Rise of the Guardians (PG)
Directed by: Peter Ramsey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Jude Law and Isla Fisher
Running Time: 97mins
When an ancient evil called Pitch Black, or the Boogie Man, rises to bring the world back into its fearful old ways by destroying the faith of children, it is up to Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy to restore balance. However, it seems they can’t do it alone.
Rise of the Guardians is another in this year’s trend of ‘quite scary, but still for kids’ animated movies. But unlike Paranorman, Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie, this one is set during Christmas (and easter and any night you loose a tooth or, em, sleep) and rather than embrace the darkness, it portrays it as something to fight against.
Before we start, I had to say that this movie had me at Guillermo Del Toro as producer. And it’s very clear where his involvement is.
In a world where humans and mythological creatures co-exist, The Boogie Man (Law) is tired of being the black sheep of the family and decides that, if he can destroy the love of children for his brothers, Santa (Baldwin), The Easter Bunny (Jackman), the mute Sandman and The Tooth Fairy (Fisher) by sabotaging their festivals and life work, he can send the world spiralling back to the dark ages of fear and paranoia, where every shadow is a monster. And thus a battle begins that Boogie seems to have the upper hand in. Until something changes.
You see, Santa, Bunny and Tooth are guardians put on this earth to protect children and give them hope. They are chosen by the man in the moon (no, really) and each one was a person before they became a guardian. But now that this darkness has returned, the man in the moon has decided they need reinforcements. Enter Jack Frost (Pine) a teen supernatural character who creates frost, ice and snow days and seems to want nothing more than to be a part of the lives of the children in the world. But this cannot be because no-one but the other supernaturals can see him. And he doesn’t know why. And yes, it’s integral to the script.
Ok, on first look, the plot isn’t any big shakes. Ancient evil arises, choosen guardians must rise to the challenge, including the young hot-head who has a destiny he is totally unaware of. But Rise of the Guardians, based loosely on Willian Joyce’s books, takes the premise and thanks to great casting, wonderful CGI and 3D and a mythology way above the obvious, runs with it.
What we get is a movie, like the movies Del Toro excels at, that is steeped in mythology. Who are the giant stone Easter helpers? Why was Bunny a rabbit, not a person? Santa’s toys aren’t built by who you think, if Jack is a supernatural being other than a guardian, is there others too?
This is a world rich in ideas and themes, and the direction by Ramsey (whose only other direction work was on the TV Monsters Vs Aliens movie), while mostly perfunctory, does make great use of the 3D element, especially in the action scenes and the way Pitch attacks with nightmares.
So, while the kids will be entertained – and scared too (Law’s Pitch is a great character, oozing menace) – the adults will be too, but those who are open to it will be rewarded by what isn’t obvious, but rather lies, like all the best things, just on the edge of reality.
So, while not as technically good as Paranorman, Rise of the Guardians hits all the right buttons. I’ve read a few reviews that say it’s shortcoming is it panders to children, well I challenge that! It’s a kids movie, but shouldn’t be underestimated by adults either.