Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rise of the Guardians movie review.

Happy Holidays, everybody! Well, it won’t be long until Christmas day finally comes, and boy, am I excited! One of my favorite traditions this time of year is the numerous Christmas movies and specials that come out leading up to the day itself. With that in mind, one movie that I decided to lend my attention to was Dreamworks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians. Does it meet the high standards of How to Train Your Dragon, or, even worse, does it prove to be just as boring and stale as Madagascar 3? I’m leaning towards the former, because this holiday treat brought me nothing but enjoyment.

Sort of an Avengers for childhood icons, the movie mixes together Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman all together as guardians, those who protect the youth of the world from fear. However, fear is about to fight back, as the menacing Boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) wages war against the four, tired of no one acknowledging his existence. They need extra help. That comes from newly appointed guardian, the mischievous Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who resents the idea of joining their ranks, but is eventually convinced to do it, hoping he’ll find answers to his past life along the way.

The main talking points I want to bring up will be divided into four sections.

1. The eclectic voice cast assembled for these characters is just wonderful. All of them give just the right amount of what their characters need, fleshing them out as authentic and fully dimensional. Pine is energetic and sincere, Baldwin is virtually unrecognizable, Jackman is tough and hilarious, Fisher is sweet and funny, and Law brings just the right amount of underlying terror. As for the Sandman, he doesn’t speak, but his simple expressions do all the acting he needs. I honestly love how character driven it feels.

Just the massive imagination to this movie is to be commended.

2. The way this movie looks is nothing if not breathtaking. Say what you will about the majority of Dreamworks movies, but their animation is always a highlight. The design, color palettes, and surrounding ambiance of the visited cities, and the individual worlds of the Guardians, rival some of the best production designs of any live action feature. And don’t get me started on the beautiful glowing textures of the dreamsand.

3. The sound is also done quite well. The sound design and mix, though not that fantastic, is professionally done, as you’d expect, but now we get to the movie’s best aspect. The music heard in this movie is not only Alexandre Desplat’s best score of 2012 (and one of the best scores of the year), it may very well be the best score he’s ever done, plain and simple. The themes, moods, and varied orchestral flavors he brings to the table is unique all in its own.

4. The story in this movie may not be anything that special, and it has been done better, but at least they manage to put a creative new spin on it. There is simply so much passion, so much creativity, and so much imagination in this movie, and considering it comes from the mind of William Joyce, such a thing shouldn’t surprise me. I really admire the issues of lost identity, the longing of purpose, and of faith that the movie explores, the latter of which draws comparisons to aspects of Christianity. The balance between the action, humor, heart, and development may not always be smooth, but it does the job well enough, and it’s beautifully paced.

All I know is that I’d recommend this movie to anyone in a heartbeat. While it may not be Dreamworks’ best movie, it’s certainly one of their finest films, and one of the best animated films of the year.

****1/2 / *****

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