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Review: ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is not furry Jesus

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (9 votes)

Rise of the GuardiansOn the way to Rise of the Guardians, I noted that, between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the two most important days in the Christian year were covered by members of the titular Guardians. I said I'd bet that Jesus would not be mentioned once during the course of the movie, despite this. My brother took me up on this bet.

My brother owes me a coke.

This movie is explicitly about believing in things we have no proof of (like, I don’t know, Jesus); the Guardians, we're told, are powerless unless the children of the world believe in them. Strangely, I don't remember ever believing in the Sandman, the Easter Bunny or even, yes, Santa Claus. Maybe I did; but I don’t remember it.

The closest I came to believing in any of the Guardians was the Tooth Fairy; I don’t remember actually believing, but I do remember being very disappointed upon finding a tooth that my parents hadn't yet discarded after trading for a quarter.

Speaking of disappointment, Rise of the Guardians was a letdown.

Story and characters

The Guardians consist of four mythical characters that children believe in, but grownups usually do not. They are Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (Jean Dujardin). Together, they fight crime.

Actually, I do not know what they do together as Guardians. Supposedly, they protect the children of the world. From what, I don’t know. They certainly aren’t roving the streets physically protecting children.

The Man in the Moon is apparently their boss, and he decides they need a new recruit, so he picks Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who spends most of his spare time actively endangering children. He’s a good kid.

Anyway, they need this new recruit because the Boogeyman (Jude Law) – who is so bad he needs an alias, Pitch Black – has learned how to turn the Sandman’s happy dream sand into nightmare sand, which essentially makes him Neil Gaiman’s most famous creation, whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment.

Now, I’m just some guy who reviews cartoons for a furry site (and is not only unpaid, but actually pays for this privilege), but if someone gave me the script to Rise of the Guardians and asked me to take a whack at it, first thing I would have done is flip the villain and the hero.

The movie goes into great detail about how much fun Jack is to be around, and there are big reveals about his dark past that are supposed to be really emotional, but which didn’t work because I just didn’t care about his core need as a character; the need to be believed in. Not that he needs to be believed in like he has confidence issues, or he used to be a bad liar — I mean his core problem is nobody believes he exists.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not a need I can relate with. I mean, you, the reader, may not believe I am a good reviewer or even a good person, but I am pretty sure you believe there is actually a person writing this review.*
Jack Frost and Bunnymund
Meanwhile, the Boogeyman has needs I can relate to: nobody likes him because he’s scary. Yes, we have seen this story before; characters like Jack Skellington, Princess Luna and that one Gaiman character I mentioned earlier, whatever his name is. But life’s no fun without a good scare, after all. That’s a character arc I can believe in.

I could talk about the animation (which is great), the character design (also great) or the gags (which are occasionally pretty funny), but the movie falls apart at the character level, and those things can’t save it. The original four Guardians are caricatures propped up by odd character designs; Jack Frost is an unappealing hero, and I feel more sorry for the poor old Boogeyman than anything else. Even the kids the heroes encounter read as unrealistic.

The only character I liked was little Baby Tooth, a junior tooth fairy that serves as Jack’s mute conscience throughout the story. She was just about the only character who played her role well.

Conclusion: Trilogy

I have a confession to make; when I went to see Madagascar 3, I finished that review and I believed in DreamWorks Animation. They could do anything. That was the first chapter of the trilogy.

Then I wrote my Brave review. That was the dark second act of the trilogy, and everybody said I was biased against Pixar. Well, duh. Copped to that in the title. Doesn’t change the fact that it was a mediocre movie.

Now comes the grand finale, in which the protagonist wins a pyrrhic victory, and I prove the bias doesn’t matter. Yes, I wanted Brave to lose so bad I could taste it. It did. But even more, I wanted Rise of the Guardians to win. It didn’t. Sometimes seeing is believing; sometimes, it’s not.

