Seeing Isn't Believing
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
A large amount of the joy I receive from the best of animated features comes from the fact that they all manage to bring something human to a story that, to the naked eye, seems like it's from a different world all together. Most recently, Wreck-It Ralph was set in the world of video games, yet anyone who saw the film probably recognized a version of themselves or someone they knew in at least one character. It's the heart of films like that and many others that make us love the possibilities animation offers. The worst in animation however, trades heart for technology, a fault that the new film Rise Of The Guardians has in spades.
The problem with Guardians is that it's all visual spectacle and very little story. Director Peter Ramsey seems like he's only interested in the freedom animation offers, delivering sweeping shots over rooftops during the film's many, many action sequences, and never allowing the camera to stay stationary for a moment's breath. What little story there is involves Jack Frost (Chris Pine) being chosen to help the other Guardians - North (Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher) and Sandy, or, as they're all more commonly known, Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and Sandman - defend themselves against Pitch, otherwise known as The Boogeyman who's voiced by Jude Law. Pitch has found a way to bring terror and nightmares back into the minds of children, growing more powerful with every success. His goal is to rob children of their belief in all of these characters thereby taking away the Guardians' power and being free to corrupt the world.
It's an easy enough plot to get behind and not much more than that. Sure, they throw in Jack's identity crisis (he can't remember who he was before he became Jack Frost) and forcibly try to make his story the one we're interested in, but he's the weakest character of the bunch. And by weak, I mean both in character development and animation. One could argue that it was the animators' point to make Jack so inhuman, as he's not even believed in by any of the children, but the animation is so lifeless that it just looks lazy. Whereas the other characters in the story, particularly North, have such grandiose features it's a shame they were not part of a better movie.
What Rise Of The Guardians ends up feeling like is the collision of too many ideas that do not fit together at all. I get that each of the Guardians come from different worlds and therefore need their own distinct look, but it seems as though attention and favoritism was paid to the characters the filmmaker's felt they could have the most fun with, in this case, North. His design and features look gorgeous, and the detail of the North Pole is different than most are used to seeing - one amusing difference is that Yetis make the toys, not the elves because well, they're not right in the head. Pitch meanwhile looks like something out of the art-deco era (which I actually didn't mind, except for the fact that it doesn't work within the film) and Bunnymund just looks like a standard Rabbit.
I don't think Ramsey was the best choice of a director for a movie like this (it's also his first feature) mainly due to the fact that Guardians seems directionless. There are simply too many separate ideas about the animation going on for the story to function well. The designs for all of the characters are so separate that they don't work in the same movie. I feel especially bad for Jack Frost, given that the premise is supposed to be all about him, yet Ramsey and Co. seem awfully uninterested in him. It's no wonder the children don't believe in him; the filmmakers don't either.