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Despite some creative character designs and ideas, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS' greatest threat is pandering to a younger audience, says Capone!!!

Published at: Nov. 22, 2012, 2:35 p.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

A great idea that turns into a decidedly average film--it happens all the time, but the animated work RISE OF THE GUARDIANS really left me wondering how a film touting the power of believing in the fantastical could be so uninspired and fall back on age-old, kid-movie devices. How can a film that asks me to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny (sorry, Jewish kids, you're not the demo for this film, apparently), the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Jack Frost and the Boogeyman not believe in its audience to be a little smarter and perhaps even a little darker, which is ironic since the bad guy in this film (also called Pitch Black) is attempting to make the world a better place for the nightmares he instills in children.

GUARDIANS' "hero" is the newly anointed Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who (as we see in the opening scene) was apparently birthed after his human self drowned in an icy lake. But he is brought back as an ice-and snow-wielding scamp who is invisible to humans, but can cause all sorts of trouble and fun with his powers. An early scene has him propelling a young child on a sled through traffic. What joy! But Jack is a sad young man because no one really believes in him or can see him, so all of his good-time powers go unappreciated. But when Pitch Black (Jude Law) rears his ugly head in the world (it seems he does this every so often), the Man in the Moon designates that there must be one more heroic member of the Guardians added to the roster to help save the children of the planet from having nightmares every time they sleep.

It seems that the Guardians' main objective is to keep imagination alive, at least for kids. But their motivations are somewhat selfish because as long as kids believe in them, they stay powerful. It's a cyclical relationship. If Pitch can destroy Christmas, Easter and keep the Tooth Fairy from delivering cash money, children's belief in the Guardians will fade. Sure, I dig the way the Guardians are rendered -- Santa (Alec Baldwin) sporting a heavy Russian accent and two broadswords; an Autralian Bunny (High Jackman) with his boomerangs and Crocodile Dundee attitude; or Tooth (Isla Fisher) just looking hot and commanding an army of "baby teeth" fairies to do her bidding. Oddly, the Sandman (whose job is to give kids good dreams) doesn't speak; maybe with a high-profile cast like this, the studio couldn't afford another actor.

My issues with RISE OF THE GUARDIANS have to do with pandering. Despite all of these great characters, the filmmakers (led by first-time director and veteran storyboard artist Peter Ramsey) choose to devote much of the film to a human character, Jamie (Dakota Goyo), who at one point in the story is the only child in the world who still believes in any of these imaginary characters.

Hate to turn on my own kind, but the humans in this movie are rather flat. Obviously, they're necessary, but they're treated as something of an afterthought in this story. If as much time and energy had been spent on developing Jamie as the creators did on Santa's souped-up sled, I might have been more invested in the dreamscapes of children. That being said, Pitch Black is one of the coolest animated villains I've seen in quite some time, and the way he conjures nightmare creatures to battle the Guardians is fairly creative.

I'll never discourage filmmakers from doing their most to inspire creativity and imagination, but by stating their goals of doing so so blatantly and repeatedly, I felt like I spent much of RISE OF THE GUARDIANS dodging the hammer that was trying to hit me on the head over and over again. I should emphasize, the movie looks gorgeous, the character designs (outside of the humans) are inspired, and even the idea of a superhero group made up of these types of characters is wonderful... on paper.

The noble effort is all up there on the screen, but something about the final product left me decidedly uninspired. And in a year with a solid number of worthy animated works, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS doesn't even approach that level.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 22, 2012, 2:37 p.m. CST

    Looks like this is the first comment.

    by Gary Makin

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Meh, I'm not surprised.

    by Ian Masterson

    Never been a fan of Dreamworks animation. Not even the so-called "good" ones (Shrek, HTTYD, etc.)

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Also, second... apparently.

    by Ian Masterson

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST

    thirdly me thinks

    by pw

    will take my kids to it...oh sorry most of you guys on here can't have kids yet .

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 3:05 p.m. CST

    um massive thrid act spoiler for those who care

    by burymylovely

    Don't read if you care about spoilers So maybe Capone isn't remembering well, but that second paragraph is a major spoiler. That the guardians were humans once is in itself a spoiler. And we don't learn Jack's story until act three. Its actually quite a surprise. I know its (just) an animated film, but as someone who really enjoys animated films, I'm really glad I didn't read that before I saw the movie.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 4:05 p.m. CST

    have to agree about spoiler

    by The Great One

    There's a few things here I didn't know when I saw the movie, and honestly I enjoyed having my childhood energy return. You really should give a spoiler tag to this one. I'd no clue about Jack's origins going in. Let folks discover this and some of the other stuff you mention for themselves.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 5:15 p.m. CST

    Capone is on a roll today with his screwups

    by Crooooooow

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 6:09 p.m. CST

    I liked it.

