Dreamworks Animation’s latest animated release Rise Of The Guardians could very well be one of their greatest films though vastly underrated and dismissed by general audiences. That’s a shame because unlike recent animated efforts from Dreamworks’ main rival, Rise Of The Guardians has a surprising amount of depth and heart.
Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians Of Childhood series of books, Rise Of The Guardians is directed by Peter Ramsey and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro and Joyce. One thing perspective viewers should note is that the film isn’t a comedy and is more of a fantasy adventure film and it’s a refreshing change for Dreamworks. Unlike their other films, Rise Of The Guardians doesn’t have any crude toilet humor aimed at kids, topical references or annoying modern songs that break a film’s narrative flow.
The film centers on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) who was once human and turned into the mythical character after drowning. Though he enjoys his role of bringing frigid weather and playing one-sided with children (they are unable to see him) he longs for human contact or just to be noticed. At the same time, Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), who is Russian, notices that Pitch Black (Jude Law) a.k.a. the Boogeyman is preparing to return to the world and spread nightmares to children everywhere. Santa summons the other Guardians to the North Pole to combat Pitch. The motley crew is composed of a buffed-up, Australian Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (who doesn’t speak in the film) and their tasks as Guardians are to protect the children of the world from evil, in the film’s case, nightmares. The newest Guardian to be recruited is Jack Frost who naturally doesn’t want to get involved in the conflict. See, he’s more of a party dude but he surprisingly relates to children better than the other characters since he alone actually plays with them. And that could be the best advantage he and the others have against Pitch and his growing army of darkness.
Rise Of The Guardians is beautifully animated and storyboarded. Many sequences bring out a sense of wonder and joy and even brought tears to my eyes. It’s a celebration of childhood and all the thrills of being a child who still believes in fantastical beings like Santa Claus. The characters are superbly executed, very relatable, engaging and surprisingly hip without going overboard. For example, the Easter Bunny is a tough dude who clashes often with Jack, but he has a tender passion for children and wants to bring a sense of hope with Easter. Santa Claus is a loud, boisterous man who sports tattoos on his forearms and drives a super-detailed sleigh that traverses through these wormhole-type constructs. While the Guardians are colorful and bright, Pitch is dark and monochromatic and a startling contrast to them. The black-sand army of mares that he uses are terrifying and reflect violent storms to the Sandman’s graceful, golden sandy constructs like unicorns and dolphins. The light and dark clashes Pitch and the Guardians have are very spectacular.
But the center of the film is and should be Jack Frost. In many ways, he’s the one character we the audience can relate to the most. His journey was the best part of Rise Of The Guardians and he is a true hero with a surprising amount of depth.
It’s hard to say what will and will not be considered a classic in the future. Hopefully, whether in theaters or on DVD, people will discover this unexpected gem and enjoy this exciting and exceptional film. But do try to see this eye popper on the big screen this holiday season, it’s something to be cherished.