Starring: Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law
You may like this if you liked: Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, 2011), Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Zack Snyder, 2012), Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon, 2012) – yes, really!
Since the dark ages, all the children of the earth have been watched over by a group of four ‘guardians’ chosen by The Man in the Moon. These are: Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), The Easter Bunny (Jackman), The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and The Sandman (he appropriately has no voice). As long as children believe in these guardians, they will always have the power to protect them. However, when the evil spirit Pitch (Law), or the bogeyman as he is commonly known tries to plague children’s dreams with nightmares and spread fear amongst them. If Pitch succeeds, this will lead the children of earth to stop believing in the guardians, taking away their power and leaving children living in fear forever. To fight Pitch, The Man in the Moon chooses a new guardian to join them: Jack Frost (Pine), the group are reluctant, and Jack Frost himself is reluctant as he never intended to be a hero. Children everywhere love snow, but never associate it with Jack Frost, who does not know why he has been given these powers. Now Jack Frost must finally discover who he truly is and find meaning to his existence. The Guardians must persuade him to help them before it is too late as Nightmares and darkness start to take over the world and the children begin to stop believing in Christmas, Easter and the Tooth Fairy.
As soon as I was aware of ROTG I immediately thought Avengers for children, and I know many others have said this. Well, this is kind of the case as there is of course obvious comparisons but it is best not to dwell on those comparisons, but ROTG is in my opinion a great concept, especially for children, and is tremendous fun. What proves very effective about this concept is the non-traditional depiction of these very traditional characters. Santa, called ‘North’ as a tattooed sword wielding Russian and The Easter Bunny as a sarcastic Australian warrior. Jack Frost himself is a very cocky upstart and the interaction between these characters proves very entertaining to watch, with plenty of jokes.
The animation and the action itself looks spectacular, the wintery setting proving a real spectacle that dazzles on screen. For children, I can imagine this is a great watch as there is a perfect balance of heart, action and humour. For adults too, this is a great watch as it is a poignant reminder of the feeling of believing in these characters and of the magic associated with these seasons. There are plenty of themes within the narrative that add feeling and involvement such as finding your own identity, belonging and learning to have faith in others.
As much fun as ROTG is, there is still a slight feeling of unrealised potential. For me, there could have been so much more fun to be had with these characters and maybe a stronger script could have provided more laughs for children and adults alike. The story is a little too predictable, even for a kids film, and at times the moralistic messages feel a little too preachy and in your face when a viewer of any age would have already got the message, but this only rarely detracts from what is otherwise tremendous fun.
In summary, a great concept and solid execution: Rise of the Guardians is a spectacular and immensely enjoyable film for all seasons, there is a good balance of heart and action that will appeal to both adults and children. Expect a sequel, and hopefully one with a better and sharper script.