Note: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m once again skipping the plot synopsis in this review, and going straight to my analysis. If you must know all the nitty gritty of the plot, check out the film’s Wikipedia page. (RM)
It seems like such a cruel tradition, doesn’t it? We tell our children to believe in mythical entities like Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, and The Tooth Fairy, only to completely dispel that belief ourselves as they grow up. Why is it any wonder that this world is so cynical? We are fed a lie almost from the get-go, and get the rug yanked out from under us by the people we trust most. And yet we continue to repeat this cycle of falsehood and truth to every subsequent generation.
Maybe it’s because we want to give them something that is “pure good” to believe in, and there is so little of that in this world. Maybe we want to shelter them from the harsh selfishness that will surround them for just that little bit longer. Is that so bad? Would we want children born in peaceful places to be raised without a sense of hope, or faith, or wonder? I can’t think of any realities sadder than that, and it’s already truly sad that there are places in this world where that is the reality. Maybe that’s the reason we tell tales of mythic creatures; to protect children’s sense of innocence just that little bit longer.
That is the film’s “centre”.
During a conversation between jack Frost and Nick St. North (Santa Claus), Nick explains that he is many things at many times, but it is his centre – where he is tender and always watching – that defines him and guides him as a guardian. He prods Jack to find his own centre, which will grant him the strength to be a true guardian. So if the overall film has a centre, it’s that we should try to keep our children as children just that little bit longer. They are going to discover the realities of the world sooner or later, but everyone still deserves to have a childhood first.
In a film that is getting unfairly maligned, Dreamworks has brought that sense of hope and faith to life. Better yet, they do so with panache.
More often than not lately, animation houses are leaning on the cache of celebrity voices to float their efforts, and paying little attention to any sort of visual splendour (and Dreamworks is especially guilty of this). With RISE OF THE GUARDIANS though, there is such richness and imagination present in the look of the film. There might not be any better example of how much charm the film’s visuals carry than in the character design of The Sandman. With him we are given an expressive character that we latch on to, and yet one who never says a word.
The imagination of the film doesn’t even end with Sandman. The animation team has gone to great lengths to make places like Pitch’s lair, The North Pole, and even The Easter Bunny’s Glen settings that won’t soon be forgotten. One has to give the art department special credit in the case of worlds like Bunnymund’s Glen -countless stories and films have been created that involve The North Pole, but for this world they really were starting from scratch. By the looks of it, performing he trick of building. Bunnymund’s world without a net really served the animators well.
Put it all together – the underlying message of belief and the visual wonder – and what you get is a surprisingly good film that many will pass by this winter without a second thought. It’s a pity too, since the film is a lot better than it might seem at a glance. Perhaps if the famous voices and goofy character interactions had been played down a bit, and a more distinctive title had been chosen, a different fate might have befallen this film.
As it stands, it will have to be one that people find later. Perhaps as they find it, it will remind them what it was to once believe in something bigger than themselves…and why we still encourage our children to do that very thing.