Rise of the Guardians-- Childhood Whimsy and Particle Simulations

posted Nov 26, 2012, 8:20 PM by Jenee Pearson Hughes
This review has no spoilers that the trailer didn't already divulge. 

Rise of the Guardians: Is the pacing uneven? At times. Is it better than Wreck-It Ralph? Arguably. Will your inner child hate you forever if you deprive it of seeing it? Definitely. 

Rise of the Guardians was peculiar in that I didn't have an immediate reaction to the movie as a whole. After a good night's sleep and a busy following day to think about it, I have to say--I recommend seeing it. 

If you, like me, enjoy remembering the magic of those years when you still believed in Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, you'll find lots to love this movie.  The characters are non-traditional, and yet, friendly and at once familiar. Haven't thoughts of Santa always conjured up a sword-happy Russian ex-mobster type? I think they have.  Likewise, hasn't the Easter Bunny ALWAYS been a Australian survivalist?  And of course the Tooth Fairy has always slightly resembled a hummingbird! What else would she look like? I jest, of course--I would have never thought of these archetypes prior to seeing this. But...they just seem so REAL in the movie. I care about their plight, their goals, their missions. 

On the other hand, if you, like me, have an inner armchair-film-editor, you'll be unhappy with some of the pacing at the beginning, but will forgive those faults around the time of the first major crisis. At that point, your inner child's sympathetic panic will overwhelm all else, and you'll end up gripping the arm of your neighbor for the rest of the movie (like I did).

To speak to the pacing issue: The film took an unnecessarily long time to develop any palpable sense of urgency. The event that brings the Guardians together was not particularly compelling in and of itself--it took several scenes after that for me to really *get* what was at stake, and why I should care about it.  That later, compelling scene could've replaced the earlier scene with some minor plot tweaks, and the movie would've gone from good to great!  

Basically: The beginning was okay, the middle was edge-of-your-seat awesome, and the end was good (To compare: In my opinion, Wreck-It Ralph was uniformly good, but not as engaging as some of the middle sequences of Rise of the Guardians.).

As far as visual effects:  SOMEONE LOVES PARTICLE SIMS.  Dust everywhere! Dream dust! Nightmare dust! Frost flakes (aka blue dust)! Snow (white dust)! 

 And you know what would be really cool to do every ten minutes? 


And the dust can change colors, and it can swirl around in the air, and it's like the EXTREME version of making one of those sand-art bottles at summer camp.
Sand Art: the aftermath of the battles in Rise of the Guardians
 I am an unabashed fan of particle sims, but I got a bit fatigued with frequency of the dust battles. Pearson, however, said the dust battles were his favorite part.  I do have to admit, the term "dust battles" doesn't quite do them justice. They were pretty epic battles. Observe below, the dust, gearing up for battle*!
There's a scene in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce where there's a stampede of terrifying unicorns. I imagine that this is the chibi version of one of those

*Note that this isn't actually a screenshot of a dust battle. I couldn't find any. But it is the dream dust!

Anyway. Long story short: if you look upon your childhood dreams with any sort of fondness, see this movie. Also, if you like dust battles.