Friday, August 21, 2015

Rise of the Guardians Review

I’m told that Dreamworks isn’t doing so well financially. Several of their more recent movies (apart from Home) did poorly in the box office. I’m not sure why. The recent ones I’ve seen were pretty good. Adding to that list is Rise of the Guardians (2012). Featuring a mash-up of modern children’s folk tale heroes, it’s been compared to The Avengers for kids. I think that’s selling Rise of the Guardians a bit short; it is truly a fun movie!
Generation after generation, immortal Guardians like Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) protect the world's children from darkness and despair. However, an evil boogeyman named Pitch Black (Jude Law) schemes to overthrow the Guardians by obliterating children's belief in them. It falls to a winter sprite named Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to thwart Pitch's plans and save the Guardians from destruction.
I can see why people would think to compare Rise of the Guardians with The Avengers. Both have completely mismatched sets of heroes uniting and gathering together to fight a mutual powerful enemy. Both have lots of fun action and high stakes for their respective world settings. But saying that Guardians is for kids is selling it short. Guardians has a delightful whimsy and charm to it that I’m sure would delight anyone of any age.
I loved the characters in this movie. As a general rule, any movie that features Santa Claus will inevitably be awful. That wasn’t the case in Guardians. The Santa here is not your traditional Santa; he’s got a Russian accent and has a prominent Russian cultural personality. He has tattooed arms that say “Naughty” on one and “Nice” on the other, and he fights with two swords. But he’s still a fanciful and lovable character; he’s just fun! The Easter Bunny is voiced by Hugh Jackman who apparently loved the role because he could use his natural Australian accent. The Easter Bunny is another fun tough guy who wields boomerangs. Everyone in the movie is likable and interesting in his or her own right.
The story moves logically and practically. The setting is a little bit on the complex side, but everything is explained gradually and shown to viewers as the story evolves, sometimes even during action scenes. There are rules specific to the settings that need to be established so that they can be adhered to or even broken to make a suitably compelling story. Everything is well written and shown to us so that we understand enough to get us to the next scene where the stakes are even higher. Yet the story is simple enough that even young audiences can keep up with it.
The animation is stellar here. The characters are unique and have very interesting designs. Their powers are really neat to behold as they conjure up portals around the world and paint windows and leaves with icy frost. One of the more visually interesting characters is the Sandman; he’s basically mute, but has small images made of glowing golden sand appear above his head to illustrate what he’s trying to communicate. Coupled with his expressive facial features you can still tell what this silent character is thinking, which is a marker of superior animation.
Guardians, as stated above, was a box office bomb. It was released on November 21, 2012 and received mixed to positive reviews, but was a financial disappointment, contributing to a studio writedown of $83 million for the quarter and the layoffs of 350 employees. Rise of the Guardians was the last DreamWorks Animation film distributed by Paramount, as DreamWorks has signed a five-year distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, which started in 2013 with The Croods. With that kind of a financial failure, I’m not surprised Paramount didn’t want to renew a distribution contract with Dreamworks. Guardians may not have been the event that destroyed the deal with Paramount, but it probably contributed to it.
I have to admit that the idea of a group of holiday mascots and children’s urban legends teaming up to fight the Boogieman certainly sounds rather outlandish, childish, and probably not something that anyone over the age of eight would enjoy very much. But Rise of the Guardians is a good, solid animated feature. I genuinely liked it. It was complex and humorous enough to be compelling to adults while also being simple and whimsical enough for children. I don’t think it’s fair to say it is like The Avengers for kids since this is a creative and engaging fantasy story that is sheer fun to get lost in. It was a box office bomb, but I really don’t understand why. I liked this movie enough to want to get a copy of on Blu-Ray eventually. Rise of the Guardians makes a fun family movie night, and it’s still fun even if you don’t have kids to watch it with.

Did you have a particular holiday mascot or urban legend that you were fond of as a kid? Comment below and tell me why!

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