We have “The Avengers” early in this year, and now we have “Rise of the Guardians” around the end of this year. Like various superhero characters were assembled to save the mankind in the former, the various Guardians of Childhood are assembled to save the innocence of children all over the world in this case, and the result is a nice gift set for the Holiday season packed with good sights and, of course, some fast and exciting action sequences to satisfy young audiences.
I am not familiar with the book “The Guardians of Childhood” written by William Joyce, so let’s only focus on the premise presented in its adapted version. For a very long time, there have been several guardians for the wonder and imagination and hope inside the unadulterated minds of children, and they are North(voiced by Alec Baldwin), Tooth(voiced by Isla Fisher), Bunny(voiced by Hugh Jackman), and Sandman, who does not talk but communicate with others through the figures he conjures above his round head.
We see what these members do when there is no serious threat to deal with. In case of North, he is apparently Santa Claus – with two tattooed arms(“Naughty” on the right arm – and “Nice” on the left arm). He does his annual Christmas business somewhere probably around the North pole as monitoring the brightness inside children all over the Earth at the control room at the center of his factory. He has elves in the factory, but they are more or less than hapless minions for comic relief, and a group of snowmen do most of works(Wait a minute, do they have snowmen in the North pole?).
We see the other fun sights. Tooth is of course Tooth fairy, and she has lots of fairies who are little version of herself, and they fly all around the world for collecting the teeth from children and leaving coins under their pillows in exchange for them(I didn’t know that the Chinese children believe in Tooth fairy, by the way). Bunny, a big brash rabbit, is in charge of Easter, so we get a fabulous sight of many eggs marching for coloring and delivery later in the story.
While Sandman takes care of good positive dreams for children with his golden sandy power, Pitch(voiced by Jude Law), who is also called Bogeyman, represents the dark power of bad negative nightmare. As an arch-nemesis of the Guardians, he has been suppressed for quite a long time, but now he rises again for usurping the territory guarded by them, and they must stop him before he starts the dark age again.
In such a tale of good vs. evil like that, a reluctant hero comes with territory, and he is Jack Frost(voiced by Chris Pine), who is unexpectedly appointed as a new member of the Guardians by “man in moon”. His name particularly reminds me of one lousy holiday movie “Jack Frost”(1998), and I sort of expected Jack Frost in the movie to look like a cousin of Frosty the Snowman, but, no, to my little disappointment, he looks like a standard old boy(he is more than 300 years old) with his ever-youthful looks and white frosty hair.
The story is as standard as he looks. Although he has lots of fun with delighting kids whenever winter comes, but he has been frustrated about being invisible to them and unappreciated by them. Chosen as a Guardian, he finally gets a chance to be promoted and visible, but he is still not so confident about himself because, well, he does not know who he really is, so a considerable part of the story is devoted to his inner search as Pitch is steadily increasing his malevolent power, which creates his army of smoky dark horses frequently swishing across the screen. The notable actors behind the characters are mostly unrecognizable in the voices they provide, but Jude Law is having a delicious fun behind his character. After all, playing a villain is more fun than playing a hero, and Law imbues Pitch with dark humor and insidious menace.
I must confess that I have some grumbles about the story due to its predictable storylines and other reasons. How the powers of the Guardians are supported is an interesting idea, but it is not utilized as well as I expected in the story. It was amusing to see Easter Bunny and Santa Claus working together for helping their colleague, but they do not look that serious even though their power and existence are being threatened at the very moment. And I was a little confused at one point by how winter comes so fast right after the moment of crisis during Easter.
But at least I was not bored with the visuals in the animation. Each Guardian’s headquarter is depicted with colorful and distinctive details, and I marveled at Tooth’s palace at the top of the mountains where the teeth from the children are carefully stored. I also enjoyed Pitch’s huge gloomy lair, and I am sure that there must be the plaque which says “Abandon hope all you who enter here” somewhere around that dark place.
Like many recent digital animation films made, “Rise of the Guardians” is made in 3D. Although 3D is not that popular at least in my town, but they only showed it only in 3D at the advance screening at the local theater, and I had to pay extra money for that. As usual, I am not entirely sure about whether 3D is necessary, but I did not feel any need to take off my big 3D glasses during my viewing, and kids and parents around me had a good time with fun and excitement on the screen. It does not bring anything fresh to its fantasy genre, but “Rise of the Guardians” is entertaining none the less as a lightweight fun on the whole, and I won’t complain about its visible weaknesses.