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“Rise of The Guardians” talkback

Critic A.O. Scott in The New York Times had mixed emotions about Dreamworks’ Rise of The Guardians saying, “like so much animated entertainment these days, (it) is by turns silly, maudlin and noisy, with just enough ingenuity to make you wish it were better.”

Betsy Sharkey in The Los Angeles Times was rather non-committal, warning the filmmakers (as if it weren’t already too late), “If you’re not careful, edgy can send things right over the cliff”, and “sometimes too much of a good thing can be exhausting.”

Me? I was throughly enchanted with Rise of The Guardians, a modern day holiday classic squarely aimed at the kids – but with enough visual razzle dazzle for adults and a much darker tone than any film featuring an Easter Bunny has ever had. You know the concept – it’s The Avengers with childhood fantasy figures like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Essentially its Jack Frost versus an evil Pitch Black figure, but its the characters and their back stories that are just as fascinating as the action and adventure. Personally, I could watch a whole film based around the magically mute Sandman character – he totally steals the show. I was particularly grateful that the film felt so fresh, original and different from the rest of the animated films released this year, as well as Wreck-It Ralph, whom the Guardians will be battling at the box-office.

It comes out today and now its your job to review it for us. Let me know your opinion in the comments section below. (Do not post here if you haven’t seen the film – or we’ll put you on Santa’s Naughty list).

  • Dana G

    I got to see an early screening a couple weeks ago and I really enjoyed it! It’s not perfect, but there’s a *lot* of things to like about it. It’s definitely enchanting, visually stunning, and feels very genuine–there was a lot of love and enthusiasm put into this movie, I think especially because it’s a bit riskier as far as mainstream feature animation goes. It’s thrilling and beautiful.

    The characters are all really charming, but since there’s several main characters who could all feasibly have their own movie, not all of them get developed as much as they could/should be. Because of this, I think some people may have trouble getting as emotionally involved as they want to, but personally I managed to get totally swept up in the film despite feeling like there wasn’t enough time to develop all the characters as much as I’d have liked.

    I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of these characters from Dreamworks in the future, though, whether in shorts (like the HTTYD shorts they’ve been doing) or sequels or other materials like the short comics they’ve been posting on their official tumblr.

  • A shameless shout-out (and thank-you) to my friend Joe Strike, sometime animation journalist, who invited me to a celeb-stuffed preview screening of ‘Rise of the Guardians’.

    What I will say for now is that rarely has a movie deserved a far less generic title, one more awe-inspiring than (ahem) owl-inspiring.

    Also Jude Law sounded way too much like Paul Bettany.

  • The voice work was great especially Jude Law and Alec Baldwin. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one adult female role that was worth talking about. The females are smiling in every scene, no matter how tense, and often giggle in response to anything. It’s embarrassing in the 21st Century.

    The design styling was all over the place and most of it not good. The film looked one step removed from the unattractive SHREK, which, at least, had consistency in its favor. Both BRAVE and MADAGASCAR 3 had a constant style. William Joyce should have been involved in the actual design. If he was, I don’t know how to respond.

    There’s a good story there but not in this screenplay. By the way, why couldn’t the “Bogeyman” be called just that, instead they had to make up some innocent nickname. But then they also didn’t call Santa Claus by that name.

    • Thomas Anderson

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    • Oliver

      Well, ask yourself this, who did ‘The Avengers’ movie deign to be the sole female Avenger?

      Sersi? She-Hulk? The Wasp? Of course not — those are characters whose formidable abilities might embarrass the boys (both onscreen and in the audience). They chose unsuperpowered eye candy.

      All of which is to say, if a movie is going to adhere to the standard superteam template, don’t be surprised if it ends up adhering to standard superteam sexism as well.

    • Tammie

      “The females are smiling in every scene, no matter how tense, and often giggle in response to anything. It’s embarrassing in the 21st Century.”

      Which is why I don’t see animated movies in theaters anymore. I’d rather get the DVD later, w/special features and learn from it (if it looks good) rather than pay nearly the same only to find out it’s full of formula-boring-sexist content. Too bad: Dreamworks has several good female directors! Wish they would keep them handy for story development check.