This review is based on a 2D screening, and if you think I've not posted the review to the last ‘Twilight’ movie yet due to technical issues, you’re wrong.* Ha ha, joke’s on you, I’m actually one of GreenReaper’s alternate sockpuppet accounts, just like all of Flayrah's contributors.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Personally I enjoyed the film as a way to escape a generally dreary afternoon, although both a friend of mine and I found the subtext in the film rather dark - but I don't think the writers particularly cared when they wrote it. Jack and Pitch both feel like outcasts, both have the same motivation (they want to be believed in), and we can assume they were both created by the Man in the Moon. Jack achieves this goal, and it's denied to Pitch - and really the only difference between them is that one is good and the other is evil, but you can't shake the feeling that Pitch was *made* to be that way, so it's kind of an unfair deal for him. Why shouldn't he be believed in? Also if you consider the role of balance; you can't have dreams without nightmares and vice-versa.

Anyway, it's better to watch this film without thinking about it too deeply. I liked the characterization of the guardians, the little side-jokes with the elves and the yeti, and the overall visual design of the movie. I went to see a 2D screening; the beginning of the film tries *way* too hard to take advantage of 3D, lots of camera movement and swooshing around, impossible to follow details going by way too fast. It eventually settles into something better for 2D, but it takes a while. :-)

The Easter Bunny has a very interesting design, Maori-like patterns on his fur, a very Polynesian feeling to his lair, they really wanted to run with the Australasian theme, and it worked. As for the mouse that shows up as part of the Tooth Fairy's European division - the French equivalent of the Tooth Fairy myth is indeed a mouse, so someone did their research!

Personally I'd say this is a film that works as a casual piece of entertainment. If you start thinking about it too much, what drives the characters and so forth, you're gonna have problems. Unfortunately as adults we have a tendency to analyze, so we've got that working against us.

Also: Jack is going to be an incredibly easy character to cosplay. All you need is a hoodie, flour in your hair, and a stick with a hooked end.

Your rating: None

Yeah, I did not have any trouble accepting Santa Claus as Russian -- the Santa myth is pretty much everywhere in European folklore, so why should he be typecast as British/American? But an Easter Bunny who is very culturally Australian; him I had trouble with!

You (Crossaffliction) liked Baby Tooth best? So did I. If Rise of the Guardians has any sequel (which right now looks doubtful, but the box-office returns aren't all in yet), I hope that she is played up, maybe with Krampus, the Teutonic anti-Santa.

Actually, there is an animated human Princess Luna before the pony Princess Luna. She is pretty scary, too.

“Traveling to America on a goodwill mission, Princess Luna of Transylvania has a vision. A life form of pure energy named Genma that destroys everything on its path is heading towards Earth. To save the planet, she must assemble psychics to confront Genma while at the same time she partners with an alien cyborg named Vega who once fought this menace before.” … The Japanese animated feature Genma Taisen/Harmagedon, Studio Madhouse, March 1983.

http://www.anime-planet.com/anime/harmagedon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genma_Taisen

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

I wrote this back in November, and the Princess Luna bit became more appropriate when a new episode featured her giving a character nightmares to help her face her fears. The paragraph also featured a line from "This Is Halloween" from the The Nightmare before Christmas I was going to quote anyway, but as I was typing it the song actually came up randomly on my playlist. Fun boring fact for you.

I also thought of Shinigami of Soul Eater as well, though Princess Luna the pony seemed a more apprpriate choice for Flayrah.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I don't know... With a few exceptions (Shrek II had some great moments), Dreamworks Animation's CG characters tend to not "act" as Pixar characters do. They do not seem to emote layers of emotions or really anything "human" beyond cheap vaudeville mugging, that makes me empathize with these characters as if actual living beings. Dreamworks seems tone-deaf at making films that kids will look back in nostalgia (maybe shame) 50 years into their adulthood, from the toilet humor to godawful bad pop songs and references. I haven't seen this film but the character designs made me hope it was better but the reviews aren't glowing.

I did see Pixar's Brave and the story felt a bit unconventional (though I think I had different expectations for it) for Pixar but they poured the heart (as usual) into the film, into every detail and the character animation, especially of the lead character, is just full of personality and life. There really isn't anything mediocre about 'Brave' but if there is never a Brave II or Brave III, that would be a terrible shame. I know a few Pixarians like Lee Unkrich have very carefully publicly worded it but you know an awful lot of Pixarians know that Dreamworks puts stuff on the screen that isn't even good enough for Pixar's cutting room floor.

