Movie Review: ‘Rise of the Guardians’

By Matthew Rodgers Created: November 28, 2012 Last Updated: December 3, 2012
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It is an unquestionably great era for animated movies, with Pixar in their pomp and the makers of this having dreamed up the brilliance of How to Train Your Dragon. On the whole, though, they stick to a recognisable formula. 

Rise of the Guardians attempts to be different, and because of that is ambitious to a fault, yet it remains a triumph of unrelenting entertainment, and another upturn in DreamWorks’ ever-improving CGI canon. 

Jack Frost (Chris Pine) earns his place among the Guardians in Rise of the Guardians (Courtesy of DreamW)

Jack Frost (Chris Pine) earns his place among the Guardians in Rise of the Guardians (Courtesy of DreamW)

The Guardians are a group of familiar faces that protect the well-being of children around the world. You’ll recognise North (Alec Baldwin) as Ol Saint Nick, Bunny (Hugh Jackman) as the giver of seasonal eggs, Tooth (Isla Fisher) is the fairy who provides remuneration to those who have recently lost gnashers, and Sandman, who brings you a dream (bom-bom-bom-bom). 

Our focus is Jack Frost (Chris Pine). Who? You may ask. Well that’s the very same existential question at the heart of this fairytale. The bringer of all things cold doesn’t know where he came from or where he belongs. So when he is selected by the Man in the Moon to potentially join the Guardians in their fight against Pitch Black (Jude Law), the bringer of nightmares, he is reluctant to do so, preferring to continue with his isolated existence unless he is provided with the answers he’s been seeking since his creation. 

The credentials of the storytellers are up on screen for all to see: William Joyce, from whose novels the film was adapted, was behind some of the original conceptual character designs on the first Toy Story movie, so it’s no surprise that there is so much time and detail afforded to the introduction of the Guardians. And Guillermo Del Toro, the master of orchestrating the fantastical, has a producing credit. Because of this, Rise of the Guardians is more beautiful and imaginative than most films aimed at the Sunday morning market. 

The worlds in which the characters exist are rendered marvellously, from North’s antiquated toy shop, alive with a workforce of yetis and a seemingly endless number of ill-treated elves, to Tooth’s cloud based kingdom, kaleidoscopic in colour, never static for a minute. 

In fact, the movie’s main problem might be that there’s too much going on. With so many visual ideas and narrative exposition, it takes an eternity to settle into its stride, and the characters become little more than perfunctory plot devices. The stand-out sequences are not those during which a chaotic battle ensues between good and evil (a team that Jude Law represents brilliantly), or when Jack Frost manipulates the weather to guide a sled riding child through a high octane road chase, but the quieter moments. Jack’s epiphany or his origin flashbacks are both wonderfully handled, tenderly played out sequences, a few more of which might have given the film more balance.

The outstanding voice work arrives courtesy of Hugh Jackman’s cantankerous rabbit, while Chris Pine can do earnest hero in his sleep thanks to his stint on the Enterprise. 

Maybe it’s skewed slightly too-young and has too-convoluted a concept to reach the broad audience CGI flicks tend to snare these days; its less-than-stellar opening weekend at the US Box Office ($24M) testifies to that fear. But this holiday season themedAvengers Assemble is a charming and exciting ride, and refreshingly, one during which the 3-D is actually worth the extra couple of quid on the ticket price for once.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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