A shadowy, ill-intentioned man of fear steals all the teeth collected by the tooth faerie in order to sway the belief of children. The boogieman messes with holidays, inadvertently creating a mythical figure crossover. And apparently, the Sandman fights like Kratos from the “God of War” games. If I had one critique of “Rise of the Guardians,” it would be that it often felt I’d seen it before.
“Rise of the Guardians” is a Dreamworks adaptation of a series of children’s novels, “The Guardians of Childhood” by William Joyce. In the books, The Man in the Moon oversees a team of mythical figures, such as Santa Claus, aka Nicholas St. North, and E. Aster Bunnymund whose job is to safeguard children and their sense of wonder. The movie indeed carries this over, albeit with a slightly smaller team and no implication that either The Man in the Moon or Bunnymund are aliens.
The movie features a number of commonly seen tropes, such as the idea that mythical figures are sustained by belief. But it also has some novel ideas, such as Santa being a Cossack with twin sabers or the Easter Bunny having a strong Australian accent, thanks to the vocal talents of Hugh Jackman.
The basic premise is that Pitch Black, a boogieman and precursor to the guardians who was sustained by fear, has returned from imprisonment bent on supplanting the guardians’ life-sustaining belief with fear of him. Jack Frost, a provisional guardian who prefers to wander the earth alone, is shanghaied by Santa Claus (North), the Easter Bunny (Bunny), the Tooth Faerie (Tooth) and the Sandman (Sandy) to combat Pitch. The main form of threat posed by Pitch is his ability to corrupt dreams, the constructs made by Sandy from the Dreamsand, into Nightmares (stereotypically equine monsters of darkness).
The movie begins with the standard introduction of threat (Pitch’s Appearance) and hero’s call (North and company kidnapping Jack). It then moves into a pitched struggle with the boogieman gaining ever more ground and snuffing out belief in vast swathes, weakening the guardians as their jobs aren’t fulfilled.
Overall, “Rise of the Guardians” was an enjoyable, entertaining and touching movie. It had its moments of predictability, but then the hero’s journey is an established “thing” and possessed similarities to other stories (such as Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) while telling its own story. The similarities and shout outs were more amusing bonuses than distracting flaws.
Four out of Five stars.