Late Night Movie Thread: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians is the most fun my inner six-year-old has had at the movies since How to Train Your Dragon. And, yes, it is worth paying the 3D premium for this one — starting with the very first image in the ‘Dreamworks’ opening title, you know you’re in the hands of crafters who know how to use the technology to propel the story. Since there’s a lot of vast, vaulted spaces and swift action (believe me, the Tooth Fairy and her hummingbird-like minions are a lot more impressive in motion) there’s the feel of a really good illustrated book, without ever getting too precious or distracted by technique.It’s direcetd by Peter Ramsey, directed produced by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), with considerable imput from the original author-illustrator, William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). There’s a considerable comix-geek sensibility (“Kids know more about Green Lantern’s origins than they do about Santa’s,” Joyce is supposed to have said), as explained by Charlie Jane Anders at io9:

… The hook of Rise of the Guardians is pretty ingenious, too — basically, the main mythological figures of the American childhood are joined into a kind of Justice League. There’s North, aka Santa Claus (who’s inexplicably Russian and a tough guy, with Baldwin supplying the Boris Badenov accent). And then there are similarly renamed versions of the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and the Easter Bunny (who’s Australian, with Jackman doing his actual accent.)

At the start of the film, two things happen — Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is chosen as a new member of the Guardians super-team by the Moon (who’s basically the team’s secret boss, or maybe their version of Oracle.) And Pitch, aka the Boogeyman (Jude Law) returns to try and take over the world with nightmares and terror. As the team struggles to pull together to fight this ultimate threat, it’s up to Jack Frost to make the difference…

It may too intense for very young children — a lot darker than modern kidflix like Up or Monsters Inc, although nowhere near the traumatizers of my childhood like Bambi or Dumbo. But the only other viewers at the midnight showing we attended were a gaggle of tween girls, who actually shut up and didn’t bring out their cell phones during the entire show.

Incidentally, if you leave when the credits start, you’ll never find out Bigfoot’s real name. Besides, how cool is it that Dreamworks got Renee Fleming to sing the closing lullaby?

And for the benefit of fellow Terry Pratchett-philes, yes, it does share a common core (that’s why I was interested in seeing Guardians in the first place…

… but this is a distinctly American version of the hard truth at the core of those ‘fairy stories’.

27 replies
  1. 1
    YellowJournalism says:

    Is it wrong that I think Santa sounds like he has a sexy accent in this?

  2. 2
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Heh, I was actually just talking about this with someone else. It didn’t look promising, but I’ve gotten a few recommendations from people whose opinions I trust. I can’t stand 3D, though. Honestly I’m still holding out hope for 2D hand-drawn (or at least done in that style) cartoons to make a comeback, but that’s looking pretty grim. This one at least looks relatively visually distinct, as far as CGI goes.

    Dreamworks has really classed itself up recently: they seem to be more interested in telling actual stories than their old method of pop culture in-jokes, fart noises, and painted-on smirks. But man, as a fan of good animation, I don’t know if I can forgive all the crap they shoveled into theaters from about 2003-07. Not that their competitors (except Pixar) had much else to offer. The overall quality of animated movies seems to be improving a bit these last few years, so maybe I can stop being so grumpy.

    Also, Up isn’t dark? We are talking about the movie that featured an old man standing by his dying wife’s bedside and an obsessive hunter who had gone insane through years of isolation, right?

  3. 3
    ruemara says:

    I’m going to share this with our AA animators forum. I think he’d like to know the audience has received it well.

  4. 4
    MikeJ says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    Dreamworks has really classed itself up recently: they seem to be more interested in telling actual stories than their old method of pop culture in-jokes, fart noises, and painted-on smirks.

    Pop culture in jokes and smirks are what made the Warner Brothers cartoons of the golden age the greatest cartoons of all time. Sadly there are no Chuck Joneses or Bob McKimsons around. And they were only doing seven minutes at a time.

    Wes Anderson does approach Frank Tashlin for the floating in space quality of his movies.

  5. 5
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: See, I’ve only gotten around to seeing the ‘mid-level’ Pixar movies — Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and Brave — so I’m extremely ‘meh’ on the studio’s product. (Which is, of course, why the ‘great’ Pixar films, Wall-E and Finding Nemo, are forever bobbing at the middle of my Netflix queue.) I found the Incredibles smug & libertarian, Ratatoille sexist & self-consciously retro (the only character I liked was the Peter Boyle rat), and Up (after the first 15 minutes or so, which was so great the rest of the film was even more of a disappointment) saccharine, frenetic, and over-impressed with its own ‘artistry’. And I really really wanted to love Brave — the Spousal Unit liked it a lot — but the horrible abortion of a pseudo-Keltique soundtrack set my teeth on edge, and the repetitious red-headed triplets HilariousHiJinks had me grinding them.

