Every year during the holiday season we're sure to see one or two computer-animated flicks centered on Christmas. 'Rise of the Guardians' came out last year during the holiday season, though I guess it could also be considered an Easter movie which is why the Blu-ray is coming out now.
From the posters and larger-than-life-size cardboard theater stand-up promos of an action hero Easter Bunny and a tattooed Santa Claus, 'Rise of the Guardians' appeared, at least to me, to be a holiday-themed cash grab. I didn't find myself very excited about the notion of DreamWorks taking a bunch of characters that belong to the public domain and fashioning a movie around them. Maybe it was the Grinch in me, but I was less than enthused.
This is a lesson I learn over and over again at the movies. Judging a movie before I've seen it sometimes backfires. I find myself walking out of the movie overjoyed with what I just saw and disappointed in myself for anticipating failure. I gladly admit to being wrong here.
Even though 'Brave' won the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars I enjoyed 'Rise of the Guardians' more. 'Brave' was a decent movie, but I felt that 'Rise of the Guardians' tapped into my inner child. Everything from its gloriously stylized animation to its clever storyline made me smile.
The story centers on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). Jack is a lonely mythical character who brings chill, snow, and ice, but isn't really remembered or revered. He's mischievous, but delights when kids have fun with his icy creations. Jack lives a solitary life, until he's called as a Guardian.
The Guardians are a group of folklore characters: Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher). They've been tasked by the Man in the Moon to keep the children of the world safe. Their power comes from the children believing in them.
Right before Easter a great darkness arises on the world. The Guardians are caught off guard. The disturbance is Pitch (voiced by Jude Law). Pitch, more commonly known as the Boogie Man, has grown powerful in his absence. He's learned how to turn dreams into nightmares. He soon starts waging a war on the belief of children worldwide.
What 'Rise of the Guardians' does so well is mesh the big action set pieces with storied character building. Jack is the character undergoing the most changes and the movie puts a keen focus on his feelings and emotions. The movie feels like it has multiple layers instead of gliding along on its pretty animation alone.
DreamWorks has always played second fiddle to Pixar. Though, the past few years have shown a slight shift in supremacy. Pixar may be still winning the awards, but DreamWorks is catching up both in animation prowess and clever storytelling.
'Rise of the Guardians' is a fun family-oriented tale that will delight kids and please adults. You really can't go wrong here.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from DreamWorks Home Entertainment. An UltraViolet Digital Copy is also included in the package. The two discs are housed in a standard keepcase that comes with a colorful slipcover. Oh, and lest I forget, it also comes with a few coupons to Chuck E. Cheese's.
Note: 'Rise of the Guardians' has been released in both 3D and 2D versions. This review is for the 2D version.
I was astounded by the animation when I first saw the movie. I loved the stylistic, angular approach that DreamWorks provided. This is the best their humans have looked so far. The 1080p presentation does an accurate, and immaculate, job at presenting the animation in as much detail as possible.
The detail contained in each and every grain of Sandman's dream sand is where the resolution is really noticeable. Sand particles, each individual one, seem to be distinct and visible. On the big screen they looked amazing, on the small screen they look just as good. Textures like Bunny's fur or the woven texture of Jack's hoodie are beautifully rendered.
Colors are astonishingly bright and vivid. From the red of Santa's suit to the icy blue lightning bolts emitted from Jack's cane the colors here are always eye-popping. Black, which is predominately featured whenever Pitch is on screen, is just as amazing. Pitch's nightmare sand is an inky substance that floats through the sky and materializes into demonic horses. Each piece of black sand is discernible, while the group of them put together provide extremely satisfying black tones. Never a bit of banding or aliasing to report. As with most computer animated films made nowadays, 'Rise of the Guardians' offers up a demo-worthy HD presentation.
Running alongside the 5-star video is the equally impressive and wholly immersive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix provided by DreamWorks. The depth and breadth of this audio mix is beyond impressive. This is one you'll want to listen to again and again to catch all the little audio details.
Seamless transitions are created as sound flows from one channel to the next. A perfect example of this is the wooshing sound of sand, whether it be Pitch's evil sand or Sandman's good sand, as it travels from speaker to speaker without the slightest of hiccups. It's amazing how clear the transition is. The side speakers add that much more depth and creates an all-encompassing feeling.
The front and center speakers are alive with the movie's dialogue. Directionality of voices is superbly smooth. There's a sequence in the Tooth Fairy's palace where Pitch appears and disappears at will. His voice travels from one speaker to another easily. It's just one of the many demo-worthy scenes.
The exciting action is home to some great LFE. When Jack faces Pitch down in their aerial battle there's a huge explosion that booms through the sub-woofer. The bass here is deep and rumbling, just how it should be. What a great audio experience!
'Rise of the Guardians' was the biggest surprise of 2012 for me. It was an unexpected, heartfelt movie that honed in on what it means to be a child, and what it's like to believe in something you can't see. It harnesses the joy of childhood and packs an unforeseen emotional wallop. As a demo disc through and through 'Rise of the Guardians' is highly recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.