‘Rise of the Guardians’ Review: A Fairytale Comes to Life for All Ages

Jess November 26, 2012 1
‘Rise of the Guardians’ Review: A Fairytale Comes to Life for All Ages
  • Animation
  • Characters
  • Visuals
  • Storyline
  • Resolution
Director: Peter Ramsey
Writer(s): William Joyce (Story), David Lindsay-Abaire (Screenplay)
Producers: Christina Steinberg, Nancy Bernstein
Actors: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
Editor: Joyce Arrastia
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Production Designer: Patrick Marc Hanenberger
Art Direction: Max Boas
Studio: DreamWorks Animation

Rise of the Guardians is a beautiful piece of film for nearly any audience. It incorporates many stories with which we are all familiar, but provides twists and unique aspects which help to bring the ancient stories into the 21st century. From the characters to the aesthetics and even to the comedy, Rise of the Guardians is power-packed full of the enjoyment and the wonder that you may have only experienced as a young child.


Based off the William Joyce book series, The Guardians of Childhood, and Joyce and Reel FX’s short film The Man in the MoonRise of the Guardians tells the story of how childhood legend Jack Frost (Chris Pine) came to be a “guardian”. Frost joins the league of Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman after being chosen by “the man on the moon”. After Pitch “The Boogeyman” Black (Jude Law) steals the children’s memories and threatens to put fear into their world, it’s up to the Guardians to restore the children’s faith in the creatures.

The Good

Developed Characters

One of the most amazing feats of this film was how unique and developed all of the characters were. Although audiences may have gone into the film with different notions of what Santa is like or how The Boogeyman would act, DreamWorks was able to create entire identities for each of the characters including accents, special powers, and even methods of transportation. Here’s a breakdown of the awesomeness in each main character counting down to my favorite character:

Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny was definitely the most hilarious of the group, sporting an Australian accent and huge feet. At one point in the film, Frost ironically refers to him as a kangaroo. Bunny, as they call him, is in charge of painting and then hiding all of the easter eggs in the world for the Easter holiday. He’s also the cynical one and doesn’t accept Frost as quickly as all the others, causing a back and forth fight throughout the film. Bunny travels through rabbit holes, and in Alice in Wonderland fashion, falls through and is transported to anywhere he chooses to go. His huge feet help propel him forward, moving like a rabbit at hyper-speed, and his weapon of choice is a boomerang.

Santa Claus

The leader of the Guardians, Santa, holds a father-like quality and quickly takes Frost under his wing. “North”, as he’s often referred to in reference to his home in the North Pole, has a Russian accent and tattoos on both forearms: one reading “naughty” and the other “nice”. Claus travels by, what else, reindeer-led sleighs and is in charge of delivering presents to all the children of the world on Christmas Eve. Claus is big, bold, domineering, but likable and often serves as the voice of reason. The coolest part about his character is that he carries around snow-globes with images of scenes in them, which, once thrown create a portal of which Claus can travel through.

Tooth Fairy

By far the most beautiful of all the characters is Tooth who, along with her mini fairies, is in charge of collecting children’s lost teeth- which holds the children’s memories. She stores the teeth in her castle which is decorated as beautifully as she is. Tooth is like a hummingbird-human hybrid made of beautiful feathers, gradating from blues to greens and everything in between. She is also a comedic outlet, and adorably makes a few passes at Frost throughout the film.

Jack Frost

Jack is the main character in the film. He is the hero, the every man  the one searching for who he is. Sporting a hoodie, no shoes, and crisp silver hair, Jack is able to portray a character in between the supernatural and the common man. Jack believes that in order to find out why he was chosen to become a guardian, he must find the memory of how he became Jack Frost. He is able to create snow and frost anywhere, which helps to build ramps and snowball fights while fogging up windows to hide his presence. Frost carries around a wooden staff, which seems to help concentrate his powers when fighting the Boogeyman.

Pitch Black (The Boogeyman)

The Boogeyman is probably the least creative character, as he’s just a regular creepy human with black hair and gray skin, but it’s his personality and cool powers that rank him high on my list. He’s evil because he wants to cause all children to have nightmares, but makes us sympathize with him when he talks about feeling all alone and not believed in. Pitch’s evil minions are black horses, made of what looks like iridescent black sand that sparkles in the sky. His sinister attitude, mixed with his honest revelations and his beautiful sidekicks, make Pitch Black one awesome Boogeyman.


The Sandman is easily the most adorable character in the whole film. Although he doesn’t speak, Sandy resembles the likes of Wall-E with his abilities to communicate through movement and demonstration. Tasked with giving good dreams to all the children, the Sandman makes sparkly ribbons of yellow sand appear throughout the sky and above dreamers’ heads. Despite his lack of vocals, Sandy’s quirky personality/charm alongside his magical abilities made him my instant favorite.

Stellar Animation and Kinetics

Rise of the Guardians was truly a beautifully done film. From the inside of Santa’s workshop to Tooth Fairy’s feathers and the non-stop sparkles, it was a jaw dropping experience. Because various holidays and children’s stories were involved in the films overall plot, there were a lot of fantasy elements that really jumped off the screen.