Fun little historical tidbit from a Pixar talk I attended about their early days was that Jeffrey Katzenberg had creative influence over the original Toy Story but when Lassetter stood back and watched what they had nearly completed, they realized what they had was terrible - and they pulled back, told Katzenberg that they were doing the film "OUR way" (he graciously agreed) and threw away tons of complete work - what ended up was *very* different from the original story, and essentially defined the Pixar formula and Katzenberg would co-found Dreamworks, acquiring Pacific Data Images to finally HIS vision of animation - which is what Pixar could've been. *cough*

Your rating: None

Brave seemed to me like a bad Shrek prequel focusing on Fiona, actually. Pixar may not be impressed with DreamWorks finished product, but the scene with the potion answering machine is so Shrek it feels like, well, something DreamWorks left on the cutting room floor.

Your rating: None

The potion answering machine is probably due to Steve Purcell (Sam & Max) being co-director as well as one of the screenwriters; it's very much his kind of humour. I think he also influenced the designs of some of the comedic side-characters' faces and hairdos. The three baby bears with huge heads on little bodies is very much Purcell's style.

Your rating: None

How many directors did Brave have?

That's actually unusual for a Pixar film, even when Lasseter goes apeshit on the original director, like he did to Brenda Chapman here.

Which was part of the problem; in the past, the mop-up replacement was someone like Brad Bird. This time it was some guy ... I just looked up and have already forgotten. Mark Evanier. I hate Ratatouille, but not because it was a bad movie. In fact, the fact that it was decent up to the "please, sirs, we'd like a good review" ending just makes it worse. I really hate Bird for that (and his obnoxious acceptance speech at the Oscars), but he's still a decent filmmaker (MI4 was a good movie, and John Carter animation to live action is probably harder than the other way around. He was a great replacement for Ratatouille.

Brave suffered for John Lasseter John Lassetering Brenda Chapman, when the movie he should have fired the director on was Cars 2, which was not mediocre but terrible.

Who was directing that one?

Your rating: None

This movie is explicitly about believing in things we have no proof of

Now that I think about it, does anyone else think this kind of plot element has been popping up more often recently? It also showed up in the MLP episode Feeling Pinkie Keen, and a recent Fringe episode in which a side-character talks about having faith in the visions of the future she supposedly gets.

Your rating: None

That's always been a ridiculously common story; supernatural elements kind of lend themselves to this type of story.

That being said, economic stress can bring this story type new popularity.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

This movie could *do* with some furry Jesus (or, at least, less Frost and more Bunnymund): a few fundie protests would be good free publicity.

Your rating: None

Is Rise of the Guardians a flop or not? “Everyone” says so. Ed Hooks at Animation World Network calls it one of “the most expensive feature animation box office failures of all time”. But Box Office Mojo reports its box office grosses as of just four weeks after its release as $71,362,000. The IMDb list of the USA Top Ten releases as of 14 December reports Rise of the Guardians in the #2 place. If its budget was $160,000,000+, it may not be a success yet, but it seems too early to call it a history-making flop.

http://www.awn.com/blogs/ed-hooks-acting-animators/rise-guardians-why-did-it-flop
http://www.imdb.com/boxoffice/

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Nice review. I've seen the trailers for Rise of the Guardians on TV but it really didn't look that interesting. The characters didn't appeal to me. Maybe it's 'cause I'm mostly over movies but maybe it's because it doesn't make sense that four entirely separate myths are suddenly thrown together.

I probably wouldn't like the movie anyway if it's about believing with no proof. It'd be nice if they included a character that went around believing someone had stolen his toy or was a bully with no proof and see how that mindset works when applied to the real world.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Strangely, the Guardians don't seem to require faith without proof. At one point, Bunny runs into a group of kids shouting "Believe in me!" basically. Jack draws pictures to get a kid to believe in him. Seeing as how the villain's plot is to make noone believe in the Guardians, onr quick press conference would have done wonders.

Your rating: None

What about the elves? Were they the annoying comedic relief I predicted they'd be?

Your rating: None

No, “North’s” elves are certainly there and they have a few comedic bits of business, but they are underplayed in comparison with their overemphasis in the movie’s advertising. They certainly aren’t as omnipresent and annoying as Gru’s little yellow Minions in Despicable Me.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Okay. I was wondering if the advertising was focussing on the elves because the movie was released near Christmas tide or not.

