Director: Peter Ramsey
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Dakota Goyo
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire and (book) William Joyce
Running Time: 97 mins
Release date: 30th November 2012
Looks can be deceiving. Take the poster for Rise of the Guardians. A huge bearded man with tattoos in crossed armed, a fearful looking rabbit and a spiky haired kid makes you believe that this could be a nightmare vision that you’d find on the cover of a comic book. The last thing you would think of it as a fun-filled family adventure. Well that is exactly what it is and it’s proof that sometimes, a poster doesn’t give a film justice.
The world is under attack. An evil force called Pitch Black wants to take away the children’s sweet dreams and replace them with nightmares in order to stop them believing in the things children believe in. This is a job for the Guardians, led by North, or as he is better known, Santa Claus. Bringing together his team, The Easter Bunny, an Australian speaking rabbit with a tough attitude but still a bunny at heart, the sweet talking, caring Tooth Fairy and the silent Sandman. This time, however, the Guardians are going to need help and so, chosen by The Man in the Moon, Jack Frost arrives. A young kid who wants nothing more than having fun but is angered by the fact that no human can see him. Together they take on the might of Pitch but it’s not going to be an easy battle.
Already being compared to Avengers Assemble for kids, this inventive mix of adventure and comedy has plenty going for it. First up, it looks magnificent. The visuals and the quality of the animation is extremely high. Filled with intricate details, you can see that the director, Peter Ramsey, has come from the world of art. (He was a storyboard artist before taking on this, his first directing duties). Also on board as a visual consultant is Roger Deakins, the brilliant cinematographer and you can see that a cinematic eye has worked on this film. It’s bright, colourful and full of energy.
Based on the book by William Joyce (and a short film he also made) this is perfect Christmas entertainment and the young audience I saw it with seemed enraptured with the whole story. However, while I found the creations interesting (great choices for the voice work: Alec Baldwin with his Russian sounding, authoritative Santa; Hugh Jackman having fun with his Bunny; Isla Fisher all sweetness and light as Tooth and Chris Pine giving plenty of teenage attitude to his Jack and Jude Law making a perfectly sinister Pitch) the film, which started off so strong, seem to run out of steam in the middle and became increasingly repetitive.
The light relief come in the form of Santa’s Elves and I have to say, these had more than a passing resemblance to the little yellow guys from Despicable Me, although the Yetis who also work with Santa seemed more fun. While the jokes are there, they don’t interfere with the action, acting more as a break to catch our breath before the next action scene. I think it needed more humour as it did, in areas become very dark (a little boy in front of me was shuffling in his seat and moved several times because he got frightened).
Dreamworks have been a little lazy in their creative animation departments and a line of sequels to previous hits is not enough so it is refreshing to see them produce something original and for me, this is the best thing they have done since the original Shrek, even if the story doesn’t fill the whole 97 mins. Great visuals, great characterisations but lacking in the plot department. Sounds like another film I saw recently (*see Great Expectation review). One final note: I saw this in superior 2D and trust me, it doesn’t make any difference to the enjoyment of the film but it’s a whole lot cheaper.