Rise of the Guardians
Directed by Peter Ramsey
Produced by Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Composed by Alexandre Desplat
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Studio: Dreamworks Animation
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Like Disney, Dreamworks has been on an uphill streak for a few years now. Films like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon were miles ahead of anything Dreamworks offered to audiences from 2004 up until 2007. Down were the cringeworthy pop-culture references and cheap toilet humor that plague the films they released from the aforementioned years. After the release of Bee Movie in 2007, the company changed their approach on movie making for the better. Fast foward five years later to the year 2012. Dreamworks' first offering Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted was a financial success for the studio and the best reviewed film from the trilogy. While I highly enjoyed that film, I am not here to review that. This is where we enter Rise of the Guardians...
Told briskly in 97 minutes, this movie tells the story of North, The Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Jack Frost who ban together to fight the common antagonist known as Pitch. This group known for being the heroes of children everywhere will be put to the test when they have to defend everything they have against this despicale villain.
As you can tell by the marketing, Rise of the Guardians looked essentially like The Avengers with holiday characters. Each of the holiday characters are treated like heroes that are assembled together to fight off Pitch. There is an origin story for Jack (which is parallel to that of Wolverine from the original X-Men). Jack is a loner with no memory of his past who gets brought into this team of heroes and must accept his place with his new family. The plot, at its score, works due to the holiday setting.
This movie is absolutely georgeous in the visual department. Del Toro's influence is very vivid in the designs of the picturesque worlds, from Pitch's layer to the Easter Bunny's and North's homes. The animation is very smooth with a wonderful balance of color, lighting, and tone. The use of snow and sky was just absolutely breathtaking.
The casting here is solid. While I wasn't too crazy about Chris Pine providing the voice of a teenage character, he makes the character he portrays charming, roguish, and free spirited. A very likeable lead to sum it up. Hugh Jackman is hilarious providing an awesome Australian accent with The Easter Bunny. Alec Baldwin is wonderful as North. His Russain accent is a bit hard to get behind at times, but it's never distracting. Jude Law provides a creepy and marvelous performance as our film's main antagonist, Pitch. Isla Fisher also provides a charming performance as The Tooth Fairy.
Rise of the Guardians has an almost perfect balance of dark/tearjerker moments combined with some more comedic bits. The marketing made this film look like one of Dreamworks' darker movies, which it is. The final battle with Pitch is played more for laughs, which I applaud the writers for. Sometimes you need to regress a bit when the story becomes a bit too dark and complicated and Rise of the Guardians does this well.
I never heard of director Peter Ramsey before I went to see this movie. His backround was a storyboard artist of several different projects for different studios. He did a fantastic job pulling this project off and I hope we see more from him in the foreseeable future. He certainly comes close to topping Pixar at their own game with his directorial debut.
As I mentioned earlier, what made the recent Dreamworks films work was their storytelling. While this film is okay in that department, it's a step down from their previous efforts. Some of the film's story tends to become a bit too confusing such as Jack's fulfillment. This isn't the only mistake writer David Lindsay-Abaire makes. There's a major plot development that takes place off-screen, which makes the rest of the movie confusing which is a bit too much of a distraction.
Aside from that, there were a couple of minor problems I had. The sub-plot with Jack Frost isn't very interesting. Once you realize he becomes Jack Frost, it clicks but his moping around for about 80% of his screentime feels a bit out of place with most of the hijinks that assures at the North Pole. Also, the stuff with "The Man on the Moon" is a bit clunky.
While it isn't up to par with some of Dreamworks' recent efforts, Rise of the Guardians is still a very good film in its own right. A definite holiday classic in the making.