  • smax

    I saw an early screening and came out of the theatre happy. There were moments that made you hold your breath , and some moments that slowed down too much. The different environments for each character were heavily invested in, lots of details. Probably the only thing that I had a problem with was the character design of the kids, they came out really ugly. Especially the girl with the blonde rat’s nest. In the end, great movie for the family, something for everyone.

  • Bob

    I thoroughly loved it! One of the more genuinely sweet and inventive animated films in a while. The Jade Sphinx has been doing William Joyce Week, ending with a review of the film today, which I think is spot on. You can see it here: http://thejadesphinx.blogspot.com/.

    I liked Guardians so much, I’m already eager for a sequel!

  • Pedro Nakama

    Saw it last week at an early screening. It was good but It could have been better. A lot of the humor fell flat and I think the editing and or order of sequences could have been changed. I also had the feeling that the Guardians cared more about themselves than the children they were suppose to be protecting.

    On another animation note I’ll go see the movie “Flight” this weekend. I promised myself I’d see a Robert Zemeckis movie once he started making real movies again.

  • Nipplenuts McGurk

    It was visually very beautiful & the 3D was some of the best I’ve seen! Unfortunately, the story incredibly heavy on exposition…an inordinate amount of explaining the “rules”, 50 speeches about believing, the villain does nothing but monologue about his evil plan, why he’s so mad at everyone, doing the evil-badguy laugh, etc. It’s like a mediocre Saturday Morning super hero episode. I’d still sorta kinda recommend seeing it though, if anything for how weird the concept is & how cool the animation is. DEFINITELY see it in 3D!!!!!

  • Just came back from seeing it with my four-year-old daughter.

    I liked it. Unconditionally, I liked it.

    First my few negatives. There seemed to be a lot of difficulty with characters’ hair. The children’s hair and especially Santa’s beard did not integrate well with the characters and did not move smoothy. Santa’s beard and how it integrated with his face (or didn’t) was especially distracting; it looked quite coarse and fake. This was odd because the Easter Bunny’s fur looked perfect.

    Also, the fight scenes, while impressive were sometimes so frenetic that they were hard to follow. My daughter kept telling me she was “bored” during those scenes. But then again she is not really the target age for this film. Plus, she’s hard to please which is another topic altogether.

    Otherwise, the positives for me far outweighed those picky little negatives.

    Personally, I felt the story held together very well. The story may have been the strongest part of this film which I state as a high compliment, since too many feature films in general rely on its dazzle and ignore the story which is the film’s framework: it’s story.

    I very much liked the characters and was very impressed by how the story managed to reinterpret all of these mythic figures while keeping them interesting and fresh. I must have been quite a challenge to script a “new” character like Jack Frost in an interesting way for an audience with all of these over-the-top legendary secondary characters around him with such over-the-top personalities. But I thought they pulled it off.

    The animation was good. Even though I had a bit of difficulty following the fight scenes, I thought Jack Frost’s flight scenes were quite exhilarating.

    I will politely disagree with the one post criticizing the female characterizations. I thought the character of the Tooth Fairy was pretty three-dimensional. Yes, she tends to swoon for Jack Frost (she is a fairy, after all), but her obsession with teeth is often funny. One of my favorite moments in the film comes near the end when she shows a tougher side of her.

    Voice work was top notch. Character designs in general were compelling and not derivative, impressive considering the classic nature of the characters. The effects following the Sandman were sometimes dazzling.

    I don’t think anyone should feel disappointed seeing it.

  • Ralph Warnick

    Just left it about an hour ago, and loved it! Go see it!

  • The character and the animation of Jack Frost was amazing! There were times where I wished that The Amazing Spiderman could have benefited having the same death-defying animation for it’s hero as Dreamworks did with Jack Frost. The Bogeyman was also a neat villain, though all I kept thinking to myself is that this is Loki. Just realized when leaving the theater that the portal to his domain is under a bed frame (neat!).