    On the other hand, the only Dreamworks animated films I’ve seen are Chicken Run, the first Shrek, and How to Train Your Dragon — which I wanted to see because I loved Lilo & Stitch. Dreamworks made it pretty clear most of their films wear aimed at the lowest common denominator a market that was not me, and I’m not responsible for entertaining children, so I was perfectly happy to stay home & watch anime instead. I love animation, but not to the point where I feel required to go out & watch every animated film that’s released, so I’ve got an advantage there…

  6. 6
    Yutsano says:

    @Anne Laurie: Speaking of anime, have you seen Origin: Spirits of the Past? It came up randomly on my Netflix one night so I gave it a go. It’s not a Miyazaki but it’s quite good and has several familiar themes. The ending is ridiculous though.

    PS: maybe it’s a foodie thing, but I loved Ratatouille. And you must must must get around to watching Wall-e. It’s probably the best love story told on film in the last 20 years.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Raven says:

    These paintings of Santa were done by a friend, Jimmy Bursenos

  9. 9

    ALWAYS stay for the closing credits.

    William Joyce is just plain brilliant. Terry Pratchett is also in that class, for different reasons, of course.

    We were discussing this movie, and it is now on the list. We’re not big fans of 3D, but with your advice, we’ll go for this one.

    Thanks for the review!

  10. 10
    Elizabelle says:

    Took the nephew to see “Wreck it Ralph” (a Disney offering), and liked it way more than I thought I would. John C. Reilly voices Ralph.

    Interesting to me: movie aimed at girl gamers too, even though you’d assume (at least I did) it’s guy fare. Ends up with race sequences through what’s basically Candy Land, but better than it sounds.

    Sarah Silverman voices the heroine.

    Thanks for heads up on The Guardians. Will have to see it.

  11. 11
    greennotGreen says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: “Also Up isn’t dark? ”
    Up is sad at the beginning, but it has a beautiful message: after loss and disappointment, there can be life and joy and hope on the other side. And I think the hunter was driven mad by his pride, not isolation.
    Plus, talking dogs!

  12. 12
    Xjmueller says:


    I can just imagine how these meetings go. “I’m Rumera, and I’m an animator…”

  13. 13
    gene108 says:

    I defer my judgement on Rise of the Guardians, as I saw it with my 5 year old niece and 8 year old nephew and they both enjoyed it.

    I therefore consider my opinion on the matter superfluous.

    Also, too I’m sick of films sticking scenes in the credits. I tolerate this, if you do it immediately, so the audience knows there’s going to be something there. The films that stick a scene at the end of the credits are just abusing there creative license.

  14. 14
    Suffern ACE says:

    @gene108: it’s not so much the abuse of creative license as the abuse of those who drank too much soda and have needed to take a pee for the last 45 minutes of the film.

  15. 15
    John D. says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Paperman, the short film at the beginning of Wreck-It Ralph is likely the future of 2-D animation.

    And it looks FANTASTIC.

    You can Google around for some of the videos explaining the underlying technology, but the short version is that the animation looks much more realistic than most 2-D because it starts as 3-D, with natural motion vectors applied to the static 2-D imaging. It’s really, really, REALLY good.

  16. 16
    Shazza says:

    It’s directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), with considerable imput from the original author-illustrator, William Joyce.

    Peter Ramsey directed the film. His long Hollywood resume includes work on Shrek and Shark Tale, but Rise of the Guardians makes him the first African-American director of a big-budget computer-generated (CG) animation film. Ramsey has been on the creative teams of several live-action movies featuring heavy CG effects, such as Independence Day, Men in Black and Minority Report.

    Del Toro produced the film.

  17. 17
    mapaghimagsik says:

    Hogfather is a Yule tradition at the House of Map, although “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” will be joining it this year.

  18. 18
    gf120581 says:

    @Shazza: Right, Del Toro only produced the film. There’s no doubt, however, that he had a lot of creative input into it.