As an animation student who has trouble just rigging a character to do a walk cycle, I was completely impressed with the attention given to even the secondary animations. The secondary actions are those things affected by primary animations, like tremors after an earthquake. For example, Santa’s beard flowed like real hair every time he moved and his sleigh bounced around like a real clunky piece of machinery. The kinetics of everything was just spot on.

My favorite aspect of all the animation were the sparkles incorporated into both the Boogeyman’s flying horses and the Sandman’s sand. It was beautiful, dreamlike, and not like anything I had ever seen before in an animated film.

Nice Framing

Aside from the kinetics of the objects themselves, the cinematography helped the audience travel alongside all the fun moving characters. There’s actually no listed cinematographer for the film, as the decisions for the filming in an animated film are often a collaborative effort.

In the way that this film was done, the camera would often move with objects instead of just moving to show the object as whole. I got the feeling I was really on Santa’s sleigh, or was really flying through a rabbit hole. From the extreme close-ups to show detail in the characters to the zoomed out pans to show distance, Rise of the Guardians certainly was very conscious on how it framed it’s scenes.

Personal Story

There was a bit of a philosophical and metaphysical story included in this film, specifically concerned with the idea that if you believe in something it will exist. Since the story wasn’t particularly relatable, it was nice that the writers incorporated the back story of how Jack Frost came to be.

Without giving too much away, story writer William Joyce and screenplay writer David Lindsay-Abaire are able to add genuine touches throughout the plot with Frost’s story and even the incorporation of a child, Jamie. Jamie sees the Guardians in his room by mistake, and eventually becomes the last believer of them left in the world. Voiced by Dakota Goya, the little boy from Real Steel, Jamie’s personable attitude and authentic belief in magic and wonder add a personal touch to the film as well.

The OK:

The Man in the Moon

This part of the film wasn’t necessarily good or bad, it was just kind of awkward and weird. The “Man in the Moon” is introduced as the chooser of the Guardian’s but not much information is given about him. A few times in the film, the moon is shown “smiling” but he is mostly just a “god”-like entity in the sky almost choosing his priests. It’s not clear whether there’s a literal man in the moon or if the moon itself is the man.

The first picture book in Joyce’s series that the film is based off of is The Man in the Moon which tells the story of Tsar Lunar, the very first Guardian. Although the film is probably referring to this, its not clarified in the screenplay and it just leaves this weird void of what the Man on the Moon is supposed to be.

The Bad:

The Story

The plot wasn’t really bad per se, but it just wasn’t on par with the rest of the film, and was a bit clumsy. There were really a lot of problems to solve that overlapped and sometimes battled each other.

Jack Frost is chosen to become a Guardian and doesn’t know why. He tries to find out by finding his tooth, which contains the memory of him prior to becoming Jack Frost, in Tooth Fairy’s castle. By the time he realizes this the tooth has been stolen by the Boogeyman, who has consequently stolen all of the memories of all of the children in the world. But Boogeyman is concerned with giving bad dreams to the world’s children while also causing them to not believe in the Guardians anymore by also foiling all of the Guardians’ plans to prove they do exist.

There’s just not enough of a connection to the different parts. Why does it matter why Jack was chosen as a Guardian, how is finding his memory going to really change the fact that, as the other characters say, “his fate is chosen.” How does the Boogeyman giving everyone nightmares translate into them not believing in the Easter Bunny anymore? I get that there needed to be a villain, but I think there was just too much going on especially for younger audiences to be able to remember the task at hand.

I didn’t think the story was detrimental to the film, and it’s probably something a younger audience wouldn’t question. But for me, it caused a raised eyebrow. Definitely don’t let these elements discourage you from seeing the movie, but I just don’t think it’s something you’ll enjoy as much as the individual characters’ stories or the overall message.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5

Despite a few story issues, Rise of the Guardians is truly a brilliant piece of cinematic art. It’s a unique story, combining several elements and characters from childhood that transcend into adulthood. From finding yourself to finding what to believe, Rise of the Guardians will make you question many things while incorporating magic and wonder. If you’re looking for an entertaining film for the whole family this holiday season or just something that is a treat for the eyes, Rise of the Guardians is a must see.

    • Sarah Jakubowski

      I didn’t think there was too much going on. For me, the bad dreams were a way of saying the sandman didn’t exist, and just general meanness, the stealing of teeth was saying the tooth fairy didn’t exist/ couldn’t have a positive effect on the kids, and most randomly chosen by fate characters want to figure out ‘why’ by going back to their beginning. But I agree that it seemed a little ‘off.’ It was like I loved every individual second of the film, but as a whole they didn’t paint as awesome of a picture. Maybe it was the sort of check-list feel to it: “Ok, we did the Easter Bunny’s story, now time to tell the Tooth Fairy’s… Ok, check, now let’s talk about Santa…” I guess that might’ve been because the plot was taken from an actual series of books, not just one single book — so the parts were a bit disconected. Whatever, it still managed to be completely magical. :)