    As for the rest of the film, I found it anti-climatic at times. Though that was what I was expecting when going into this film. The things that won me over for this movie other than Jack and Pitch was the animation overall and the Sandman! Jerry is right, he should have his own movie.

    If this does make a sequel to no surprise, I would love if they could get Neil Gaiman or Mike Mignola to work on the script. I think these two have had great experience combining action-packed stories with mythical creatures. Though it’s wishful thinking :)

    • Oh and this is something work pointing out. Some of the characters faces (specifically the children) looked off, though I think it has to do with the eyes being out of proportion with the heads.

      • Completely agree. I noticed that, too. Can someone please stop this compulsion to give CGI animated characters these gigantic eyes? Does manga really have that profound an effect on our sensibilities?

        They showed a preview trailer to “Smurfs 2” at my theater and those ginormous eyes just made me wince. It was like someone had stuffed a pair of olives into a blueberry and stuck a hat on top.

    • Glen

      I doubt it–neither has ever written a very good or very successful script.

  • Doood

    Not a good film. There was enough to hold it together, but it was insanely generic and boring. Design work was all over the place, as if some of it got caught up in some past iteration, or the William Joyce version. The camera work was straining on the eyes in 3d, and the characters were really hard to believe in.

    Overall the film was a dissapointment. It’s unfortunate because the team that worked on it was so talented.

  • Short review: Highly enjoyable…awesome!
    Non-professional, drawn out one: The age group that this movie could be directed to might be for a little older audience. Especially the first part of the movie… (you’ll know it when you see it). The movie has a distinct look, which can be a hit or miss for some people. The design of the main characters were very unique and appealing…a lot riskier in terms of design, but you all know that. The characters excluding Jack, didn’t go so far into character development as many have mentioned already, but we needed to focus only on Jack. It was very emotional at certain parts (being girls and all), but it was also a family oriented film…so it doesn’t get too serious. The pacing from one world to another might have seemed a little too quick, but that is only because the crew made it to where you wanted to explore more of their worlds! The story is nothing new, and doesn’t really offer anything spectacular, but the concept definitely had a new spin to it, thanks to William Joyce’s re-tellings. Transitioning it from a book(s), to a feature film, in our opinion, was very well done. The voice acting was charming as well. Ugh, so… can’t really do good reviews. Just go see it! It was pretty awesome. Good going DW! Another one that has surpassed our interest than any Pixar film this year. heh.

  • Shane

    I have only seen the clips online so far and expect to enjoy the whole movie but one thing that stands out to me (maybe as I learn to animate) is that Jack has very rigid lips, I feel like he has the worst lip syncing I have seen in CG movies.

  • Richard

    I just got back from taking out twin two year olds to see it at the local theater. They screamed and cried throughout, and the people around us just kept talking and complaining. I guess no one really enjoyed it, but I’ll admit I took a long phone call in the middle of the screening I saw, which reminds me that the cell phone reception in the Loew’s theater seats is among the worst I’ve encountered.

    • burymylovely

      Please tell me all that is a joke. Except the part about not liking the movie, that’s fine.

    • billycakes

      i was sitting behind you and the twins, and it became impossible to concentrate on the movie with all the commotion. while you were on your call i stole the twins’ milk duds which really got them going!

  • Bud

    Saw it for a second time tonight. Still think what I thunk before. Beautiful craftsmanship. We need some better stories and original storytellers.

  • Mudmarox

    I don’t like Jack frost/Justin Bieber….

