Rise of the Guardians 3D Blu-ray Review
In a recent earnings call, Dreamworks CEO Jeff Katzenberg announced that they were laying off 350 people from their animation department, due mainly to the estimated $85 million the studio lost on RISE OF THE GUARDIANS. Although Dreamworks strung together a slew of average movies that managed to make money (the MADAGASCAR films, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, the SHREKs sequels, etc.), RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is the film that caught up with them. For animation fans, it’s the film we can now use as an example that it takes more than an A-list voice cast and some bright colors to make a quality film.
In the world of RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, the mythical characters of North (Alec Baldwin), Tooth (Isla Fisher), Sandman (the one that brings you dreams, not the one that battles Spider-Man) and Bunny (Hugh Jackman) are all “heroes” that protect the world from mythical bad guys. But in this world, there’s really only one “bad” guy and that’s Pitch as in, “pitch black” (Jude Law). When Pitch’s evil plot to take over the world gets out of hand, the Guardians turn to Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to join the group and help them battle Pitch.
The Guardians are taken from familiar stories (Santa Clause, The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny) and so they all play on the tired jokes you would expect them to use. That creates one of the many problems in the film in that none of the characters are that interesting and none of them are that different from the stories we heard as a kid. The difference, of course, is that they team up to fight evil, but even then, Pitch’s motivations are murky at best. The chance for an interesting character came with Jack, but predictably, Jack is a cocky, young kid that just wants to have fun and throw ice at people. He has to learn that his powers have a purpose and can be used to help people. And yes, we’ve seen this type of storyline played out in virtually every superhero movie before. I did like the reference to his life before he became Jack Frost as that little nugget helped his character development. But it came pretty late in the film and by that time, the damage had been done as far as establishing Jack as a character.
The animation is another area of concern and in the age of brilliant animation from Pixar and even in fellow Dreamworks films like KUNG-FU PANDA, I don’t know if there’s a place for the videogame-like animation found in RISE OF THE GUARDIANS. It reminds me of the straight to video Final Fantasy animated films, which is fine for a straight to video release, but not okay for a big-budget film like this. The animation never felt as smooth or as polished as what we’re accustomed to in today’s animated films.
I’ve heard strong praise for RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, but I don’t see it. The story was a rehash of a dozen or so superhero origin stories, the characters had little to no development and the animation was subpar compared to what we expect. There were some dark moments to make it inappropriate for really young kids and I think older kids will get bored with RISE OF THE GUARDIANS. Adults, of course, will feel like they’ve seen this before.
3D BLU-RAY REVIEW
Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, it did look great in 3D. In fact, this gives the Pixar 3D Blu-rays a run for their money in terms of 3D quality. The snowflakes that constantly fell down and the ice and fire that flew at the screen were all impressive and gave a depth to the film that was much appreciated.
Video: RISE OF THE GUARDIANS looks spectacular on Blu-ray and the film itself uses bright, bold colors that really pop in HD.
Audio: The audio is equally impressive.
Commentary with Peter Ramsey, Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein: This is a surprisingly informative track from the director and producers. They cover just about everything in the film from the actors that did the voices to the decisions in the script.
Behind the Magic (27:42): This is a four part making-of documentary that looks at the character designs, the special effects and the score. It’s informative, but at the same time, it sticks to the surface and doesn’t give the audience too much detail. Only true fans of the film will get anything out of this.
The Man Behind the Guardians (6:23): William Joyce wrote “The Guardians of Childhood” that the film is loosely based on and he also served as an Executive Producer. He sits down and talks about the film and what it meant to him.
Dreamers & Believers (HD, 10:47): Here we get 10 minutes dedicated to all the famous voices showcased in the film.
Jack Frost Snowball Showdown, Sandy’s Dream Guide and Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy: These are games and interactive guides, more designed for the youngsters that may be playing with the Blu-ray.