movie thoughts: Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Image This movie is so very pretty. So very very pretty and I wanted to like it so much but, like Jack Frost, it has a hard time finding it’s core and fumbles too much for me to become a classic.

The premise of ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is that the childhood “gods” of Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Sandman are real people, sort of promoted to their special job by The Man in the Moon. Guardians are in charge of protecting Children by giving them something magical to believe in (?). Jack Frost has been recently chosen by The Moon to aid in the Guardians fight against Pitch Black, the Boogeyman.

Unfortunately there are a lot of problems with the story which, my guess, arise from this being based on a children’s book series and the writers attempting to cram a lot of backstory into a 2 hour movie.

First, Hades Pitch Black’s motives are not very clear. He wants to give the children nightmares so they will stop believing in the Guardians and start believing in him…but is never really shown.

It takes the movie too long to get going. It starts with Jack’s “creation” story, told from his point of view then switches to 300 years later and we’re with Santa (the elves were a little too much like the minions in Despicable Me) and he has taken over as storyteller, telling us what the Guardians are. Later, when they find Jack to recruit him, he has to tell Jack who the Guardians are…and then again when the Tooth Fairy’s home is raided, she has to explain her actual purpose as a Guardian. Definitely felt like too much story for one movie, though the teeth are important for Jack’s character so the scene had to be in there.

And then there are the children. At first, you think they will just be background characters for this magical adventure, but about a 2/3 of the way through the movie, the Guardians reveal their disconnect to actual children and I sort of got the feeling that was the real lssue here. Pitch Black would have no power at all if the Guardians were better at their jobs. So in a hurried rush, all these background kids who barely had names or personality, suddenly become the heroes.

It just didn’t all gel for me. I didn’t understand why the Easter Bunny not getting eggs out in time would cause an ENTIRE WORLD OF CHILDREN to just stop believing. (Also odd to pick two magical creatures that are tied so closely to religious holidays but then just pretend they are in no way tied to them. While Christmas has been commercialized to the point that almost everyone seems to celebrate, I feel like Easter is still pretty much a Christian thing, the rest of us just wait for the candy to go on sale).

In the end, I felt like Loki Pitch Black actually NEEDED the Guardians more than he actually knew. Because how can there be fear if there is no hope?? Horror stories are only scary because you think just maybe there is a way to survive. But if the end is so bleak that no chance remains, it because less about fear and more about just letting go. They hint a little bit that Pitch Black’s nightmares are wearing the children down but…I felt like something more could have been done to give that more urgency.

So, yeah, I feel like this movie should have just been 100% Jack’s story — having him being tempted to the dark side. Not so much to wipe out the Guardians, because you can’t have dark without light, good without evil. Everyone knows it, even kids. It’s why they embrace fairy tales and fables.

But omg this movie was so very pretty. The animation was smooth and gorgeous and I think it is what kept me watching the entire time. The voice acting was top-notch. I just wish they had taken more care with the story, though I feel it might be the kind of tale that can only be told in a book — without time constraints and “target audiences”. Just pages of backstory, character development and plot that a reader can explore at their own pace.

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