dark thoughts. At the same time, the movie is never preachy, or esoteric, it’s completely kid friendly, but there’s plenty of action, humor and depth for all!

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