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.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount and DreamWorks Home Entertainment bring 'Rise of the Guardians' to 3D Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy code and a coupon for Chuck E. Cheese's. The first two are Region Free, BD50 discs, while the third is a DVD-9 copy. All three are housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with an embossed slipcover. After a couple of trailers, viewers are taken to an animated menu screen with the usual options, music and full-motion clips.
'Rise of the Guardians' debuts on 3D Blu-ray with a stunning, reference-level 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode that's vibrant and brilliant. All manner of objects and delightfully colorful things come charging at the audience and appear to float in the middle of the living room. Jack Frost's snowflakes move in and out and around the frame while Sandman's streams of dream-inducing sand hover and twirl, penetrating through the screen with spectacular realism and tempting viewers to swat them away. Separation between the foreground and background is often striking and impressive, creating a jaw-dropping sense of depth and distance that's consistent from beginning to end. Action sequences, particularly when Jack flies through town streets, are notable and most exciting with plenty of visual gimmicks and pop-up effects to enjoy.
The rest of the 1.78:1 image displays a vivid and pitch-perfect contrast balance with crisp, clean whites. In spite of the dark glasses, the video comes with a lavish, pulsating assortment of colors, from intense primaries at Bunny's underground lair to the warm, effervescent pastel hues at Tooth Fairy's palace. Black levels are inky rich with excellent gradations in the grayscale and dynamic range. Delineation within the shadows is plainly visible, which is great seeing as how a good chunk of the story takes place in dark environments or at night.
The digital-to-digital transfer shows razor-sharp details, giving audiences the opportunity to really appreciate the talented efforts of animators. Whether atop Jack's head, Santa's beard, or all over Bunny's body, hair sways to and fro with independently of each other. Individual strands of thread in the character's outfits are distinct; you can practically count each brick in the buildings; and every feather of Tooth's body is very well-defined.
Overall, the DreamWorks animated film makes a superb and spectacular debut on 3D Blu-ray.
The fantasy kids flick also arrives with an equally fantastic Dolby TrueHD soundtrack which continuously employs the surround speakers during action sequences. When characters and objects fly through the air, they whiz by to the left and right of the listener, sometimes landing in the far back. Boogeyman also likes to move around a great deal when appearing on screen, so his voice tends to travel around the room quite a bit. Atmospherics are very subtle, but convincing and discrete nonetheless with splendid, flawless panning. This creates a wonderfully immersive environment that puts viewers right in the middle of the excitement or adds an appreciable depth to the quieter moments. Music also spreads throughout the system and expands the soundfield.
In the front soundstage, dialogue is precise and crystal-clear while channel separation remains fluid and well-balanced. Imaging feels spacious and widespread with plenty of off-screen details that create a highly-enjoyable wall of sound. The mid-range is extensive with stunning clarity and differentiation between the highs and mids, allowing for the smallest sound, like the soft tweets of Tooth's fairies, to be perfectly heard while the upper frequencies never falter or distort. Low-frequency effects were a very nice surprise as well with deep, responsive punchiness for the majority of the runtime along with a couple very-low rumbles from time to time.
All in all, the lossless mix is a great joy and splendid listen.
A surprisingly entertaining and heartwarming tale featuring a troupe of legendary figures, 'Rise of the Guardians' is the latest hit from DreamWorks Animation with a soft, gushy center, true to the movie's plot. Debuting on 3D Blu-ray, the animated film arrives with stunning, reference-quality video and an outstanding audio presentation. With a wealth of supplements, the overall package is exciting for the whole family and well-worth the asking price.