  • As a fan of both William Joyce in general and the book series, I couldn’t wait for this film. Of course the character designs aren’t as interesting as in the books (I think the same for “Epic”), but I could see this film as an adaptation in the book series somewhere down the road. (The characters are a lot younger in the books…the upcoming Book Four introduces Jackson Overland Frost, and the movie hints at that origin, then jumps “300 years later.”) I think more than an Avengers style movie this was similar to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with its creative use of public domain characters we all know and love. The movie’s Jack frost is too similar to the books’ Nightlight character to me, and I wish Katherine (the books’ future Mother Goose) would’ve made an appearance. And what’s up with not showing MIM (the man in the moon, which they nickname “Manny” in the film)??…a faint smile towards the end doesn’t count to me…but other than those minor gripes, I really enjoyed the film. I asked my soon-to-be-6-yrs-old son what his favorite part was and he said the part when the kids are having a snow-ball fight with the heroes, and another part I agree with but is a spoiler so i won’t mention it. My four-year-old daughter’s favorite parts were the fighting scenes (not with snowballs)…which is funny because someone else above said his 4-yr-old daughter was “bored’ with these same scenes…I think my kids enjoyed it more than “Brave”, definitely more than “Frankenweenie”, a bit more than “ParaNorman” and so far about the same as “WreckitRalph” and “Hotel Transylvania”…I think maybe moreso because they were familair with the book series prior and were looking forward to each new book as well as the movie for over a year now…its a fun film and i’d be open to spin-off films…and how can we see the Reel FX shirt film “The Man In The Moon”??…it was credited as a source of inspiration for this film. Final verdict? Go See It!!!

  • J

    I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if it’ll become an instant classic in the way Wreck-it Ralph did. One of the best things this film did right: all the characters were all really lovable, and it’s greatest strength- everyone was extremely interesting, they had distinct personalities that were well-defined and unique, and you left wanting to know more about them. I think everyone wished the Sandman was made more prominent.
    The character animation was fantastic too, lots of great acting choices and subtle emotions, lots of awesome dynamic and graphic looking poses. The faces in particular had great animation and a lot of care was taken to make sure it looked relatable and realistic, but the line was never crossed into creepiness- something most movies ignore by taking a more cartoony approach. Rise of the Guardians didn’t shy away from it, though.

    Boy I wish there was more of the Sandman, he was so cute and mysterious.

  • andreas Wessel-Therhorn

    I very much enjoyed it, especially the pantomime character, Sandman.I thought it has heart and, though ot flawless, the story is always entertaining. I would have wished the camerawork to be a bit less frantic, but, all in all, a good family seasonal outing

  • MissConception

    Any studio that can make the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy badass has won a victory in itself.

    A few criticisms: Some of the character designs were really unappealing. Just look at the “grey hound” and you’ll see what I mean. Some of the kids were odd-looking as well, especially Cupcake and the two African American children. The story overall was very fast paced, although still follow-able. It just felt like they rushed through the initial set up and some very key story moments to get to the epic action sequences. Jack Frost was appealing as a character, though I have the distinct feeling he was created to pander to the overenthusiastic young female crowd; “fangirl fodder” as I have described him to my peers. They marketed him outside the movie as an irresponsible, incorrigible brat who did not care about children. But really he’s always good guy throughout the story, he just lacks direction and a sense of purpose, which leads to a pleasant character arch.

    The movie was visually stunning and I’ll be asking for the art book for Christmas. The jokes were funny and the interaction amongst the Guardians and Jack was very enjoyable. There were very touching character moments and a true feeling of bliss and joy expressed throughout the whole story. I would easily say it was worth the ticket price and I await it’s DVD release with great anticipation.

  • Glen

    $31 million 4 day weekend…not good for a cartoon with a budget that high.

  • Rezz

    Overall, not terrible but certainly Jeffery’s “90 min or less” is really hurting the studio. The story wanted to be really epic but just didn’t have enough time to really sell it. It became more of a “LOOK AT THIS WORLD !” vs really focusing on the characters. Not to say there wasn’t any really good character moment; however, it just lacked a lot of heart. It’s hard to go up against wreck it ralph too.

    I think the movie relaid way to much on mo cap as well. Which was odd since this was the perfect movie to really exaggerate animation , esp on Santa.

  • Olivier L.

    I haven’t seen the movie yet but it is interesting you would be saying that as I am 99% sure no motion capture was used for that picture. The animation is probably very realistic/naturalistic but still keyframed

    • burymylovely

      Yes exactly. I know people who work at this studio. They use mocap for rough layout and previs, but not for final animation. And honestly, I’ve seen the movie and none of it screamed Mocap to me.

