Rise of the Guardians: A Journey to Find One’s Center

I finally got to see the new Rise of the Guardians movie with my sister and boy did it not disappoint. I actually don’t know why but I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I first saw the trailer. At first I thought it was gonna be a sequel to the Legend of the Guardians but once I saw the premise and saw otherwise, I grew to anticipate it more. I guess I loved the idea of heroes (in this case, childhood fantasies) banding together even though as a Filipino, I’m more culturally-removed from them. In any case, I was very excited to find out what would happen if the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Jack Frost ever met. 😀

Rise of the Guardians: A Journey to Find One’s Center

The plot:

Jack Frost dies saving his sister then is turned into a winter spirit by the Man in the Moon (not remembering who he was afterwards) and 300 years later, he still brings fun but causes mischief on the children of the earth. Unlike the Guardians however, nobody believes in him. Meanwhile, North (Santa Claus) is disturbed by an apparition of the Bogeyman in the North Pole so he convenes a meeting of the ‘Big Four’. Along with Sandy (Sandman), Bunnymund (Easter Bunny) and Tooth (Tooth Fairy), they are told by the Man in the Moon that the threat is apparently real and that they need the help of a new chosen guardian: Jack Frost.

They then abduct Jack in order to induct him in but he is quickly overwhelmed with the whole idea given the isolation he has felt all these years. He does not think he deserves the responsibility nor does he want it. North attempts to reason with him, asking him what his ‘center’ (core of his being) is, and tries to help him realize his potential. North convinces him to help them fight the impending danger brought by Pitch (The Bogeyman).

At Tooth’s castle, they find out that Pitch has abducted all of the fairies and all of the children’s teeth which according to Tooth, holds a child’s memories. Jack is told that his tooth holds his own memories but since Pitch has taken every one of them, they can’t help him recover them. Without the tooth fairies doing their job, children all over the world start to lose faith in the Tooth Fairy, weakening her powers. To prevent further damage, the Guardians along with Jack take it upon themselves to collect the teeth in order to keep the children’s belief. In the course of their efforts, they meet a young boy named Jamie who fervently believes in every one of them (as a result, he can see their corporeal forms) except for Jack. This furthered harbored doubts within Jack about his purpose in the world.

Pitch, disgruntled because his attack on Tooth did not pan out, decides to attack the guardians directly. Although they put up a good fight, the Guardians are overwhelmed and Sandy is seemingly killed. They mourn Sandy’s loss but decide to turn it around during the coming Easter so that kids will believe in them more than ever. They travel to Bunny’s land where they find Sophie (Jamie’s sister) who mistakenly stepped into a portal ball that North unconsciously dropped. Here, the Guardians are reminded by Jack about the beauty and joy of bringing fun to the kids in person and together, they all prepared for the coming Easter.

Jack offers to take Sophie home but on his way back, he is baited by Pitch who offers veiled empathy to his plight and offers that Jack joins him. Jack refuses but is trapped by Pitch, leaving him free to attack Bunny’s world and destroy all of the Easter eggs headed for the outside world. With no eggs during Easter, kids slowly started to not believe in the guardians anymore thus further weakening them.

Feeling responsible for what happened, Jack flies to contemplate by himself in Antartica but Pitch once more catches up to him and gives him the same offer. He also reveals that he has Baby Tooth (the tooth fairy that Jack was able to save from his initial onslaught) and informs Jack that if he does not want to join Pitch then he would not be allowed to interfere. Pitch asks for his staff which he surrenders in exchange for Baby Tooth. Pitch does not honor the exchange but ends up breaking Jack’s staff in two and leaves him and Baby Tooth in an icy gorge. There, with the help of Baby Tooth, he ends up activating his tooth that he managed to take away from Pitch and recovers his memory before he was a spirit. Realizing that his love and heroism for his sister was the reason that the Man in the Moon made him a spirit, he receives new confidence and with this, was able to mend his broken staff.

