The story here, written by William Joyce, is really kind of strange. Basically, holiday and mythological creatures are personified by young people and a tattooed Santa Claus. In this clearly alternate universe, holiday and mythological creatures come to life, and when the world’s children are threatened by an evil character named Pitch, they must band together in order to thwart this menace. An all-knowing Man in the Moon looms above them giving structure and guidance taking on an almost spiritual or religious tone. But overall, the story is light on pathos and high on action and humor.
Don’t expect an instant holiday classic with “Rise,” because the strangeness of the entire affair makes it nothing more than a platform for action sequences and thrills. Merchandising could be strong in that the characters seem to be created in order to make this film universally acceptable and not just locked into one holiday season. Adults will be scratching their heads at times because certain story elements make very little sense. In fact, little effort is made to deliver credibly with the film’s overly familiar conclusion.
First-time director, Peter Ramsey, delivers a good-looking film that takes advantage of 3-D in a way similar to “Despicable Me.” In fact, the minions from “Me” are replaced here with tiny elves that are nothing more than comic relief. Such a thing is not surprising in a movie that feels overly contrived and recycled from other ideas and movies that came before it. Even though the movie is being released in the holiday season, and contains holiday characters, including Santa Claus, here called North, there is no definite designation of which holiday season is being targeted, other than the fact that there is snow on the ground (is it set during Easter?). This again is another example of how the story and the entire production is focused more on its marketable elements than on its narrative ones.
Fun in an overly simplistic and familiar way, “Rise of the Guardians” will do good business during the holiday season and then fade away after the Black Friday crowds dissipate.
Note: While Pitch is the boogie man in this film, it could be more inspired if the writers had focused on the villain being the commercial juggernaut that we have now come to know as Black Friday. Imagine how inspired such a story would have been.