Pixar to animation is what Coca-Cola is to soft drinks – it’s the recognised leader in its field, yet there’s still worthy competition. So in that respect, Dreamworks Animation is essentially Pepsi: it’s still pretty awesome, but it’ll never be number one. 2012 has seen a release from Pixar, the visually stunning but critially lukewarm Brave, so now it’s DA’s turn to impress with Rise of the Guardians: and it almost succeeds with flying colours.
When Pitch, AKA The Boogeyman, perfects his method of turning children’s dreams into nightmares, it’s up to the Guardians (Jack Frost, Bunny, Tooth, North and The Sandman) to protect them and more importantly keep the kids believing in what they do, which ultimately keep them alive.
The voice actors are a formidable bunch: Star Trek’s Chris Pine voices the films focal character Jack Frost, and he’s backed up by Hugh Jackman swapping Wolverine for an Easter Bunny, Alec Baldwin as North, known to us as Santa Claus and Isla Fisher who brings The Tooth Fairy to life. The Sandman is a voiceless little man, but he communicates through images he conjures up with sand. Each one gets a respectable amount of screen time, but it’s Frost who hogs the limelight. Luckily, he’s the most fun of the bunch and has enough traits to keep audiences entertained with his prolonged presence. The others are much like their standing in real life: novelty characters that don’t overstay their welcome.
The villainous Pitch, voiced by the instantly recognizable Jude Law, is a worthy opponent for the combined force that’s attempting to combat him. His actions prove to be a real threat, and because of this the films title is a little misleading: rather than ‘rising’, it’s actually the opposite that happens to the Guardians for the majority of the film. While his character model isn’t particularly interesting visually, the simple concept of his power to turn dreams into nightmares makes Pitch a formidable foe – and the British accent adds fuel to the fire.
The antagonists powers may be impressive, but some of the lengthy dialogue scenes are not. For its lean 97 minute run-time and a younger target audience, an alarmingly high number of sequences feel bloated by the conversations between characters. It is most noticeable between Frost and Pitch, but there are a number of scenes that could have been trimmed in the cutting room. The action cannot be faulted however, and even though it’s very bottom heavy with it predominantly happening in the final scenes, it’s still exciting and worth the wait – the scale of Pitch’s plan is fully revealed, something which may frighten the very young. In the few minutes of action that occurs at around the hour mark, it’s very reminiscent of anime, namely Dragonball Z; come to think of it, Jack Frost himself wouldn’t look out of place in the series.
When it comes to being placed as a seasonal film, Rise of the Guardians is a strange one. There’s a lot of snow, and Father Christmas is a major player in the film, but it never really captures the spirit of the season. From a business point of view, it’s obviously going to make the most amount of money being released this time of year, but in the future it won’t be one that kids reach for along side other favourites such as Elf, Home Alone and, of course, Die Hard.
The animation isn’t as sharp as it’s Disney counterpart, but it’s still a marvel to look at. The voice artists give it their all, and the villain is one of the strongest seen in a child’s film for quite some time. It suffers from overly long dialogue exchanges, but the final showdown more than makes up for it. They take their time, but eventually the Guardians do rise, and hopefully we will see more adventures of this fantastic five.