Elsewhere, with the death of Sandy and Easter’s failing, all of the children of the world lost faith save for one: Jamie. Jack goes to the boy and does everything to make him believe again. In the process, the boy believed in him as well. Vowing to protect the last ‘light’, the weakened Guardians rally to Jamie’s defense as Pitch makes his move. Weak as they are (Tooth not being able to fly, Bunny turned into a small rabbit and North became a frail old man), they still pooled their powers to combat Pitch. Jack realizes that this may not be enough and decides to do what he does best: bring fun. Using his ‘center’, he gathers all of Jamie’s friends and renews their faith in the spirits which in turn revitalizes the Guardian’s strength in battle. The children’s strong faith was able to resurrect Sandy as well and together, they were able to cast out Pitch for good.

The film ends with Jack finally swearing in to be a true Guardian and promising Jamie that they will always watch over him and all the children of the world. End scene.

It was a fun-filled family movie, that’s for sure. It wasn’t cerebral nor will it leave you wondering if the whole scene was in dream state or if Leonardo di Caprio finally gets a break. But sometimes, being just that is already more than enough.

First, I liked the whole introspective battle between Jack about bringing happiness but seemingly lost in his whole purpose in the universe. He was funny sure, but his journey hasn’t left him happy. It’s actually a representation of what we all feel. How we struggle to find purpose in a world where we were technically just cast out to. The scene with North and asking him what his center was, was actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It brought Jack’s dilemma home but it also showed the purity of the principle that North himself bases his whole existence on. I loved that contrast and made me root for Jack’s resolution all the more. Thank god the animated film industry still hasn’t lost its penchant for happy endings because the film gave him exactly that. 😀

Second, the characters. I loved the idea that Santa Claus, Sandman, Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were spirit Guardians. Ones who protect Wonder, Dreams, Memories and Hope respectively. The idea that they get their strength from belief is not original (American Gods or even back in Greek mythology) but it played well on showing how important it is for us to be kids once in a while. I actually did not recognize Alec Baldwin’s voice as North although Hugh Jackman’s Australian accent was very recognizable. Which made the whole running gag of the Easter Kangaroo funnier. The bogeyman was also a nice plot device. I actually felt a little sorry for him at the end because at the core of it, he too just wanted to be believed in like Jack Frost. And Jude Law was amazing in bringing his character to life.

Third, the badass-ery of the Sandman. See, I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan and I’m just three volumes short of completing his Sandman library so I grew to love that as a character. But while the adult in me loved the moody and morose Morpheus, the kid in me would love the Lord of Dreams to be a mute, cute and cuddly little fellow. Apparently, according to the lore that William Joyce created, Sandy was the first guardian ever chosen by the Man in the Moon. Maybe because before everything else, all of us learned how to dream first. So he’s the most powerful of them all. 😀 I absolutely loved when he suddenly got serious and kicked Pitch’s ass and all his cute little antics that despite not being able to say anything, he was still my favorite character in the movie. I almost choked up when he seemingly died and I actually did not care whatever Deus ex machina crap they pull out as long as they brought Sandy back. 😀

He may have been mute but he sure as hell was cute!

He may have been mute but he sure as hell was cute!

And there were the little things that had me laughing heartily all throughout the movie. The trumpet-blowing elf, the slave-driven Yeti, Sophie, the teeth-collecting race and others. If you want to be critical about it, there were plot holes as well (like how exactly Sandy was brought back to life and what the kids did when Jamie said that he knew what they had to do) but frankly those were the moments that only a nit-picker could latch on to. For the everyday movie goer, Rise of the Guardians was nothing short of incredible. It appealed to everyone’s inner kid –even for just an hour and a half- with its lovable character incarnations and heart-warming plot. I know that in an age where animated movies get spewed out left and right, it could easily get lost in the masses’ consciousness but I feel like Rise of the Guardians could be poised to become a great classic. It’s been a while since I clapped at the end of a movie but I did with this one, and I wasn’t the only one at that. Had I seen the movie when I was a kid, I’m pretty sure that it would have the same effect that the Land Before Time had on me: a story that I would never forget and a story that would make me want to believe. 🙂

Jack to Sandy: “Whoah. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

Jack: “When was the last time you played with a kid?”

North: “We’re so busy bringing joy to children, we do not have time!…for children.”

Sidenote: While the movie itself was incredible, the initial experience of going to SM Cinema was an absolute pain. They kept heralding us to different cinemas (Cinema 12 first then to 2 then back again to 12 then back again to 2!) because even the management was confused about what the hell was going on. Really SM Fairview? Sort out your crap next time OK?

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