Rise of the Guardians is a visually spectacular Avengers-style movie for kids – really small kids. It’s got half a dozen superheroes, non-stop colorful computer animated wizardry to keep children entertained, but nearly nothing new or fascinating enough for adults or older children to enjoy.
Produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by first timer Peter Ramsey who has worked as a storyboard artist in Minority Report, Cast Away and Men in Black, Rise of the Guardians attempts to create a colossal story of team of superheroes fighting to annihilate a baddie. The problem here is, Ramsey crams in too many themes, too many heroes and too many subplots instead of bringing us one epic and coherent story. You get abandonment issues, acceptance issues, family values and all kinds of adult themes that are neither well explored nor fit in the audience demographic. Every one of those poorly fleshed out themes plays out like a checklist tick mark by the filmmakers. Adults would be unimpressed with the half-baked execution, and children are bound to be bored with all the serious stuff and even mildly scared at some of the things the villain does in the film.
Here we have the villainous Pitch Black (Jude Law) who is furious with children being happy and believing in their favourite superheroes instead of fearing him. Pitch comes up with a plan to spread darkness around the world and have his reign over humans. The only people to stop him are a team of oddballs - Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the tooth fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman. What follows are scene after scene of some seriously high quality animation, remarkable special effects and a couple of fun action sequences. The troublesome ‘adult themes’ keep popping in and out to stem the flow of mayhem and one wishes the filmmakers had focused on making a laugh out loud comedy instead of a semi-serious adventure. All the laughs in the film are courtesy of the excellent Hugh Jackman as the Aussie-accented Easter Bunny, yet he is criminally relegated to the background for most of the runtime.
The goodies include gorgeously rendered demon horses conjured by Pitch, intricately designed icy frost forming around window panes, and Jack Frost’s long and superbly choreographed uncut shots of flying from rooftop to rooftop. Like last year’s Arthur Christmas, Rise of the Guardians will probably be remembered as an underrated animated thrill ride - it’s certainly not for adults, but an absolutely dazzling ride for kids, best enjoyed in bright 2D.
(First published in MiD Day)