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Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/18/2013

Many movies have small characters or bit parts which steal the show. There's Johnny in Airplane!, Frank in The Father of the Bride, and any sidekick from an animated Disney movie from the 90s. Have you ever wanted to learn more about these characters, or perhaps see them in their own movie? Apparently, some have, as Boba Fett, that quiet bounty hunter who appears for only a few moments in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is getting his own movie. In the second and third entries in The Santa Clause trilogy, we learn that Santa is friends with The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and Sandman. These scenes only last a few moments in the films, but if you wanted to see more of this, you are in luck, as Dreamworks brings us Rise of the Guardians, which, at first glance, looks as if it was based on those scenes.

Rise of the Guardians introduces us to the Guardians -- North (voiced by Alec Baldwin), a large man with a Russian accent who lives at the North Pole and oversees Christmas; Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a feisty rabbit who is in charge of Easter; Tooth (voiced by Isla Fisher), a hummingbird-like creature who, along with her many workers, collects the lost teeth of children; and Sandy, who gives children pleasant dreams. The Guardians are responsible for making sure that the children of the world remain happy and their existence depends on children believing in them. However, Pitch (voiced by Jude Law), the maker of nightmares, wants to see all of this change. He wants children to live in fear and stop believing in goodness, so he begins an assault on both the Guardians and children. The Guardians need help, so they recruit a new member, Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). Jack can create snow and wintry weather, but most children have never heard of him. As he longs to be known, Jack agrees to help the Guardians, in hopes that it will finally allow children to believe in him.

Rise of the Guardians is based on a series of books by William Joyce, the writer and illustrator whose work formed the basis for Robots and Meet the Robinsons. Now, these books were published years after The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3 were released, but, as Joyce is clearly a clever guy, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The main difference is that Rise of the Guardians focuses on Jack Frost. While we've all heard "Jack Frost nipping at your nose" and the character has been personified in the past, this is a somewhat unique take on him. He's portrayed as an impish boy who loves play and mischief. (He know that he's young and playful because he's wearing a hoodie, the go-to garment to signify a young and hip character these days.) Jack wanders the Earth making snow days for kids and facilitating their play in the snow, but they can't see him. Jack not only longs to be acknowledged, but he wants to know about his mysterious past as well. Jack's journey serves as a backbone to the movie.

The film wisely takes the familiar characters and places them in a somewhat pedestrian, but still interesting story. In many ways, this is like one of those Rankin-Bass holiday specials, only on a much larger scale. The film is essentially an action-adventure, as we watch the Guardians attempt to stop Pitch. There are some nicely done action set-pieces here, and Pitch borders on being one of those classic scary animated villains. There are also some poignant moments, as the movie features a nice message about the power of belief and the importance of maintaining child-like wonder. As one would want from an animated film, there are also some funny moments here, and Sandy steals the show at times -- he doesn't talk, but his gestures are definitely funny.

Rise of the Guardians is an interesting clash of the old and the new. Again, it features familiar characters and ideas which we've seen before. However, there is a definite contemporary edge to all of it. (I must say that I wasn't crazy about Santa having tattoos.) Placing Jack Frost in the lead gives us a new character to study and it keeps the movie from feeling stale. The action is well-paced and the animation looks great. But, I still think that the idea of The Tooth Fairy being a big hummingbird is a little out there.

Rise of the Guardians made me wonder if Jack was a ghost on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. I assume that this was a digital-to-digital transfer. The colors look fantastic and the lighting effects, such as Sandy's sand, really stand out. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent and the image show nice depth. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and most every scene offers something coming from the left or right of the screen. The surround effects are nicely detailed and really involve us in the action sequences. The subwoofer effects are solid, but never overpower the dialogue. A separate Blu-ray Disc houses a 3D version of the film which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and it contains a MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27/18 Mbps. The 3D effects are nicely done and the depth is great. The characters and objects in the foreground are nicely separate from the background and in certain scenes, we can really feel the space between them. There are a few shots which produce a mild but effective sense of objects leaping from the screen. The same audio track as the Blu-ray is present here.

The Rise of the Guardians Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Peter Ramsey and Producers Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein. "Behind the Magic" (28 minutes) is a four-part making-of featurette which offers interviews with the filmmakers, some concept art, and some shots of the animators at work. This piece explores the looks the characters and settings, the visual effects, and the music. "The Man Behind the Guardians" (6 minutes) offers an interview with author William Joyce, who wrote the books on which the movie is based. "Dreamers & Believers" (11 minutes) examines the characters one-by-one and also offers video of the voice actors at work. "Sandy's Dream Guide" is an interactive feature, as are "Jack Frost Snowball Showdown!" and "Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy".

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.