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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rise of the Guardians

Tis the season... Or is it?

Also up at Channel 24

What it's about

Santa Clause, The Sandman, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy enlist the aid of Jack Frost to stop The Boogie Man from taking over children's dreams.

What we thought

Despite its beloved – and not so beloved - children's characters, Rise of the Guardians is basically an animated superhero film; a League of Extraordinary Fables, if you will.

The Santa Clause in this film isn't just an old man giving out presents, but is an old Cossack with a pair of Katanas and a kick ass attitude and there's nothing cuddly about this Australian-accented and boomerang-wielding Easter Bunny. Sandman and Tooth Fairy are less radically changed, but they have super powers anyway so it wasn't that much of a leap to turn them into full on super heroes, while Jack Frost is an outsider with icy superpowers and a hero's journey that desperately needs to be fulfilled. And there's nothing at all about the Boogie Man that isn't straight up, cackling supervillainy at its most comic-book-inspired.

Despite the presence of old Saint Nick, we are clearly dealing with a film that is more about cashing in on the recent superhero craze than in having anything at all to do with the Yuletide season of its release – indeed, most of the action takes place during Easter. The problem is, though, that it's one thing for Rise of the Guardians to position itself as a Christmas movie in a year when the seasonal offerings look even worse than usual, but it's quite another for it to ostensibly go head to head with such superior superhero fare as The Dark Knight Rises and, more crucially, The Avengers.

Rise of the Guardians is a perfectly passable animated superhero film with a nice premise, but we have reached a point where perfectly passable just isn't good enough any more.

Within animation alone, it's lucky that 2012 hasn't been the best year for animated features, but hold Rise of the Guardians up against something like Paranorman and its ordinariness looks all the more unforgivable. Everything about it, from its plot to its characters to its action scenes: nothing about this film is as good as it needs to be. There's nothing outwardly terrible about Rise of the Guardians – nothing even remotely bad, in fact - but there is absolutely nothing exceptional or noteworthy about it either.

Even its premise can only go so far. OK, so we have a superhero team made up of classic kid's fables, but so what? Its set up might be moderately inventive, but its execution lacks the inventiveness, the wit or the sense of wonder for it to truly stand tall against this year's big superhero films or, for that matter, its better animated pictures. There is absolutely nothing about Rise of the Guardians that comes even remotely close to capturing the wonder of its genre in a way that, say, the climactic final battle in The Avengers did or, for that matter, when Dash figured out that he could run on water in The Incredibles, the animated superhero film that this clearly wishes it was, but doesn't have a hope of being.

Rise of the Guardians isn't bad by any means. It will entertain the kids enough with its perfectly OK animation (again, this ain't Paranorman or Frankenweenie), colourful characters (though the film's colourfulness isn't done any favours by the 3D) and boisterous (if uninspired) action scenes and its solid voice cast and zippy pace will give parents something to keep them going, but that's all it is. If that's enough for you, great, but those of us who want a bit more than basic competence from their animation or superhero films, would do well to look elsewhere.

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