Genre: Animated, Adventure, Family
Directed by: Peter Ramsey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Alex Baldwin, Isla Fisher
If I were to claim a certain genre of film as my ‘niche’, it’d probably be animation. I adore animated films to the point where I dislike that they’re considered a separate genre; to me it’s just another medium where the film can be a comedy, a drama, a romance, you name it. I’ve very high standards for animated films and Rise of the Guardians, amazingly, did not disappoint.
The most popular (well, most lucrative) of DreamWorks’ films seems to be Shrek, to the point where it has spawned a musical as well as three sequels; four if you count the Puss in Boots spin-off. Now, the Shrek situation is mostly why I find DreamWorks can be hit-and-miss. The company seem to be very keen on involving the adults who are the reason their demographic is seeing the film at all, in particular with tucking cheeky pop culture references away into every nook and cranny they can. Granted, they don’t push it as much and aside from the odd silliness, they seem to be taking a leaf from more renowned film studios like Disney and Pixar, and taking their product more seriously. I’m happy to say they’ve decided to follow How to Train Your Dragon and what they’ve come up with for Rise of the Guardians is something poignant, very moving and unfortunately, so far, criminally underrated.
It might be just the time of year, but to me Rise of the Guardians feels and plays a lot like a Christmas film. It has the themes of protecting children, nostalgia, growing up, even Father Christmas is there. The film goes through winter (or I assume it’s winter if Jack Frost is frolicking about) to Easter and honestly it feels like a missed opportunity to not feature Christmas time. My theory is that Christmas films tend to be considered their own separate genre and truthfully, this is a film that works all year round.
We open with the ‘birth’ of our protagonist Jack Frost, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek), who is a heartthrob on his own. Now, putting his voice in a boy-ish, mischievous Peter Pan type is genius. I cannot stress how clever DreamWorks have been with this character. He’s the kind of dude young boys are gonna love because he’s playful and cool and makes snow days. The girls are gonna twist themselves in a knot falling in love with him and feeling his misunderstood-ness and wanting to be there for him. Jack briefly explains how he’s been around for a long time, how the Man in the Moon told him his name and how he doesn’t exactly know what his point is in this world.
Now Jack is a lone wolf, apparently remaining in the same small American town most of the time and getting all the kids into all kinds of fun, snow-related shenanigans and just essentially being the best ever. But in the North Pole our, which for some reason is distinctly Russian, Santa (Alec Baldwin) thinks the Boogeyman, or Pitch Black (Jude Law), is up to something. He feels it, you see, “in his belly”. So he gets the whole gang together, calling the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman (mute). While they’re all gathered it appears the Man in the Moon has chosen a new Guardian and it’s Mr Jack Frost!
What follows is the standard ‘asshole with a heart of gold who learns the importance of ‘x’ and uses his uncanny and natural talent in everything for good and proves the ones who doubted him wrong’. I know that, if you’ve seen the trailer you know it too. What makes the film stand out is the characterisation; the lengths DreamWorks went to so we know, and care, a great deal about all of them.
It is crucial to talk about the visuals, but there’s nothing to say other than they’re magnificent. Sandman doesn’t speak but has an awful lot to say, so he uses his sand to shape what he means, and you can see each individual grain of that sand. Further, in a world where 3D is a cheap gimmick to make that one extra buck, Rise of the Guardians’ 3D is right up there with the best of them, at times honestly looking like it’s in front of you, which makes a change.
In the sea of gushing praise I’m sure you, reader, are sceptical. Surely there must be something negative to be said? Well, if I really must nitpick, the star-studded cast was distracting at times, especially Jude Law’s Pitch. Jude Law is just one of those people whose voices are just all too familiar and how was I supposed to buy that he was the bad guy when I’ve seen what Jude Law’s puppy eyes look like?
All in all, this is a triumph. The box office may not think so, but I’m hoping the Academy will. If not, I hope that DreamWorks are proud of themselves; failing that, I’m certainly proud enough for them.