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’.