‘Rise’ requires people to believe
Rise of the Guardians
Starring Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher
There’s nothing inherently wrong with “Rise of the Guardians.” It’s an amazing looking piece of hyperactive, computer-animated chaos—a fine example of what can be done with virtual cinematography. And the concept is clever in its own simple way. This is basically “The Avengers” with public-domain imaginary characters—a world where our hopes and dreams are guarded by an all-star team including Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), among others. They come together to help save the world from dastardly evil and make children believe in the power of hope.
Excuse me one moment while I vomit into the nearest receptacle.
There’s a new recruit to the Guardians, a brash and unreliable piece of work known as Jack Frost (Chris Pine). Jack has a mysterious past he’s in search of. He’s reluctant to buy into the theme of unity presented by the other Guardians. That is until a common foe forces them to work together, which probably sounds familiar because this was the exact plot of “The Avengers.”
Anyway, the villain is a living, breathing boogeyman by the name of “Pitch Black’ (Jude Law). Pitch wants to take away the hopes and dreams of children everywhere, and replace them with terror and nightmares because that’s what poorly developed villains in holiday movies do. They want to ruin the holidays because in their minds victory is making everybody else miserable. That’s why every holiday movie villain is, by nature, an asshole: because they’re not out for money or revenge. Those are concepts I understand. They just want to piss in the punch bowl, which makes them a royal dick.
Being seemingly imaginary beings, the Guardians require people to believe in them in order to exist. If children stop believing in them, they lose their powers and cease to be. There’s a weird, unintentional theology at play here: Powerful deities can only exist if they can convince enough people to buy into their existence, which seems like a plot point cribbed from “Clash of the Titans.” There’s a lot of cribbing going on here. “Rise of the Guardians” may be the least original movie I’ve seen this year. And that’s saying something. I sat through “Men in Black 3” and “Battleship.” The basic setup: “The Avengers” meets “Clash of the Titans” and pour on 10 gallons of sugary confection to make a holiday-themed kid film.
The world of “Rise of the Guardians” is fully realized and quite beautiful. And the very familiar voice actors do a nice job of creating interesting characters. The whole thing feels like one of those claymation specials from the late 1960s, like “A Year Without a Santa Claus” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” A movie where they take a familiar story and add some insane elements to make something mental.
There’s nothing in “Rise of the Guardians” that comes close to achieving the kind of awesome insanity of Cold Miser, but not for lack of trying. You get a Russian, sword-wielding Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny who comes from Australia and throws boomerangs. The whole affair seems marketed towards 8-year-old boys, which seems obvious, I suppose. No one is making these animated fantasy pieces with someone like me in mind. As a fairly immature adult, I was pretty bored with the film. Not because of it’s simplicity but for its lack of originality. So much of “Rise of the Guardians” feels like oft-traveled territory.