DreamWorks is an interesting studio and Rise of the Guardians was a very interesting movie for them. I think that movie was DreamWorks trying to do something it didn’t quite achieve.
Since its first animated movie, Antz, was released in 1998, the studio has released 26 (twenty-six!!!!) films and is has another 26 in development. That’s a lot of movies. Inevitably, some of them haven’t been really good while others have been genius. I feel it can be lazy some times. DreamWorks can be guilty of producing heartless films and hoping the mere amount of jokes will distract the audience from the lack of story and character development.
But I think Rise of the Guardians, or RotG for short, was an ambitious movie. It had more ambition than 90% of their movies and, yet, I think it lacked one final push from the filmmakers to elevate it to the level How To Train Your Dragon achieved back in 2010. First of all, here are 5 thing that are great about the movie! And now, here are my arguments as to why RotG was ambitious and yet, lacked something to make it truly great.
For starters, this movie was a family movie. This is a good thing, as animation studios sometimes make the mistake of underestimating their audience, thinking kids will be distracted by the jokes, colors and music and won’t notice the lack of story. Think of the movies you loved when you were a kid and re-watched now as you’re older. You always catch some little detail or risque joke the filmmakers included for their older audience. And when movies work on different levels, they are simply better. DreamWorks has been guilty of making films that have no real depth to them.
RotG is not one of these movies. Its main character, Jack Frost, is very flawed and therefore interesting. He wanders around, not being seen by anyone because kids don’t believe in him. Nobody sees him, nobody loves him, nobody appreciates him…so he wants to be appreciated and recognized! We can all relate to this. Even more so, he has little confidence in himself, a trait to which I believe everyone can relate. So he’s a complex, three dimensional character. That’s ambitious! But…
Supporting Character Development
I think the other Guardians are severely lacking in the character department. If they weren’t such iconic figures, I think I’d struggle to remember them as characters. What drives them as individuals? What are their flaws and how do they overcome them? I think the filmmakers could’ve worked more on the supporting cast and that would’ve made this movie a lot better. What’s your favorite Pixar film?
Think of the supporting characters and they probably have an arc in the movie. Dory gains confidence in herself just like Nemo and Violet, from The Incredibles. Jessie regains her hope in children and the Captain from Wall-E learns how to be a leader. The mark of a good movie is when the supporting characters all learn something too. In my opinion, RotG failed in this aspect.
Another very interesting aspect of the movie was the hero-villain dynamic. If you think about it, Pitch Black is extremely similar to Jack Frost. They are both people who feel forgotten and under-appreciated. But they act in very different ways to try and solve this. I find it very interesting when the hero understands the villain and yet fights to stop him because of his or her moral code. Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa are basically the same, except for their moral codes, which are complete opposites. This makes their conflict much more interesting. Sadly, the filmmakers didn’t have the time to make every character relationship as interesting as this one. The Tooth Fairy had a crush on Jack who in turn had a rivalry with the Easter Bunny. That was pretty much the defining traits of their relationships but they felt very flat, only done for humor.
I think RotG was a DreamWorks movie that wanted to be more than its average film and that, with one or two more rewrites, it would’ve been in the studio’s podium. The animation was beautiful and the concept was genius, especially with The Avengers being the hit that it was. If only the characters had been as good as the character design! This movie would’ve been more appreciated and word of mouth would’ve helped it a bit in the box office against giants like Twilight and Skyfall. Let’s hope DreamWorks keeps being ambitious, trying to make movies as good as How To Train Your Dragon! Maybe it’ll be lucky next time and it won’t have its masterpiece competing against what is arguably the greatest animated movie of all time: Toy Story 3.
What do think about my views on the movie? Do you agree? Disagree? Did that picture of Brad Bird make your day better? Remember a new episode of The Rotoscopers will be released tomorrow, on Friday, reviewing Rise of The Guardians! Love each other!
Pablo Ruiz is a Colombian filmmaker. Movies like Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin made him fall in love with the art form and now he hopes to dedicate his life to telling stories, hopefully for Pixar (if they go back to doing original films).
Some of his ambitions are making a movie as emotionally impacting as Toy Story 3, meeting JK Rowling, and petting a million dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@PabloRV7).