Friday, March 22, 2013

Rise of the Guardians

A while ago, I published a short anticipation post, Upcoming Movie: Rise of the Guardians, where I explained my interest in this DreamWorks animation. Short short version: it was because of the actors lending their voices to the characters. I was hoping the rest of the animated flick would... rise to the level of the talented, uniquely voiced actors starring.

Sadly, when it released and medium reviews came in, my hopes fell a little ways - not all the way - just enough to keep me away from the theater and 3D glasses. I finally got around to watching it yesterday.


Like any movie that involves Santa Claus, Rise of the Guardians is pretty much all about keeping kiddies believing in its fantasy characters. If the kids don't believe in the Guardians, they lose their power, so the bad guy - the Boogeyman - Pitch, has an evil plan to cause all the kids of the world to stop believing in them, so he can take over their dreams, replacing them with nightmares, and (therefore?) take over the world. To prevent this, the Man on the Moon chooses a new Guardian; Jack Frost.

If this sounds confusing, it's because it is. And too complicated for me to bother explaining any more - the first thirty minutes was almost totally spent in set-up. But essentially, Jack (Chris Pine) teams up with the existing Guardians, Santa (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman and his Aussie accent), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the voiceless Sandman, to defeat Jude Law's Pitch, doing his very best Loki impression.

One of my favorite things about animated movies: actor/character promo shots! Baldwin totally ruined the pattern though...

My instinct was right; the actors - or the actor's voices rather - where the best part of the film, but they still weren't as great as I was hoping. Hugh Jackman delivering practically nothing but punch lines was probably the best, and Isla Fisher, rambling and murmuring, the worst. The others had good moments and bad moments, easily defined; the serious moments were really forced (possibly due to having no one to play off of when recording lines alone?) I have to give Chris Pine credit though; he handled his lot of serious moments fairly well. And Alec Baldwin's Russian accent was funny addition. Jude Law had to be my favorite though - the whole movie was worth watching simply to hear him say "Oh, I thought I heard the clippity-clop of a unicorn." I also liked a neat effect as he would monologue while disappearing and re-appearing at varying distances, his voice would fade in and out, and the echo would change. Then he would suddenly be loud again, and our hero would wheel around to find him standing behind him in traditional creepy-baddie fashion.

So, I just made the connection that his black horses are nightmares. Duhh...

But that brings me to a few things that went wrong. Pitch is not the only character able to fly around and move inexplicably fast. They all can. And of course it made for a lot of location changes. Really fast ones. They're in the sky one moment, then in an alley, then a park, then suddenly somewhere where it's daytime. It got dizzying, and obviously was all only to show off the animation and 3D, and while I don't know about the 3D, the animation was nothing special compared to Disney and Pixar these days. There was one striking moment I can recall when Pitch and Jack have a Jedi-like standoff, but otherwise, Jack's hair was pretty much the only thing worth a good look.

Behold. The hair.

So I suppose this was done make use of some 3D gloss, and draw in little kids to the theater, and trick parents into bringing them by casting big-name actors. I don't know if the story was capable of being a truly great film by my taste (I never did that "Santa Claus" thing, so it holds very little charm for me) but it certainly could have been much better. Another mediocre attempt results in failed potential. Fortunately, it didn't disappoint me much; after all I never had anything much invested in it's quality, just a hankering to hear something new from a few actors I like. And that's what I got, along with a bonus of a mini Avengers-like adventure that is sometimes funny, has a few cute moments, and some interesting details.

-- 3/5 stars.


  1. I saw this one a while ago. Good review. For me the takeaway moral felt preachy and convoluted but otherwise it was a pretty good kids movie.

    1. Thanks, yeah, it was decent for kids... I saw it so long ago I can hardly even remember much about it, but "convoluted" sounds like a perfect description!