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Rise of the Guardians

2012 | 97 min | PG | 1.85:1

Rise of the Guardians


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Theatrical release date

 21 November, 2012
 30 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

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Rise of the Guardians


Screenshots from Rise of the Guardians 3D Blu-ray

Rise of the Guardians Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 21, 2012

“Rise of the Guardians” might appear to be another holiday-themed romp released during a special time of year when audiences are in the mood for such festive distractions. However, one only has to read the credit “Executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro” to appreciate just what type of fantasy experience the feature actually contains. With a taste for nightmarish imagery and a detailed reworking of its league of extraordinary magical figures, “Rise of the Guardians” has a harder edge than I’m sure most families will be expecting, yet this focus on adventure and concentrated evil creates an engaging movie with plenty of excitement and a true sense of character motivation, gifting the material impact when all signs point to numbing frivolity.

Sensing an opportunity to return to power in the minds of children across the globe, boogeyman Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law in a scene-stealing performance) makes a play for domination, hoping to disrupt happy times everywhere with his colossal powers of fright. Called into duty to defend innocence are the Guardians, with North (Alec Baldwin), Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher), and mute sleeping agent Sandman gathering to work out a way to thwart’s Pitch’s evil plan. Offered an invitation to join the group is Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a loner without a past who’s been spending the last few centuries keeping winter mischief alive. Initially refusing a place on the team, Jack comes to understand that Pitch holds the key to his missing identity, urging the master of ice to make nice with the Guardians and put Pitch down for good. While war wages between opposing forces during the Easter holiday, Jack focuses on his prize, also coming into contact with Jamie (Dakota Goyo), one of the last few boys in Earth who believes in the Guardians, displaying a power of imagination and faith that fuels their courageous efforts.

Based on the “Guardians of Childhood” literary series by author William Joyce, “Rise of the Guardians” has quite a playground of imagination to explore. The premise plays like an “Avengers” of iconic holiday and childhood heroes, teaming Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman together to fight an exceptionally devious and persistent villain who employs his wrath of intimidation and mental infiltration to snuff out positive thoughts, hoping to crush the Guardians by manipulating children to surrender their belief in these mighty forces of happiness. It’s a traditional showdown of good vs. evil, only the players have been reimagined, finding North a Russian behemoth with “Naughty” and “Nice” tattoos on his forearms, Bunny a sizable Australian rabbit quick with a boomerang, Tooth a fluttering creature overseeing an army of miniature fairies, and Sandman a particularly skilled brawler who communicates via images he manufactures over his head. These are bulked-up, gift-distributing champions are prepared for a fight, trusting lunar boss The Man in the Moon with missions and guidance, looking to rid the world of their longtime nemesis, Pitch Black.

As with any sizable story of a major fantasy team-up, “Rise of the Guardians” embraces these eclectic characters, taking in their combative personalities and specialized home worlds of holiday and monetary fulfillment. Perhaps the best scene of the film finds the gang working together to preserve Tooth’s routine of teeth collection, buzzing around various countries on a quest to keep kids believing in the power of pillow magic. The frantic time is also used to develop the characters as more than just impressive designs and cheeky updating, finding Bunny particularly irritated by Jack Frost’s contributions, furthering a running joke of competition between the titans. Another sequence involving the preservation of Easter happens mid-movie, once again triggering an amusing and exciting sense of panic to boost the tension of the picture, while director Peter Ramsey tinkers with the strange particulars of this world, with its living eggs taking dye showers, North Pole yeti assistants, and giant stone egg enforcers giving boss Bunny a hand.

While “Rise of the Guardians” is all about the group dynamic, the story of Jack Frost represents an emotional entry point for the audience. An impish figure of winter manipulation, Frost doesn’t have a memory predating his turn into immortality, creating a yearn within the frigid man to understand where he came from, eager to prove his humanity. It’s a formulaic arc of self-discovery to ease the picture’s transition between acts, yet the screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire treats the journey with a comfortable ache of confusion that encourages interest in Frost’s awakening. A potentially off-putting character is given an interior quest worth the screen time, while Pine nails the puzzlement and obsessive needs of the hoodie-sportin’ snow machine.

“Rise of the Guardians” is filled with action and extravagant displays of animated imagination, sustaining a solid narrative pace with blasts of eye candy and holiday embellishment. Although there’s a concentrated effort to turn North’s diminutive, slapstick elves into the Minions from “Despicable Me,” the feature maintains an original perspective on acts of heroism, with colorful, charismatic characters and a rousing celebration of the preciousness of childhood innocence. With any luck, the Guardians will return to duty again one day, and I hope they introduce a few new friends to help explore the warrior might of the calendar year. My wish list? Hanukkah Harry, Saint Patrick, and the Great Pumpkin.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, Chris Pine, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo
Director: Peter Ramsey

» See full cast & crew

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