Review: Rise Of The Guardians (2012)

rise of the guardians

Dreams are powerful, more powerful than than most people ever realize!

Screenplay By: David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed By: Peter Ramsey

The first time I watched Rise Of The Guardians I was struck by the imagination and the animation. Both of those elements stood out this time around as well. This time, though, there was something else in the air while watching Rise Of The Guardians. As I watched the film I realized that the story is about more than just imagination. Don’t get me wrong imagination is great, but it can also be a part of something bigger. In the case of Rise Of The Guardians imagination is in the service of dreams.

The character of Sandman is key to the role dreams play in Rise Of The Guardians. For all intents and purposes Rise Of The Guardians is Jack Frost’s movie. He’s the main character, he’s the hero, and he’s the character destined to save the day. What Rise Of The Guardians does is to throw the viewer for a loop by having Jack be a bystander during the actual finale. He’s present, he’s important, but Sandman takes center stage. In fact, Sandman takes center stage during the two biggest set pieces of the film. It is the after effects of the first battle between Pitch Black and Sandman that show the weight dreams have in our society. In the climactic battle it is Sandman who must save the day, he wields the power of dreams after all and nothing is more powerful than a dream.

Rise Of The Guardians is smartly constructed and is very impressive in the way it handles its main theme. The whole of the film is about the importance and power of dreams, but it never approaches its theme in a heavy handed manner. Rather, dreams are peppered throughout the film and their power is alluded to more than ever outright stated. Sandman himself is made to seem like he’s a minor character. Rise Of The Guardians hides its intentions and its theme, revealing them slowly in a way that is terrifically satisfying.

Rise Of The Guardians is quite subtle in many ways, not just its theme. Think of Jack’s staff and the way the animation handles its importance to Jack. In a way it is the classic smoking gun, but the film approaches its status as a smoking gun with a light touch. We see but the smallest of glimpses of the fear on Jack’s face when he loses sight of his staff during a fight that takes place during the middle of the film. The moment leaves it so that Jack’s fear can be correlated to the peril he’s in at that moment. That’s why later in the film when we learn of the importance of Jack’s staff it works as well as it does. The film has hinted at the staffs importance, but not broadcast said importance with a neon sign. Peter Ramsey’s film works with a light touch throughout, always favoring hints and allusions over bludgeoning the viewer over the head.

I know I mentioned it earlier, but the animation in Rise Of The Guardians is very well done. Roger Deakins was a special consultant on the film, and it shows. The film doesn’t rely solely on beautiful animation though, it also boasts a colorful cast of characters and a wit in the writing that is very pleasant. While watching the film I alternated between smiling at the pleasantness of the story, laughing at the witty banter, grinning at the well drawn characters, and being enraptured by the fantastical elements on display.

This is the second Christmas in a row that the family and I have watched Rise Of The Guardians. This film will become a Christmas tradition in the Thompson household for many years to come. Watching Rise Of The Guardians is an exhilarating experience. The time spent watching the film is time well spent, for many, many reasons. It’s a film that bridges the gap between adult and child rather nicely, and it’s a film that has a certain spring in its step. There are a lot of Christmas movies to watch, and a certain number of those are actually great enough to be watched year in and year out. Rise Of The Guardians is one such great Christmas movie, adding this to your Christmas viewing schedule will result in a very happy family, and that’s always welcome.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “Review: Rise Of The Guardians (2012)

  1. Interesting. Some critics here savaged the film by falling back on the “how dare they mess with tradition!” angle (which I thought was a goofy way to judge a film that was trying to be non-traditional in a few areas). Also, the Western idea of some of these characters is fluffy and corrupted anyway (like the fairy tales we inherited and sanitized from Europe and elsewhere), so those reviewers were operating from a bias to begin with.

    In English, nice review – I’ll need to actually see this now, as I’d been avoiding it because I was CG’ed out after watching so many same-looking family flicks that weren’t so hot or were pretty good, but blended together after a while…

  2. I’m not much for tradition, just a good story, or good film, whichever happens to be the case. I’d say this one stands out from the computer animated crowd in a similar way to something like Frozen. Mainly in how it subverts the way the story usually goes and challenges the standard hero dynamic.

  3. A little more humor would have really pushed this one over-the-edge, but it was still a fun adventure that I got to see with little ones all around me. Clearly they enjoyed it more than me, but hey, just being there was a good enough time nonetheless. Good review Bill.

  4. I found it suitably funny myself, but comedy is probably the most subjective art of all.

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