    by anthony

    I felt like it was a fun animated movie. With a good story that moved along well. It was pretty to look at too. The theater we were in was filled with families and kids, young'n to teen along with their parents and all were smiling and laughing at it the whole time. I personally liked it more than Wreck-it-Ralph. It made me want to see more fun seasonal adventures and more of Pitch ( who I thought was a great villain)

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 7:19 p.m. CST

    Who in the hell is High Jackman?

    by CimmerianWarrior

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 10:52 p.m. CST

    Really? I thought it was a fantastic film.

    by James

  • Whatever your feelings about the movie, the content of this review is ridiculous. "Pandering" does not mean having a child character. It doesn't mean going to extra lengths to make the storyline clear. These seem to be Capone's complaints... but he repeatedly labels them as "pandering". WTF? The Jamie character is perfectly well-developed. His "faith" is quickly, clearly set-up. It pays off in two terrific little scenes and that's about it... What the hell is this complaint about? If Capone felt the story was hitting him over the head so hard about its points, why did he seem to miss the point? Jack Frost's journey is the heart of the film and is what the VAST majority of the screentime is devoted to-- NOT Jamie. Considering all the compliments in this review, it just sucks to see the headline try to smack the movie down over something that is not backed up by the actual review. BOOOO Capone. :-(

  • and create such a backlash among kids starved for something real, that you will see a new generation of kids start to pick up the raw materials, many of them influenced by the classic rock of people like Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, and Ralph Bakshi... The cartoon Hobbit Lord of the Rings is way more Led Zeppelin than the whole Lord of the Rings. I can still remember the days before all animation felt like it had to pander to toddlers and minivan Moms. I remember the messiness of real animation, the shadows and secret textures... The life altering experience of seeing something truly different, like when I saw DRAGONSLAYER or The Secret of NIMH. Now its as if there are no more innovations to be achieved- and no accidents to birth new visions- because everything is made within the carefully controlled environment of computers. Please. Fight these movies. Stop giving them your money. Give us back our cartoons.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 2:08 a.m. CST

    Capone wanted what all people like Capone want

    by Nintendarth

    He wanted to see those broadswords cleaving through nightmares like Conan. He wanted to see chrome and explosions and boobies and rage and hate and anger and coal-eyed monsters taking people into the sky to eat them whole like monsters from the CLASH OF THE TITANS remakes. Also, Capone? Love how you contradict yourself, saying how the movie isn't dark enough (ugh!) and then complaining that Jack Frost sending the kid into traffic is too dark. I salute you, sir! Since I don't have SKYPE, though, ou'll have to guess how.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 6:43 a.m. CST

    Bait n' switch

    by korahn

    The first trailer made it seem more action oriented and had me excited. Then I saw the most recent trailer and it turned me right off - too many kid-focused jokes, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a reindeer fart joke in there somewhere. I'm all for having the movies geared towards kids but at least have to balls to try to appeal to adults as well - Incredibles and Toy Story come to mind.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 6:44 a.m. CST

    Childish review

    by Doug Phillips

    Greatest threat is pandering to a younger audience.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 6:51 a.m. CST

    Grow up.

    by JMG84

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Wait, so this isn't that owl air combat movie?

    by menacingphantom

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Rise of the Guardians of Gwhaahool?

    by menacingphantom

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 8:08 a.m. CST

    imagination is NOT kept alive by believing in ficiticious beings

    by brightgeist

    imagination is kept alive by science, by seeing and understanding the world around us, by keeping an open and critical mind, not by holding on to tradition and superstition. i can't help feeling like this movie is the "counter-attack" against such wonderful movies like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and THE LORAX

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Haven't seen it..

    by JediWuddayaknow

    But I HATE the emo-kid design of Jack Frost.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 1:54 p.m. CST

    Saw it this morning.

    by You Have MY Voice

    Fun flick. I liked "Wreck-It Ralph" a bit more, but I enjoyed it more than "Brave," if you can believe that. I agree about the spoilers in the review. I mean, it's a fairly telegraphed plot point from the very first shot, but it's still a major plot point. One thing: WB should hire the screenwriters to take a crack at "Justice League" because they kinda cracked that code. Take the characters everyone knows and have them doing their thing from the get-go. Bring new character into the ranks. Fight villain. Flesh out from there.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 4:47 p.m. CST

    Is it just me, or did Pitch Black (aka the Boogeyman)...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...look almost EXACTLY like James Woods' Hades from Hercules? The facial features were strikingly similar. I liked the movie overall, even if it's no classic. At least it wasn't filled with pop-culture riffing and fart jokes, which Dreamworks has thankfully moved away from in recent years.

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 5:02 p.m. CST

    the only one that looked cool

    by chronicallydepressedlemming

    was the the sandman. And surely the whole 'stopping the nightmares' should be his damn job anyway?

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 6:06 p.m. CST

    I understand exactly what he meant by "pandering"

    by flclhack

    And I haven't even seen the movie. It's something that, when avoided, we all praise the kids movies for NOT pandering to the child audience. Also, I would say he spent most of the review backing his point. He used the example of the time spent showing off the sleigh instead of character development, for one. Why are you people freaking out?