I actually didn't see this movie because it looked disappointing. I'm gonna go with crossie's opinion on it and just skip it.

Your rating: None

It sounds like you'd be annoyed no matter what; only a couple of scenes, but given your undying hatred of Scrat, uh, well, not to that level.

The yetis are about the same; comedic relief.

Your rating: None

[...] your undying hatred of Scrat [...]

I only hate Scrat when he is as obnoxious as he was in Continental Drift; I actually liked him in Dawn of the Dinosaurs. But, the next movie showed that to be a fluke, and I returned to hating him.

I don't neccesarily hate a character whose only purpose is comedic relief--I only hate them if they're annoying.

Your rating: None

I probably got a bit disappointed about the tooth fairy thing, and others, but that doesn't make this movie less "furry Jesus" for the world though. I would still probably love the movie like those Christmas shows even though growing up about Santa would be a bust but those shows are still awesome. But everyone has there own opinions like this I guess.

Your rating: None

The title of the review is a reference to his review of Madagascar 3, which he refered to as "furry Jesus", by which I believe he meant to say that it was the epitome of a great "furry" movie.

Saying that Rise of the Guardians is not furry Jesus, in the same vein, means that he was disappointed in it.

I don't think he meant to say it was not a furry Christmas movie.

Your rating: None

I think I know that, it's just he was giving it out as to think it would be true to others or something.
Due to it being more of a public review based on a personal disappointing part of life. (I hope people are allowed to make a review of the same movie on here or something.)
I was saying it would not be less "furry Jesus" for some others.

As for the Christmas movie thing, I was saying it would of been the same disappointing thing for some, where on a simple Christmas show, The Santa North Pole where Santa and the good old elves lives, and on this movie, the main area with the Bunny, the Ice guy, Sand man. Both kind of sharing something that could share a possible disappointing thing outside. :P But still was saying it is still great to watch for a lot. And still great for a review or something.

If I didn't make sense here, it's because I had to edit something I think.

Your rating: None

This is officially my favorite comment ever I think.

Your rating: None

*Comment Deleted*

What happened to the ability to delete our messages?

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

Another week, another $5,900,000. Rise of the Guardians is still in fourth place after four and a half weeks, with a $79,694,000 total.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

This week Rise of the Guardians is at the bottom of the Top Ten list, earning $4,900,000 in the week for an overall domestic total of $90,230,000.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

It still hasn't broken 100 million after nearly a month and a half? Ouch.

This is really a financial flop; I mean, DreamWorks will probably come out with a profit when you add in international box office and DVD sales and merchandising (though fairly light there), but this is a movie that was supposed to break a 100 millnion in a couple weeks, not months. And a holiday themed movie after the holidays ... ouch.

Except apparently DreamWorks doesn't know when to quit and is Oscar campaigning the crap out of it, so more money lost. Admittedly, it had more critics awards then Brave last I checked, but gut instinct says they may be wasting a lot of money on a movie that has a chance at nomination. Period.

And that, as already pointed out, is a flop.

Your rating: None

The current issue of Animation Magazine has a full-page, full color adv't "for your awards consideration" for The Mystical Laws, the commissioned animated feature from the Happy Science religious group. It got a 20% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Talk about your waste of money!

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Admittedly, they are probably more advertising themselves ... probably.

Your rating: None

What would u do if a child who actually believes in Jack Frost read this? For example...a child like me? Somebody who loved the movie and really hopes that there is a sequel. Somebody who has believed in the Guardians their entire life! How do u think this feels? All i wanted to do was find out if there was any news of a sequel...and then i came across this.

Your rating: None

DreamWorks announced its slate of forthcoming animation features in 2011 through June 2014. This was before Rise of the Guardians was released in 2012. It did not include a Rise of the Guardians sequel then, and considering Rise of the Guardians' box office, I do not expect there to be a theatrical sequel now. A direct to video sequel that would be much cheaper to produce is a possibility, however. Hey, I imagine that all of us would like to see more of Bunnymund.

Rise's box office as of today is $99,762,146. That is above Meet the Robinsons (also based on a William Joyce story) but below Gnomeo and Juliet. It has not broken $100,000,000 yet.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Even if Rise of the Guardians did break $100m, you know what else broke $100m?

Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (4 votes)

Oh, certainly, lack of box office is no proof of lack of quality, though it is good proof of lack of sequel. Every Transformers movie except the last were the highest grossing movie of there year; Fantastic Mr. Fox was barely-scraped-up-50K domestically failure. That's why we'll see Transformers 4 and not Fantastic Mr. Fox 2.

Though Batman & Robin must have just squeaked past, as it did almost kill the franchise; or did, if you're not willing to put Batman Begins in the same series, which would be more than fair.

Historically, the only franchise that can recover from a flop is the James Bond series; admittedly, during the early days, they often began production on the next movie before the last one was released, so they just kind of had no choice.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

Well maybe you should have Micheal Bay direct Fantastic Mr. Fox next time....

*Slap*

Oh God, what have I said.

Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

He did, at least, direct *Megan* Fox.

Your rating: None Average: 1 (8 votes)

Are you proud of that? Are you proud of that sentence you just said?

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

I'm proud of having one-starred you.

Your rating: None Average: 1.4 (8 votes)

Get a life, dude.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

> Writes articles for a furry board

> Writes long and self-righteous articles suggesting that The Lion King and Watership Down don't qualify as furry, but stick-figure drawings by some 14-year-old who faps to Zen illustrations every night do. Because furry furry furry.

> Tells me to get a life

If crossie were an old movie actress, he'd be Gina Lollobrigida.

Your rating: None Average: 1.4 (7 votes)

-Hangs out on a furry board where noone likes him constantly looking to pick Internet fights without ever contributing, even when asked nicely.

-Keeps a ridiculous grudge from nearly two years ago noone else remembers.

-Screenname (when he doesn't wuss out and post anonymously) is desiring_change, and yet he has been doing this for years without variation.

By the way, you missed the deadline on the Pinkie Pie DVD. You've still got time for the Sonic crossover. I believe in you!

Your rating: None Average: 1 (6 votes)

I'm actually a bit surprised they1 didn't take your advice on contributing; I mean, sure they're an asshole, but really, most of the regular commentors are assholes--the difference is, we're tolerated assholes because we have proven we're not here just to do that.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

A child who believes in Jack Frost should not be allowed on the Internet.

An asshole who pretends to be a child who believes in Jack Frost on the Internet, well, I mean, where else is he gonna go?

Pertinent point; it really did seem like a franchise starting point, didn't it?

"Yeah, we can do something with this in the long term; we got a multi-Oscar nominated franchise out of the concept 'a panda who does kung fu,' for Christ's sake. A new superhero team is like, duh, franchise. Well, let's see how this goes ... oh. Gee, that's kinda of critically and commercially underwhelming. And no Oscar nom. I was sure ... Hey, Jennifer, Kung Fu Panda 3 better be fucking awesome!"

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I don't think one could call Rise of the Guardians a genuine flop with critics; at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, it's "Certified Fresh" with a pretty comfortable margin. Few critics seemed to love it, but a majority of them liked it. (Of course, the same also seems to be true of Brave, with its slightly higher RT score. This parallels Metacritic, which tends to be more selective in their critics, which gives Guardians a "mixed" score of 57 but Brave a "generally favorable" 69.)

And if Guardians seemed like a franchise starting point, that may be because it's arguably already in a franchise -- there are four books about the Guardians already. The movie is, apparently, not an adaptation of any of the books but an original story by the books' author, who was originally going to be co-directing the film.

- Chipotle

Your rating: None

I suspect that a major problem with the film as opposed to the Guardians of Childhood books (which I have not read) is that each of the books presents a single character, while the movie presents the Guardians all together plus Jack Frost and Pitch. The movie ends up with too many main characters; they get in each others' way. Also, although it pains me to say it, Bunnymund is basically stupid, too easily taken by Jack's jibes.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Ah, but did you actually read the positive reviews?

Most were of the condescending, "Well, it is a kid's movie. Kids are stupid; they should like it!"

It's a weak 75%.

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About the author

crossaffliction (Brendan Kachel)read storiescontact (login required)

a reporter and Red Fox from Hooker, Oklahoma, interested in movies, horror, stand up comedy

Formerly Wichita's only furry comic.