There was a movie of the late December 2012 which belonged more to 2013 than 2012, and as the 2013 Movies List does include a movie which was released in the previous year, but was watched in the theatres later, including this story of the wonderful guardians and getting another special, honorary position for it shall do no harm. This might have arrived earlier in the United States, but in India, it came late for good – for Christmas, which made the occasion even better. This animated movie tells a story about the popular characters of the ancient beliefs, here referred to as the Guardians – Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Sandman, who are forced to enlist a much less interested and not-so-caring about the world, the seemingly selfish Jack Frost due to the advice of the Man in the Moon, to stop Bogeyman from immersing the world in darkness and change all the dreams of children into nightmares, with the first step being the destruction of all sources of belief, faith and hope. The movie is supposed to be based on the American author William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood book series and the short film The Man in the Moon by Joyce and Reel FX.
The spirit of winter, Jack Frost is raised from a frozen lake by the Man in the Moon with superpowers, but he is unseen in the world and shall remain so as he is not believed in, and all of his memories from his former life are gone. Only his name is known to the world and to him. Jack Frost has been popularly known to be the personification of frost and cold weather and his roots might be in the Norse or Anglo-Saxon system of beliefs. The most well known presence of Jack in literature might be in L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. This work by the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz might be the closest depiction of this character to the one in the movie. The other depictions can be left behind for now, and the stress is to be kept in what he is in the movie. He is a playful spirit who is hidden from the sights of people as he is not believed in, unlike the other guardians. But he plays pranks with the kids and lives as mysterious spirit with control over snow and ice. He is haunted throughout the movie with an identity crisis and his sadness and anger is not just because he is not seen by others, but also because he doesn’t know who he is, or his purpose. It is as if he never existed and never makes a difference.
It is the Man in the Moon who changes that life, for he instructs the Guardians to induct Jack Frost as a new Guardian in order to combat the threat of the powerful Bogeyman. There would be the question who this divine presence might be, and the answer could not be restricted to just one. It is just the moon that is shown, and there is the divine power which never hesitates to show the signs. From raising Jack Frost from the dead, to giving him his extraordinary powers and making the spirit a Guardian – all these is planned by that supreme power. But the person never speaks or make a direct impact on the world below on Earth, and it is with silence that the man speaks, most of the time. He is both the observer and the decision maker. His impact is not temporary, but permanent, and his power is not easily visible, but hidden. He might be one of those images and faces you see on the moon every day. He is surely no Neil Armstrong or Edwin Aldrin. As one finds it easy to believe what the science say about moon and all the details about it without being seen, it is not that hard to believe in a man in the moon – it is simpler and more believable than all the theories of science. May be that round thing you see every night on the sky is not really a natural satellite, but just some random lie invented by science just to make a good fictional story out of a white dot of heaven, and so might be the solar system, galaxies, meteors, comets, planets and whatever they might be.
As we now know that there is no moon as the science describes it, lets go to the next big character, the Bogeyman, also known as Pitch Black – the king of nightmares all set to become the emperor of all dreams, both good and bad. Wasn’t he the one nocturnal creature whom you feared without hesitation during your childhood? Didn’t he force you to look under the bed each and every time you wake up? No it rarely happened to me, as I had chosen to fall on the floor and sleep at times. Meanwhile, our villain is a strong and powerful one who has become better and meaner as he is powered by the fear of the children, and his nightmares cover all the good dreams of the world. His strives not on belief of love, but belief of fear. He feeds on the fear and thus on the souls of his victims, creating better nightmares every time. His aim is to destroy the Guardians one by one, by first getting rid of the faith and belief of children in them. He chooses them one by one and with his ever-increasing power driven by the dark horses of fear, he goes through his mission of darkness and pure evil which was hidden under an underground bed for a long time.
The Easter Bunny is the angry young man of the story and the short-tempered star of the Guardians – in simple words, and in ancient beliefs, that one rabbit bringing Easter eggs. This one is not the cute little one though, as he is a fighter who is always ready for action. He is not that friendly with Jack Frost in the beginning either. Well, he still brings the Easter eggs, and so that should be okay. Our Santa Claus, also referred to as North, is the more likable of characters, with his tattooed arms and funny dialogues. He is more of the leader of Guardians and he lives as a happy old man in his castle in the North Pole with Yetis and Christmas Elves. He has all he needs for Christmas including the flying reindeer driven chariot, and the gifts. He would deliver the presents, including toys and candy to all of the nice children in the world, as long as he can keep the Bogeyman away. As the movie was released just a few days before Christmas in India, the importance of Santa is further more – well, he is the most well-known of the team for sure, and the only one who can claim to be known enough might be the Bogeyman, and Easter Bunny can only claim the third place.
Then comes the Tooth Fairy, the mythical tooth collector. She is half human and half hummingbird and is assisted by a large number of little fairies who are just like herself, only incredibly small. According to the popular beliefs (which I came to know about only a decade ago) when a child loses a baby tooth and places it beneath the bed pillow, the Tooth Fairy will visit while the child sleeps, replacing the lost tooth with a small gift. Here in the movie, she collects the children’s teeth, and they hold their most precious memories during their life on Earth. She also has the role of storing them in her palace to return them when they are needed the most. She and her minions have an instant liking for Jack and his teeth. But her palace is the place which is first attacked by the Bogeyman who finds the memories very interesting. Well, I have always wondered where the dentists keep all those tooth which are taken out. May be they are given to the tooth fairies. I wonder if they keep that half-a-tooth of mine which was broken while eating “Chakka Varuthathu” in a special bottle. The Sandman is the next Guardian – according to the legends, the one who brings good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children while they sleep. Here he does not speak, but communicates through sand images that appears above his head. He is the exact opposite of Bogeyman, as the master of all good dreams.
These are our five guardians, one villain and the one divine element. Other than destroying evil, what the movie suggests is the importance of belief and saving the magic of childhood, both being destroyed by modernity. It tells the need for the power of wonder, faith, hope and belief in an artificial world where it is slowly, but surely disappearing, and are replaced by a void which can be filled by the wastes of hell, as inferno’s own dumping yard where no recycling of souls or bad deeds takes place. The machinery of the movie is without rust, as the magical 3D and beautiful animation tries the best to keep it working and to make this my favourite animated movie watched in a theatre – no disrespect to Kungfu Panda, but this one hit me better, in a good way. The Polar Express did a good job in re-affirming faith and belief, and Rise of the Guardians have done the same in an even better way. On first look, this might seem to be for kids, and there is no denying the fact that it could be a combination of X-Men and The Avengers for kids, but one can’t also deny that there has never been a more suitable animated family movie which is enjoyable to people of almost any age – not to forget the philosophical undercurrent which has its morality element running.
Release date: 21st November 2012 (USA); 21st December 2012 (India)
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Peter Ramsey
Starring (voice): Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.