      Though I do agree that the animation was not as exaggerated as a lot of cartoons tend to be. I liked that in this case, but to each is own.

  • It’s not a great movie, but I had a good time with it.


    The only thing I wish the Guardians didn’t do was cast out Pitch Black at the end. For Jack to just turn his back on Pitch, who has the same problem he had that children don’t believe in him anymore, it just seems a little unsympathetic. I thought Pitch should have been asked to join them. He is one of them after all, and it’s not like Pitch got anyone killed because of what he did. If anything, his role in frightening children is to help them conquer their fears, and give them hope in icons like Santa, Bunny, Sandman, Tooth Fairy, etc. It’s a thankless job, but having the other Guardians show forgiveness to Pitch and having him feel accepted (which is what he wanted) sends a much stronger message as opposed to turning the story into a good vs. evil parable.

    • I agree! Pitch may be the bad guy, but he is just as important as the Guardians since fear makes us who we are (a little bit of Star Trek can tell me that!). I may be over thinking it, though.

    • Glowworm

      I almost thought the Tooth Fairy was going to console him for a second there–instead we got a violent yet totally funny moment when she knocked out one of his teeth.

    • Glowworm

      I think I may have unknowingly stumbled upon a reason why Pitch was cast out by the Guardians.
      I found this official story made by artists from the movie in which years before, North actually attempted to get Pitch to join the Guardians. Pitch being used to the way things were flat out refuses.


    • iseewhatyoudidthere

      That’s an interesting idea. If that were the ending instead, it would be brilliant. As much as I liked this film, it could have benefited from a lesson like that. Sure, it’s a kids’ film, but it is possible to make a kids’ film without such rigid black-white morality.

      Not to mention that it would enforce the film’s message of “embracing one’s purpose” in regards to Jack’s story arc.

      Come to think of it, “Guardians” and “Wreck-It Ralph” sort of parallel each other in this regard. Both films are about coming to terms with gifts and purpose; but (*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR WRECK-IT RALPH**) one film embraces ambiguity and bittersweet endings whereas another simplifies it.

      Or maybe I’m just overthinking it way too much.

  • Greg Jones Jr

    Rise of the Guardians was pretty cool. It wasn’t perfect but they managed to get through the whole movie without a fart joke, a poop joke, a piss joke, a borderline racist mascot, or an abundance of licensed songs. All of which are more than I can ask for from an animated movie nowadays. All joking aside the only thing that caught me by surprise is the Sandman. As Beck put it, he truly did steal the show.

  • Glowworm

    I saw it yesterday and enjoyed it. The Sandman was my favorite of the Guardians. He was so adorable with his sweet smile, endearing pantomiming and awesome powers over sand.

    Also, I was amused that the boy who believed the most in the Guardians name was Jamie. That’s my name. There aren’t too many cartoon characters out there that share my name. Now if there was only a female Jamie…

  • Glowworm

    The only character that actually disappointed me was Pitch Black. Jude Law voiced him fantastically–he just seemed rather bland for a character who’s supposed to be the boogieman. Compared to the undead pets of “Frankeweenie” or the demonic Mordu of “Brave,” Pitch really wasn’t that terrifying–with the exception of when he “killed” the Sandman. I did like his nightmares (making them shadowy horses was a stroke of genius) but I felt that he relied too heavily upon them to do his dirty work. His “death” scene didn’t do too much for me either–it seemed like it was copied from “The Princess and the Frog” without any of the delightful irony or horror.

  • Eric Graf

    I was disappointed.

    I had the same problem with this movie that I did with Up (and no doubt will be getting into the same fights over it). It just pushes the plausible impossible too far, whether in service to gags, or message, or anything besides story.

    A small example from early in the movie … the tooth fairy knows Jack’s original identity, but Santa doesn’t. A bigger one from later … a day or two after EASTER LITERALLY DOESN’T HAPPEN, everyone has forgotten about it.

    The fact that it seems to have only two speeds – loud-and-frantic, and standing-around-pontificating, also got on my nerves after awhile.

    It’s a mostly gorgeous movie (kids and dogs notwithstanding) but I can’t consider it one of the better mainstream releases this year.

