RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
Based On: William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood Series
Directed By: Peter Ramsey
Screenplay By: David Lindsay-Abaire
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
I admit, when I first saw the initial summary that described Rise of the Guardians, I was less than enthused. I mean, come on, a movie featuring Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman all combating against the oh so wicked Boogeyman? Then, as the movie drew near, more details came to light and one such detail stood out to me in particular; that the film was to be loosely based on The Guardians of Childhood series written by William Joyce. Now, I’m no good with names but there are some that stick out like a sore thumb to me and this one was one of them so I did some digging.
To my initial surprise, William Joyce was the one who has had not one but several different stories, all of them short and heavily illustrated books, become animated marvels. The first, and likely most recognized amongst my generation and those a few years younger, was the Disney Channel series Rolie Polie Olie followed by the PBS cartoon series, George Shrinks.
Heck, one of his books was even made into a film prior to Rise of the Guardians! That film is none other than the Disney animated film, Meet the Robinsons, a film that, admittedly, may not shine as brightly as others but is nonetheless a Disney classic as far as I’m concerned.
With this in my I decided to see just what was so great about this Guardians of Childhood and read the first book in the series Nicholas St. North & the Battle of the Nightmare King. Now, keeping in mind that this review is geared towards the film and not the books, all that I will say is that this, and many of the books that followed, may have been written for children in mind but anyone at any age can read and enjoy them.
As I’ve already stated the basic summary of the film already, let’s move on to what makes this movie distinct amongst its fellows. Like many of the more recent DreamWorks animated films, Rise of the Guardians does not have any songs to go to its name but for one used in the end credits. It’s not a bad song per say but not one that could be easily recognized or constantly song in the years to come like some others I could name. Personally, I appreciate the lack of lyrical music in a film, especially one that I can best describe as the childhood version of the Avengers.
That, above all else, is what makes this film a masterpiece for me. In a film that’s geared towards kids and featuring characters that kids know and love above all others, their film versions have to be introduced to them in such a way that can not only hold the attention of children, but also give any mature minded audiences enough details to know the ins and outs of the characters. Within only a few minutes of casual conversation between the four, we get a very good idea as to how each of the Guardians operate as individuals and with each other.
I could go into details on each member of the Guardians but as I will be reviewing one of them as my personal favorite, and perhaps each of them later on in another series of reviews, I shall suggest merely a quick glance at the Wikipedia page for a feel on them. I will go on to say though that not a one of them is at all what one would expect and dare I say even spit on the face of popular convention to what most would expect them to look like never mind how they act.
What makes this film especially good however is that it isn’t an origin story for the Guardians. It is one that knows and recognizes that they are an established group and introduces us, the audience, to them and their methods by way of introducing a whole new member to the group: Jack Frost. As I’ve already said my piece on him, let’s get on to the villain shall we?
Pitch Black, otherwise known as the Nightmare King or, more derogatively as the Boogeyman, is the Spirit of Fear Itself. Though vastly different from his book adaptation, the works of one DreamWorks artist Johane Matte, known on DeviantArt as Rufftoon, paints a rather interesting, if somewhat unofficial, background story for him and the other Guardians.
See, whereas the Guardians themselves are insinuated as being mortal men, women, and even creatures, whose acts of courage and kindness were so great that they fell into legend and thus ascended to an even greater power, Pitch Black is not. He is one of the few surviving spirits of the World and is only marginally younger than the mysterious Man in the Moon.
Pitch Black’s reign was long and great but it fell at the end of the Dark Ages to such a point that only children who are well and truly terrified out of their little minds can see him. His powers, contrary to the rising of the Guardians’ own have also waned through the years, and he has survived through the ages only by being near places where fear is prevalent amongst mankind. It was by mere chance that he discovered the ability to create Nightmares from the golden dream sand of the Sandman and use it to try and destroy the Guardians by making all the children of the world lose their belief in them.
He is a truly terrifying character in retrospect but in appearance… Yeah… Pitch Black is sorely lacking. Oh sure, his appearance can be attributed to the loss/lack of belief in him by the children of the world and thus reflects that, as again demonstrated in unofficial works that depict him with far more regal attire, but even then I simply cannot imagine him as a creature of Fear let alone the personification of it.
I suppose that, with children being the main audience for the film, Pitch Black had to be tamed somewhat but couldn’t he at the least be given some fangs or claws? Something more than being a man seemingly composed of shadows and darkness?
Despite being a film to predominately feature the likes of Jack Frost and Santa Claus, this movie is not one that takes place at Christmas time nor does it feature it in any way beyond Santa’s boosts of its importance over Easter and seeing the workshop. In point of fact, this film takes place over Easter weekend with a major play made by the Guardians to try and stop Pitch by way of making this an Easter to remember.
Again, while I shan’t go too much into details as to the Easter Bunny or his eggs, I will say that this was yet again another surprising turn of conception for an otherwise commonly conceived character.
Overall, I can say that Rise of the Guardians is a film that can not only be watched numerous times, it is one that can be watched for any holiday occasion, especially when one hopes to inspire a child’s belief and love in something unseen. Because, after all, what greater power is there in a child but that of unquestionable love and undeniable belief?