Suppressed since the dark ages, Pitch Black (The Boogyman) has mastered the powers of The Sandman and aims to rob the children of the world of all wonder by infecting their dreams; unfortunately the guardians of that same wonder, namely Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman and The Tooth Fairy find themselves unequal to pitch’s new power, so they must select a new guardian, but Jack Frost, the only one with the power to stop Pitch, is the least believed in seasonal spirit and remains unconvinced of his own effectiveness.
In the world of animated films, generally considered second in popularity to the juggernaut that is Pixar, is Dreamworks Animation. In their early days such films as Antz and A Shark’s Tale, though more star studded than the average Pixar production, proved much weaker narratively. With the release of Shrek, however, a corner was turned in style and approach and subsequently such excellent films as Monsters Vs Aliens, Kung-Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon have pleased audiences and critics alike and dispelled any idea that Dreamworks can’t stand toe to toe with Pixar on their best day.
Dreamworks’ big 2012 release is Legend of the Guardians, which from the outside seems like a very apt Christmas release, considering its seasonal content, but that assumption, though inaccurate, will most surely be a contributing factor it its inevitable success.
Inaccurate how? Well, Rise of the Guardians isn’t in actual fact a very Christmasy film. Sure the trailer featured lots of snow and children and Santa, but it’s actually set at Easter. A savvy move on Dreamworks’ part really as, though all the snow and Santa and Jack Frost DO give the film a seasonal edge, the rest of the content ensures that the DVD and Blu-ray will be purchasable at any time of year and not relegated to the ‘only to be watched at Christmas’ pile along with Elf, A Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Bad Santa and Die Hard (They’re all on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list at Christmas, right?).
All that aside, Guardians is as solid as a family film can get without tipping over the edge to excellence. As with all high-end CG animated productions worth their salt, the visuals on display here are immediately striking, the attention to detail on things such as clothes and surface textures are quite ridiculous, the extended shots and action are choreographed beautifully and the colour design throughout is sumptuous, but it is in the character design where the film really comes into its own.
Taking advantage of the characters’ parts in respects to the story, the character designs have breathed new life into the hackneyed imagery of Santa and Co. Here Father Christmas is a huge, tattooed, sword wielding Cossack, The Easter Bunny is a lean, six-foot-one, battle-ready bunny with weaponised boomerangs, The Tooth Fairy is a humanoid humming bird who runs her empire with the precision of a multi-national corporation, and The Sandman, though small and lovable and mild-mannered, is the powerhouse of the group.
As is their want, Dreamworks have opted, yet again, for an all star voice cast, this time including Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Isla Fisher and Chris Pine, who all, it must be said, do a great job.
Story wise it’s a lot of fun but doesn’t stand up to too much scrutiny. The funny bits make you smile but not laugh, the action is well paced and executed but not overly exciting, and it can be noticeably emotional without really being moving.
So, while certainly recommendable, it can’t be compared to the best Dreamworks have to offer, namely Kung-Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, both of which containing moments that’ll make a grown man want to punch the air, but it can stand proudly next to, say, Puss In Boots.
The kids will enjoy it and so will you.
A grade – for animation
B grade – for originality
C+ grade – for storytelling
A grade – for design
Overall grade – B