“Rise of the Guardians” Review

Caliburn24 here with the perfect movie for the holiday season.

Holidays are always fun especially watching the Rankin and Bass Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), which was fascinating because it told of origin of Kris Kringle, and even the mash-up of holidays in Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Rise of the Guardians tops them all by bringing in five of the childhood icons, but keeps the visuals and action at Avatar level so it’s safe for adults. The film directed by Peter Ramsey for Dreamworks Animation is based on William Joyce’s short film Man in the Moon and the Guardians book series (also illustrated by Joyce), which started with Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. In that book, North is a bandit about to attack the town of Santoff Claussen in eastern Siberia with his raiders (later turned into his Elfs), but of course he changes his ways in time to become a Guardian against the Nightmare King. Joyce worked on the concept artwork for Toy Story (1995), credited with visual development on A Bug’s Life (1998), production, and he won three Emmy awards for his animated series Rolie Polie Olie (1998-2004). His other book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson was made into the animated film, Meet the Robinsons (2007). In this film, Santa Claus, or North as he is called here, is a burly swordfighter with “Naughty” and “Nice” tattoos on his arms. His assistants are really Yeti while his Elfs with body sized party hats are comic relief. North is voiced with a Russian accent by Alec Baldwin. The Easter Bunny, real name: E. Aster Bunnymund, looks like a kangaroo with magic boomerangs. Bunny is voiced by Hugh Jackman of Wolverine fame.

The Tooth Fairy, real name Toothiana, she is dressed in a bird-of-paradise-like Carnival parade costume. She is voiced by Isla Fisher. North, Tooth, and Bunny are the trio that are in the William Joyce series. Sandman, is one of the oldest Guardians, is shown in the film as rotund in a guru-like yellow outfit. He doesn’t speak, but forms sounds in dreamsand projected above his head. Joyce covers his story in the movie tie-in picture book, The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie. He is not the Sandman of Neil Gaiman fame, this is more like the nemesis, the Boogeyman called Pitch Black or Pitch in the film. He is pale and dresses in black, he brings Nightmares into children’s dreams, demonic horses like the Nazghul steeds. Jude Law voices Pitch. The last Guardian is Jack Frost. Rankin and Bass animated him in the 1979 tv movie. He is the young hero who is our point-of-view character and carries a magic staff that can blast frost at ol’ Pitch. Chris Pine, best known as Captain Kirk in the latest Star Trek films, voices Jack Frost.

The film uses CG animation and this works at the highest level with vistas like Tooth’s Palace and the 3D is put to full effect with dazzling scenery, effects, and action. The movie opens with Jack in the Dreamworks logo with the film’s title dissolving into ice crystals that splatter to 3D effect. Jack is then seen ascending from icy water to see the moon. He is being called by the Man in the Moon, also known as the Lunar Czar in the books or Manny in the film, but his presence is only seen as moon beams. Jack Frost finds that he is unable to interact with the villagers of the town of Burgess which is never identified in the film. This comes from the The Art of Rise of the Guardians book which also places the town in western Pennsylvania. Three hundred years later, which is lifetimes past the Guardians of Childhood series, North is at his workshop in the North Pole with his Elfs and Yeti. He is warned that Pitch has returned and sounds the alarm to the other Guardians which is shown as the aurora borealis.

Jack is wandering Burgess when he sees the trails of dreamsand. The Sandman is The Guardians are out with Tooth at the Tooth Palace directing her fairies, Bunny at his Warren, and Sandman bringing dreams to children. The Guardians head to North’s workshop and Sandy desperately tries to get their attention so he ends up grabbing an Elf with hat and jingling them until he can point to the moon. North tells them that Manny has chosen a new Guardian. Sandy hopes it is the leprechaun, but the image on a crystal shows that it is Jack. He is first in Russia causing mischief like freezing a kid’s tongue to a water fountain and then has the winds take him back in Burgess. He is busy bringing Snow Day to the town, and sliding Ice Man-style young Jamie Bennett voiced by Dakota Goyo on a sled that crashes into a statue. Jack then sees Bunny who is angry with about the Blizzard of `68 during Easter. Jack is stuck in a sack by two Yeti and then taken through a magic portal back to the North Pole. The Yeti in the first book were protectors of the Lunar Lamadary in the Himalayas.

Jack is not interested in becoming a Guardian which disappoints the Elfs that really want to blow the trumpets for the ceremony. He says that he isn’t interested in all of the hard work of the other Guardians. Bunny is opposed to North, but Tooth adores him along with the rest of her fairies and inspects his teeth. North explains that the Man in the Moon has named him as Guardian and shows him the globe that shows the children of the world, whom the Guardians protect both naughty and nice. This may be the globe that North’s wizard mentor, Ombric, rested in at Santoff Claussen of the books. North takes him to the lower levels of the workshop. Jack has been trying to break into the workshop for years except that the Yetis have been keeping him out. He also finds out that the Yeti are actually the toy makers with the Elfs as the testers. North shows Jack a Russian nesting doll which he pulls apart to reveal the last doll which he says is wonder, he is the Guardian of Wonder. He hopes that Jack will find his center and know his role as Guardian. So, Jack Frost has to find his place as Guardian, the others have to keep the children of the world in believing in them, and Pitch has to be stopped before he covers the world in darkness. It’s a holiday kind of movie.