A well-animated but not-so-thrilling animation film, Rise of the Guardians is watchable because of the manner in which it reinvents some popular children’s characters. However, it lacks a truly exciting story, something that makes it a film only for those who just have to catch every animated film that comes their way, on the big screen. Others will not miss much by giving it a miss.
The first genuine children’s film that I’ve seen in a long time, Rise of the Guardians has its heart in the right place. Based on a book series called The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, the film talks about values like faith and children believing in true magic, because let’s face it; childhood is the only time we do, before rationality and cynicism erode our beliefs as we grow up.
Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), or the Spirit of Winter, is frustrated for centuries because children don’t believe in him; he has been invisible to them because of this. Meanwhile, children across the world are facing a new threat called The Bogeyman (Jude Law), who is frightening children. Enter Santa Claus and the group known as The Guardians - a group that also comprises the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Sandman – widely loved characters that the Bogeyman is making children lose belief in.
The idea of this film seems exciting enough; popular children’s characters in new, superhero-like avatars; strategizing, grouping and fighting off evil characters like the Bogeyman. So a tattooed Santa, called ‘North’ by his friends because of where he lives (which also gives him a strange accent and a host of Big Foots as companions); a boomerang-toting Easter Bunny who isn’t afraid to use it; Tooth Fairy with her assortment of miniature assistants; the reinvention of these characters does make for some interesting, smile-worthy moments.
My personal favourite character in the film, the Bogeyman, also called ‘Pitch’ which is short for ‘Pitch Black’, makes for an interesting villain. He feeds on the fear of children, is intriguingly mischievous and has a look that places him in the grey more than in the total black. The character keeps things interesting, often transgressing into a more intense realm but never losing sight of the main target audience – children.
The film is also helped immensely by some great animation. In fact, even more than the characters, what makes Rise of the Guardians watchable is the animation and a breathless camera that captures the action quite well. However, the 3D is quite generic. One wonders why filmmakers still insist on 3D, when all it does in most cases is dim a bright film.
But the real problem with Rise of the Guardians is that it just isn’t exciting enough as a story. While part of the trouble lies in the fact that it is aimed at children so they have deliberately tried to keep things simple, I suspect that the film will probably not be that exciting for children either. There is too much focus on Jack Frost’s journey, his troubles and their resolution, than on providing a crackerjack animated action film for children. Also, the film lacks substantially when it comes to funny and thrilling moments. It follows a rather predictable graph, never once throwing in a surprise that truly excites. Also, as far as us Indians are concerned, most of us don’t have an intricate connect with these characters, save for Santa Claus perhaps.
Rise of the Guardians is by no means unwatchable, but it falls way short of being a must-watch children’s film. This one is really only for those children who absolutely insist on watching an animated film around the festive season.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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