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March 12, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Rise of the Guardians (2012)

by NIR SHALEV

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Here is a terrifically energetic superhero film that‘s disguised as a holiday themed family film. Our team of superheroes is composed of a Russian gangster version Santa Clause (voiced by Alec Baldwin); a six-foot tall Australian Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman); a tiny, adorable version of the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher); and a mute, spiky-haired Sandman. They are known as Guardians and they protect every citizen on earth at all times.

Then there’s Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). He’s been around for three hundred years and yet no ordinary person acknowledges his presence. The four Guardians are visible to ordinary people, which is why they stick to the shadows, but Jack is entirely invisible because no one believes in him. He is eventually recruited into the Guardians’ circle because “the man in the moon told them that he’ll be their newest member.” I haven’t brushed up on my holiday lore but I’ll take the film and the Man in the Moon’s word for it.

Now, every superhero film needs a villain and this film has a really good one. His name is Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) and he’s essentially the Bogeyman. And the reason I love this film’s story is because Pitch shares the same problem as Jack: he wants to be acknowledged by ordinary people. His plan to become a known entity involves stealing and corrupting the Sandman’s dreams and turning them into nightmares and that’s when the Guardians are called into action.

There are plentiful action sequences that take place on the ground and in the air and they’re animated and shot with tons of flare and style. When we’re following Jack Frost we feel like we’re actually flying, and the action sequences in this film combat everything that we’ve seen in Superman and other superhero films. The animation is very fluid; the characters look the part, in accordance with this new universe and its aesthetics; and the voice casting is some of the best I’ve ever heard. There is also tons of humor sprinkled about but it’s never immature, and the screenplay never succumbs to toilet humor (no fart or poop gags thankfully).

At its heart, Rise of the Guardians tells a morality tale that focuses on individuals’ beliefs and what it truly means to exist; it’s also about being accepted, not by cliques but by all. But that’s not entirely what the story is about. In borrowing the concept from one of my favorite films of 2012, Wrath of the Titans, we have characters that can only exist as long as ordinary people believe in them. That is the basis of religion. As an agnostic, that method of storytelling didn’t bother me in Wrath of the Titans because it’s a fantasy that takes place in ancient Greece and it doesn’t bother me with this film either. It’s an animated fantasy about Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman, and Jack Frost. Those who value religion with high regard will love this film and those who don’t will love it as well, because it’s quite simply a superior action and character-driven film to The Avengers (2012).

This is the best animated film of 2012, hands down and not even being nominated for an Oscar is a shame. I found Frankenweenie (2012) and Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) terrible snooze-fests; Brave (2012) is mediocre and even though beautifully animated is, ultimately mostly uninteresting; The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) is terrific fun and Paranorman (2012) is also pretty darn good. But all of those films pale in comparison to the energy, love, and care lavished on Rise of the Guardians.

Rise of the Guardians is a great family film, a great 3D-animated film, a great action film, and it’s the best superhero film since X-Men: First Class (2010). Buy it or rent it, you’ll be completely satisfied.

The specials features include: Behind the Magic; The Man Behind the Guardians; Dreamers & Believers; Sandy’s Dream Guide; Filmmaker’s Commentary; World of Dreamworks Animation; Jack Frost Snowball Showdown; Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy; and previews.

NEW RELEASES FOR MARCH 12, 2013

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Smashed


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