  19. 19
    FlipYrWhig says:

    From the trailers, I thought this thing looked astoundingly bad. Hmm…

  20. 20
    redbeardjim says:

    Took Younger Son to see this last weekend, and we both enjoyed it immensely. Sadly, it’s not doing great at the box office and may even not make its budget back.

  21. 21

    ParaNorman was actually one of the best animated films I saw this year. But I would really suggest Chico and Rita, one of the best films, animated or not, I’ve seen this year period. It has some brief nudity in it, which is too bad because everybody needs to see this movie. That parts celebrating Chano Pozo are beautiful.

    Please see it. You will not be disappointed.

  22. 22
    Chris says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    A nitpick. I know Randroids rushed to claim “The Incredibles” as Atlas Shrugged for kids, but I honestly didn’t see it. AS was about people crashing society because they weren’t getting enough hugs. Incredibles was about people who risked their lives for the good of society, anonymously, without getting anything out of it, and continued to do so even after society decided it no longer liked them. Frankly the supes reminded me more of the legions of derided and unappreciated federal government bureaucrats holding society together even after thirty years of Reaganite mobs blaming them for all their problems and trying to put them all out of work.

    (The social commentary about health insurance companies with Bob and his boss was incredibly blatant too).

  23. 23
    Dr. Squid says:

    I’m kinda ashamed to admit seeing it (I have small kids, sue me) but the Santa Clause flicks actually had a riff on this kind of Justice League for these. Funny casting for this: it included the perpetually sleeping Sandman, who was played by Michael Dorn in snazzy PJs, and the Tooth Fairy played by usually barrel-chested cop Art LaFleur.

  24. 24
    Donut says:

    I took my six year old and almost four year old to see this last weekend, and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m guessing some of you who saw trailers and thought it looked bad didn’t watch said trailers in the presence of young humans. We all saw the trailers at other kids’ flicks over the summer and had been hyper-awaiting this one. It was a good. Very good , technically and story was very well done and not trite, IMO.

  25. 25
    Brachiator says:


    Interesting to me: movie aimed at girl gamers too, even though you’d assume (at least I did) it’s guy fare. Ends up with race sequences through what’s basically Candy Land, but better than it sounds.

    I thought that “Wreck-it-Ralph” was a far better movie for girls (and boys) than was “Brave.” And although a lot of the hype about the movie emphasizes the video game aspects, the movie also nicely riffs on candy and dessert references, like two bumbling Candy Cops named Winchell and Dunkin. Lots of verbal and video whimsy embedded throughout the film, as in the best old school Rocky and Bullwinkle or Bugs Bunny cartoons.

    “Rise of the Guardians” is doing OK, but not fabulous box office. Those interested should see it soon, before it is pushed off the better screens in your multiplex. The animated short, “Paperman,” is exceptionally charming and romantic, and is more for adults than for kids. I guess they were throwing a bone to those churlish parents who think that taking their kids to animated movies is a chore.

    BTW, I remember when I saw “The Incredibles,” I thought that it would have worked just as well as a live action film. And I recently saw “Up” again, and was reminded of how the Pixar folks go out of their way to fill in little details to make the animated world of a film seem richly fleshed out. There is, for example, a shot of Carl holding a brochure for a retirement home. It’s glossy and has realistic text and pictures, and it is important to the story, since Carl is fighting to keep his house. But later, you see the back of the brochure, which is also nicely detailed, for no other reason than because an animator wanted to take the time to add the extra bit of magic that makes the brochure not just a plot point, but a “real” object in an equally real cartoon universe.

  26. 26
    baxie says:

    the trailer was bad, trying to tart the film up in the Big Hollywood Blockbuster style, but the actual film is quite another thing.

    I loved it, my 4 year old loved it.
    And yes catch it in 3D if possible, if only for the zinger of an ending.

  27. 27
    Worriedabout122112 says:

    This was a great review! I have been on the fence about seeing ‘Rise of the Guardians’ for a while. My co-worker at DISH watched this movie and enjoyed it but I was unsure especially finding out Alec Baldwin plays a Russian Santa Claus. For a lot of people like me; the holidays are right around the corner and movie prices are too expensive for my pocketbook. I want to see this film, but I’m going to wait until this movie is released on DVD and add it to my Blockbuster @home account through DISH. I can add this to the top of my movie list instead of waiting for it in the mail. I can pick this up from the store which is nice when I don’t feel like waiting for a new release in the mail. I think this will be a good film to watch at home after the holidays.

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