Rise of the Guardians is a film possessing an intriguing premise: the legendary figures of Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman and the Tooth Fairy are all secretly not only aware of each other, but are all guardians who work together to defend the world’s children from the forces of evil. These supernatural characters are drawn together through the emergence of the villainous Pitch (voiced menacingly by Jude Law) who desires to plunge the world into eternal darkness. To counter his growing force the guardians enlist the services of the embodiment of winter. also known as Jack Frost. But will this new recruit discover his inner strength in time to defeat the nightmarish Pitch?
Rise of the Guardians assumes the task of crafting multiple new and believable worlds. This is an arduous task for any story, especially one that runs approximately an hour and half. In this endeavor Guardians is only partially successful. The film depicts several different worlds in absolutely beautiful CGI, with each one representing a world of a respective guardian. However, the film is not able to imbue its universe with any recognizable set of rules. Why this is a negative attribute is difficult to describe. The best way to put it is that the film seems to be making up the rules which govern its universe as it goes along, which prevents the entire experience from becoming truly involving in the way that the Nightmare Before Christmas accomplished. Also, the film is lacking in terms of a vibrant, universal thematic center. This is what typically grounds these fantastical stories in some sort of emotionally involving reality. Sadly, not every film can balance the fantastical with the relatable. Guardians is a film that certainly cannot measure up to films such as Wall-E or Spirited Away in this regard.
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) plays the central character of Jack Frost, a character who must “find his center” if he is to help the guardians overcome the forces of Pitch. Pine does a satisfactory job of voicing Frost, conveying his facade of light-heartedness which hides an unfulfilled soul (because people don’t believe in him in the same way that they do Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, and so forth). The problem here is that the audience never gets a firm understanding of exactly what Frost is striving towards. The film seems to assert that he needs to discover his past because then the children of the world will suddenly believe in him. Yet, the film never seems to flesh out the idea of how those two things are actually related.
The other voice talent of the other Guardians is similarly satisfactory. Alec Baldwin as Santa (or “North” as he is called in the film) is vocally unrecognizable, employing a distinctive, robust accent for his characterization of Father Christmas. Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny, and Isla Fisher as the Tooth Fairy are less successful, barely rising above a script that is clearly uninterested in character development, and more fixated on when the film will transition to its next kinetic battle scene.
The aesthetic beauty of Rise of Guardians is beyond reproach. The textures of each character’s garmets, the intricate complexity of their hair, and the rigid, reflective freezing quality of Jack Frost’s ice powers are all pulled off flawlessly. This is a prime example of how far the medium of CGI animation has progressed since something like 1995′s Toy Story. That is why the film’s storyline is exceptionally disappointing. It has wonderous CGI and an exceptional premise yet fails to bring something truly memorable into fruition.
While the immaculate visuals and committed vocal performances nearly save this animated fantasy, its script ultimately cannot fully create a living, breathing, multifaceted experience. Rise of the Guardians feels as though it is simply improvising its very complicated world off the cuff. Also, there is a blatant lack of character development that leaves this fantasy feeling profoundly flaccid.