    By the way, was I the only one who spotted Nausicaa’s fox squirrel on Jamie’s bulletin board? That was kind of cool.

  • Some great aspects to the movie; interesting ideas, characters, design and thought Jude Law did a fantastic job and the animation in Jack’s flying (his weight or lack of it was really good) but the movie seemed unable to pull it all together into a sync, smart way. Not sure what the problem was. I need to really think about where it went wrong. I will say my 10 yr. old daughter liked it and the rest of the audience seemed to as well. Good, but not that memorable in my book ultimately.

  • Sarah

    I really enjoyed it. My sister and I had been looking forward to this for quite a while, and I thought the animation and designs were just lovely. I’d read the art book and think the thought that went into it really shines through. The story felt a tad rushed during the hero’s “darkest moment” bit, and the final battle, but other than that, nothing to complain about. I’d love to see it in theaters again and will definitely be adding it to my collection.

    One note (possibly spoiler-y), I think it’s interesting how it’s being marketed and reviewed as a holiday/Christmas film, when in fact it takes place around Easter. I wonder if they did that so it would be “watchable” all year long, as opposed to strictly Christmas films…anyways, just curious to me.

  • liker of cool stuff

    One of the most visually beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. The story felt a little like it was written by committee – sort of “hitting the marks” at times, especially with the little flourishes of humor and one-liners (Dreamworks animation always feels this way to me, whereas Pixar humor seems more organic and earned) but it still had enough originality and heart to get me choked up at the end, something Wreck It Ralph wasn’t able to do.

  • Nick Nerdlinger

    The look and tone of this movie is off-putting to me… maybe I’ll catch it on Netflix. A muscular and armed Santa? Bleh.

    • iseewhatyoudidthere

      So…you *didn’t* watch it?

  • Alina Quiñones

    I thought the movie was pretty good.

    I loved the visuals. Visually, it was beautiful. I wish I had a remote in the movie theater, so I could pause scenes. I just wanted to stare at everything. It was breath-taking. Characters were entertaining; I loved the different takes on these holiday icons we know by heart. The voice actors did an amazing job to bring these characters to life, and the story had a lot of potential. However, I didn’t like the Boogieman. THE BOOGIEMAN. Doesn’t that give you the goosebumps just HEARING his name? I didn’t feel this movie did the Boogieman justice, nor did they make him as fearful as he could have been (the character, not the voice actor).

    But more than anything, the narrative is what killed me. At one point, so many things bouncing all over the place, that although I forgave it for everything else that made the movie good, I still wish the story telling was a bit more cohesive. Don’t get me wrong, they got the point across, but by the end, it felt rushed.

  • iseewhatyoudidthere

    Was anyone else kind of creeped out by the little boy’s eyelashes? That and the sister’s hair looked a bit strange (she looked as if she had a mop for a head). CGI hair is notoriously difficult to render correctly, but it was still distracting.

    I really liked the film. I didn’t love it as much as I loved “Wreck-It Ralph” but I genuinely enjoyed it. Really fun storytelling and narration.

    I did find the villain “Pitch” to be somewhat of a paint-by-the numbers villain, but considering the target audience, I didn’t expect him to be too menacing. He wasn’t awful, just not the most compelling.

    The big issue I had with the film was the main plot to begin with, which is that the only reason why children were susceptible to Pitch’s influence and not believing in the Guardians was the fact that the Guardians were too busy to interact with them in the first place. I know that them being distracted was the explanation for this, but if you are responsible for making children happy, which means that your entire livelihood and existence hinges on children believing in you, you could at least do something to give people tangible evidence that you exist. And then there was the problem of how the Guardians had to “recover” the amount of children to believe in them. It was never explained why it was bad for children to keep believing in them as adults, so there was all the more reason to not be so secretive and to remind people that you exist. Having both children *and* adults believing in you means that there would be less people susceptible to Pitch’s influence.

    But alas, it’s a kids’ film after all.

  • Saw the movie yesterday. To sum it up: An orgy in bad storytelling and syntetic laughter.