Rise of the Guardians (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★
Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law), also known as the Boogeyman, decides that it is time for children to start believing in him again. The last time his power had reached an unfathomable zenith was during the Dark Ages when everyone lived in fear. His resurgence, however, involves destroying children’s hopes and dreams which in turn fuel the powers of North (Alec Baldwin), Tooth (Isla Fisher), Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the Sandman. If children stop believing in them, the Guardians will cease to exist. To help them fight Pitch, the mysterious Man in the Moon appoints a new Guardian: Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the spirit of winter who hopes to recall the memory of his past life.
Based on the book series by William Joyce, “Rise of the Guardians” offers plenty of material to be enjoyed by both children and adults. Although the characters are based on fictional figures but are nonetheless a part of our cultures, the material is more child-like than childish, infusing a sense of wonder and genuine emotions in its story rather than resting on running evanescent and shallow gags.
Part of the fun is that our archetypes of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy are turned inside out. Because the way they look are so different from what we normally expect, the screenplay is one step ahead in engaging us. For example, we do not expect Santa Claus to have tattoos or the Easter Bunny to be a six-footer, tough-talking, boomerang-wielding warrior.
Their personalities, too, are turned upside down. Not all of them are immediately likable. Not all of them even get the chance to speak. I was impressed that the Sandman does not get a chance to utter a word and yet he is given so much personality. Throughout the course of the film, we learn to like some of the Guardians a little more since our first impression.
I found it difficult to find fault with its style of animation. Since it is has plenty of action sequences, the texture of the movements feel swift even if a character only walks from Point A to Point B. This fluidity allows the film to truly shine, for instance, when the Guardians use their superpowers to stop Pitch from executing his master plan.
But the picture is not only strong during the hyperkinetic action. The facial expressions of the characters perfectly match the emotions behind the voices. In terms of voice acting, Law excels in exuding real menace. The way Pitch slithers and goes on about his devious intentions correspond to the sliminess in Law’s voiceover.
There is a little boy named Jamie (Dakota Goyo) who is intent on holding onto the belief that the Guardians are real. Though cute, this is the weakest strand because the script at times verges on sentimentality. Perhaps the intention is to make the human element as simple as possible so that it will be more accessible to children. Either way, it did not work for me completely. The material is more enjoyable when it focuses on the dynamics among the Guardians and the clever little jokes aimed at them or each other.
Directed by Peter Ramsey, despite its sugary shortcomings, “Rise of the Guardians” is visually arresting and offers a story worth telling. Almost everything about it is delightful. It is difficult to imagine a child not dropping what he or she is doing and paying attention to it because there is so much energy behind the battles as well as during times when characters are required to speak.