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 8:47 p.m. CST

    Way to go, Brightgeist

    by Dr. Hfuhruhurr

    You sound as far from open-minded as those you criticize.

  • Well, I never!

  • Nov. 23, 2012, 9:22 p.m. CST

    sorry, Jewish kids, you're not the demo for this film, apparently

    by frankenberry

    Was that necessary? If I can enjoy movies and shows about Jewish traditions, I don't think it will hurt a Jewish family to enjoy a movie with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 4:39 a.m. CST

    sorry, adults, you're not the demo for this film, apparently

    by Cosmik

    unreal

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 7:33 a.m. CST

    I saw it on Thursday with the family...

    by NubtheSquirrel

    and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The animation is top notch and I didn't think the story was pandering at all. I thought the movie was a lot of fun. Some dark moments but the payoff is was worth it. Lots of wow moments and for the most part, one of Dreamworks' stronger efforts I think. I would place it under How to Train Your Dragon but over everything else.

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Someone should let 'bright'geist know...

    by Johnno

    ... that his precious deity scientists are chief examples of going off the rails into crazy make-belief territory. So until his humanistic gods can prove that extraterrestrial beings exist, that all that evolution bullshit actually happened, that their multi-universe dark energy/matter angels are not based on imaginary mathematics they made up because the universe isn't behaving how they would like it to, or hell, even until they can prove that precious Copernican Principle they are so proud of that they were willing to completely reinvent physics, time, matter and reality when their numerous intereferometer experiments showed the Earth had no mesuarable velocity and everything seemed to indicate the Earth is indeed in a special central position in the entire universe... he has no business making any kind of subtle criticisms of what openly religious people believe while bolstering his own religious interpretations and gymnastics around actual scientific data. With science in the ridiculous state that it is, it's more plausible to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny than the ridiculous garbage they peddle under mountains of fairy tale equations designed to please themselves and intimidate the general public from thinking too deeply about it, don't think, just trust whatever they say, they're scientists!

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Capone is holding out hope for an R-rated BAMBI, apparently

    by Dursman2000

    This is a KIDS MOVIE. You want it "Darker, edgier"? Stop going to see them. Nobody wants to see an R-rated film about Santa Claus as a super-hero...except you, I guess.

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Who says "souped up? anymore?

    by Carmen A

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Nice spoiler, too, you fucking moron.

    by Jason

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Copernican physics? What is this, the 1400's?

    by Baked

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 9:36 p.m. CST

    what CGI feature DOESN'T pander to little kids and suburban Moms?

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    this isn't come one, come all 'children of all ages' anymore, this is 'children of all suburban subdivisions' and bring as many hapless adults as you can convince. creepy artificial doll-eyed things and colors straight out of the Playskool catalog. every one. lighting like the beauty aisle at Target. hey, doesn't anyone remember those real cartoons they used to make?

  • Nov. 24, 2012, 9:39 p.m. CST

    It's a cartoon, it's supposed to pander to a younger audience

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

    fuck off, I can think of probably 3 dozen cartoon features that don't pander to kids. maybe not too many made after Toy Story, though.

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 2:05 a.m. CST

    Talk about hammer on the head...

    by Rorschach1

    I saw it tonight and loved it. Yes, the "Kids belief powers the world" bit has been done, but I think that the amount of detail into the main characters and world outweighs that one element. I imagine the guy who said "The Lorax" is a great movie must be vegan. It wasn't even a parable. All that movie does is try to say that trees are good and thus people who cut them down are bad. At least Guardians has great characters you actually care about. And like he said, it actually looks fantastic. For those wondering, they also don't overdue it on showing the sled. He was being facetious by saying that the designers spent more time working on the sled than the story.

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 6:39 a.m. CST

    sorry Jewish kids

    by JokerFC

    I usually respect what you say Capone but this comment is so full of crap.

  • Quite a roll Capone is on. Can't wait to see what's next.

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 5:14 p.m. CST

    How come there's no Hannukah Harry in this?!

    by Rob

    F this movie!

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 11:08 p.m. CST

    It's hard to tell North Korean cartoons from South Korean ones

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 11:09 p.m. CST

    basically it's just communism all around

    by sasquatch_with_a_swatch_watch

  • And does he wear floppy bunny ears while doing it?

  • Nov. 26, 2012, 4 a.m. CST

    Sorry Jewish Kids...

    by Meta

    You're left out...Because the only Jewish Kids who will be enjoying this film are Stevie Spielberg and Jeffie Katzenberg as the laugh all the way to the bank with all the gentiles money who went to see this. They still own a piece of Dreamworks right?

  • animation is dead. the focus groups have determined it. They will continue to animate the corpse of a dead medium with no content and no beauty or style because kids and their goddamn parents still throw money at it. sad face.