From DreamWorks Animation, the studio which brought us the Shrek franchise and 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon comes Rise of the Guardians (2012), a 3D computer animated fantasy adventure which, thanks to its collection of magical childhood heroes, should find itself a popular choice amongst younger viewers this festive season. Rise of the Guardians gives us an insight into the world of the ‘Guardians’ by following Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a young and reckless sprite who’s called upon to help protect the world from Pitch Black (Jude Law) – more commonly known to humanity as the Boogeyman.
Frost is called to the North Pole where he meets North (Alec Baldwin as a surprisingly enjoyable Slavic Santa) who introduces him to a team of protectors that includes, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fischer) and the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman). They must unite if they’re to prevent Pitch from turning all the children of the world into ‘unbelievers’ and ultimately shroud the earth in a shadow of darkness and despair.
Rise of the Guardians creates for itself a luxuriously colourful world that brilliantly evokes the beguiling charm of its fairytale origins – no more so than the visual array evoked by the Sandman’s soaring ribbons of dream dust. Sadly, this vast and hypnotic world can often become a little too chaotic, with the film often relying on outlandish fight scenes and chases, with these shifting angles and accompanying bloated mise-en-scene clearly inserted to boast the film’s rich aesthetic capabilities however, this erratic flurry of light and colour is made more than bearable thanks to a script full of real warmth and a collection of incredibly well drawn characters who truly capture the magic of childhood wonder.
From peripheral players such as North’s helpful, groaning Yetis and mischievous elves to the film’s central quintet of action heroes, there’s plenty of charismatic personalities to become spellbound by. It’s the film’s voice acting that allows Rise of the Guardians to transcend its scarcely revolutionary tale, no more so than Alec Baldwin, whose Cold War Chris Cringle, with his ‘naughty and nice’ tattoos and infectious belly laugh, is perhaps one of the most vivacious and hilarious animated characters to grace the big screen over than last ten years – no doubt as proportionately enjoyable to observe for children and adults alike.
Taking our contemporary taste for superhero films and implanting a collection of well loved children’s fables into its recognisable cinematic fabric has created a fascinating hybrid of storytelling techniques. Utilising a refreshingly dark premise that conjures memories of Henry Selick’s gloriously Gothic Coraline (2009) with the childhood wonder we’ve grown to expect from Dreamworks, Rise of the Guardians manages to rise above the flurry of generic family films which litter the listing during Christmas – and thanks to some clever marketing and character choices, do much the same again come its inevitable Easter home ent release.