VOD film review: Rise of the Guardians
Mark Harrison | On 15, Jun 2016
Director: Peter Ramsey
Cast: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law
Watch Rise Of The Guardians online in the UK: Netflix UK / Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Among the bumper crop of DreamWorks Animations titles on Netflix UK, Rise Of The Guardians is one that’s well worth revisiting. Released in 2012, it was positively reviewed, but crowded out at the box office by counter-programmed franchise juggernauts, such as Skyfall and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, which likely put paid to what could have been another promising franchise for the studio.
Based on William Joyce’s Guardians of Childhood novels, the story centres on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), an invisible and eternally young sprite, who takes cold comfort from making snow days for his fellow kids, but generally lives a lonely existence.
Unhappy as he is, Jack’s not exactly eager to join the Guardians – an elite group comprising North (Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Fisher), and Sandman (adorably mute), who guard against the forces of darkness. But when ancient boogeyman Pitch Black (Jude Law) decides he wants to replace the beloved Guardians, Jack must confront his destiny and protect the children of the world.
So, a group of iconic characters you have known since your childhood team up to fight off a threat that none of them could take down alone – the comparisons to Marvel’s Avengers Assemble are legion, but welcome when they extend to enjoyability as well. Rise Of The Guardians also has a lot of mythology to cover before the team can really get together and get going, but when the film hits its stride, it really comes to life.
Jack Frost is undoubtedly the protagonist, whose arc is the central focus at all times, but the film is packed with likeable characters. Jackman’s scene-stealing vocal performance as the Easter Bunny remains a delight, Baldwin exercises his penchant for accents with his Russian Santa and Sandman brings an unlikely brand of cuddly bad-assery that kids will love.
This only makes the contrast of Pitch more startling and sinister – he’s a frightening noir character, blazing a dark trail through a colourful world. As the Guardians can be measured against the Avengers, so Law’s Boogeyman could be likened to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, an angsty and conflicted figure, who is nevertheless capable of evoking surprising sympathy, as well as chilling villainy.
As in a few of DreamWorks films, it does feel a little scatter shot at times. Aside from dividing its running time between the North Pole, the Easter Bunny’s home turf and the land of the Tooth Fairies, there’s a distracting eagerness on the part of someone or other to replicate Despicable Me’s Minions across each of them, from North’s abominable snowmen to diminutive elves to walking eggs to hummingbird tooth collectors. That’s more comic relief than the film really needs and it sometimes makes the film feel forced into DreamWorks’ comedic house style. Given the studio logo, you wonder if Jack’s resentment of the omniscient man in the moon is a cheeky rebuff to the studio’s higher-uppers.
Overall though, Rise of the Guardians is a thrilling and thoughtful family-friendly adventure, which sits comfortably next to the How To Train Your Dragons and the Kung Fu Pandas as part of the post-Shrek mini-renaissance that the studio would probably be enjoying more if they weren’t so gosh darn prolific. It’s likely best enjoyed between November and April (before Christmas, up until around Easter) but the creativity in this modern fable makes it one for all seasons.
Rise of the Guardians is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.