Hahahahaha, I made a punny.
Right. So I just got back from seeing Rise of the Guardians, a movie I’ve been anxiously awaiting since I saw the previews a couple months ago. Full disclosure: I loved it. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, all literally. It is a breathtakingly gorgeous film with entertaining characters and a fairly complex plot that does quite well for the length of time it uses.
When going about their business, the four Guardians — Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and the Easter Bunny — learn that Pitch, aka The Boogeyman, has come out of hiding, where he’s been since the Dark Ages (the last time anyone really believed in The Boogeyman, according to the film). Tired of being ignored, disregarded, and generally not-believed-in, Pitch arrives to spread fear and despair through his army of Nightmares to reclaim the power that he possessed centuries ago. The film’s Man in the Moon, a silent and enigmatic higher power, appoints the mischievous and independent Jack Frost as a new Guardian to help the other four fight against Pitch. Jack, however, has his own demons to deal with—he doesn’t really understand where he came from, what his purpose is, and why children don’t seem to believe in him as they believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. He’s a little bitter that the Man in the Moon recruited him without answering his questions. Despite his appointment as a Guardian, he is also tempted to join Pitch, who tries to woo Jack to his side by false sympathies about knowing what it’s like to be disregarded.
If you think any of this sounds vaguely like The Avengers, then, to quote Iron Man, “Well, you’re not wrong.” I was trying to figure out what this movie reminded me of, and I finally had to settle on The Avengers meets The Nightmare Before Christmas meets the general story (not any specific adaptation) of Peter Pan.
This is not a perfect movie. It suffers from vagueness when it tries to define exactly what the Guardians are guarding. At one point, Santa tries to explain to Jack how they all have a “center”—Santa’s being “wonder” at the world around us—that makes them who they are and what they do/show/protect. “Hope” and “dreams” and “memories” are other vague concepts and virtues that the movie touches on, but as for their importance (or their real source), you just have to take the movie’s word for it.
I must say that, as a Christian, I think the film’s general foundation is a little weak because these concepts are not well-defined, and there is no Higher Power as a source, except for the mysterious “Man in the Moon.” The thing is, I think you have that in some amount in any story that tries to address the good in the world, the meaning of Christmas, the hope of Easter/springtime, without bringing Christ and God into it.
As I mentioned, the movie juggles a complex plot that is handled fairly well, given the film’s time constraints, but it also could have used a little more fleshing out. I had a few “Hang on, wait a minute, what about _____?” moments in the movie (such as why the Tooth Fairy even collects teeth), but most of these were answered eventually. The answers were not always thorough or satisfying, but they were good enough to help me suspend disbelief and keep watching the movie without much distraction. This might, however, be a problem for younger children, or for anyone who didn’t get to have the theater all to herself by seeing the movie on a Monday afternoon.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the re-imagining of classic characters. I don’t know anything about the movie’s source material—the William Joyce book “The Guardians of Childhood”—so its whole approach was new to me: Santa Claus as a tattooed Russian (“Let’s get down to tacks of brass” cracked me up), the Tooth Fairy as a hummingbird-like sprite with an army of hummingbird fairies collecting teeth for her, and the Easter Bunny as a 6’1″ grumpy Australian, just to name a few. They were interesting, entertaining characters, and I wanted to know even more about them.
I have to admit: I thought the character Jack Frost was adorable and beautiful. I was reading all the swoonings of the fangirls on Tumblr and rolling my eyes, even as I knew that I would probably be joining them once I saw the movie. And yes, I saw the movie, and fell in love with him in about 30 seconds.
I also found way too many similarities between Pitch and Loki from The Avengers, which is probably to be expected, given that I’m a self-confessed Loki fangirl. However (with all due respect and apologies to Joss Whedon and Tom Hiddleston), I found Pitch to be a more effective villain. I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I can’t quite get it.
Maybe it’s because the idea of spreading fear and nightmares to ruin a person’s childhood and smother hope is a more effective villainous plot, since it’s both universal and unique for every person. Who hasn’t experienced or feared the death of a dream, the loss of hope, or the end of their childhood? This seems more real and more frightening than a moustache-twirling, Pinky-and-the-Brain-type villain. Yes, Pitch is trying to take over the world too, but the worst part is that, rather than a magic, otherworldly cube or an alien army, his weapon—fear—has always been there, and always will be.
But don’t worry — SPOILER ALERT — so will the Guardians.
Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed and heartily recommend this movie. I have nothing to say about the voice acting other than it was great (Alec Baldwin as Santa/North, Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny, and Jude Law as Pitch being my favorites). The film is astoundingly beautiful; I did not see the 3D version because I was burned by the crappy 3D in The Avengers, but I don’t think I missed out on anything. The film is gorgeous, and from the first minute, I was wishing for an extra pair of eyeballs just to take everything in.
So go see it, and take the kids—no, I don’t think it’s too scary, actually, give them a little credit—or take adult friends, as long as you can suspend disbelief for an hour and a half and just get absorbed in a lovely tale.