We took the girls to see Rise of the Guardians in 3D this weekend. The latest offering from the creators of How to Train Your Dragon (which I loved) looked cool from the trailer. The voice talent–including Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Alec Baldwin (who was unrecognizable with an Eastern European accent) was a fun list. The movie didn’t disappoint. The characters were (mostly) fantastic, the story a little cheesy but fun and the Pagan elements subtle enough to not bother non-Pagans while remaining a lot of fun for those of us who notice that sort of thing. Final result? The girls (ages 4 and 7*) loved it and Scott and I were entertained as well.
**If you like to go into movies knowing nothing, you might want to skip this paragraph. I don’t give specific spoilers, but it explains the basic premise of the movie, and GG thought it only fair I warn you. **
The basic premise is that the major characters children believe in–Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and (more randomly chosen) the Sandman are “Guardians” of children’s hope and safety. As long as children believe in them they spread wonder, hope, dreams, etc. thereby protecting the integrity of childhood. This goodness is threatened by the rise of Pitch Black, the bogeyman, who spreads fear through nightmares (literal night-mares, horses who bring bad dreams). His goal is to bring another Dark Ages where people cower in fear of the dark instead of living in hope of the light. Though the film is technically set at Easter-time it’s a very appropriate Winter Solstice message. (Plus with all the snow and Santa’s overwhelming presence, it feels way more like a winter movie.)
The trailers intrigued me with the tattooed Santa Claus and tough-talking, boomerang sporting Easter Bunny. For me, these interesting takes on classic characters was the best part of the movie. From a Pagan perspective, they struck a nice balance of using the common names of the holidays (Christmas and Easter) while plugging into the legends’ more ancient roots. Each character has interesting special powers, too.
Santa (called “North” in the movie) comes from Eastern Europe/Russia. He has a sweet scene about his own character involving a matryoshka doll. He creates portals out of snow globes and his tricked out sleigh and fearsome reindeer are awesome.
The pugnacious Easter Bunny lives in Australia (don’t know where that came from…Hugh Jackman’s accent maybe?) in a lair with ancient egg carvings, reminiscent of Easter Island head sculptures. His method of travel through instant rabbit holes was cool, as was his use of boomerangs as the weapons they actually are instead of the frisbee-like toy I’ve normally seen them portrayed as. (Maybe that’s just me?) This is no fluffy bunny.
The tooth fairy, while visually interesting from a design perspective, was sweet and cute and not very powerful, and as the only female guardian I found this disappointing. While she’s not totally helpless or TSTL or anything, I wish they could’ve given her a little more oomph.
The mute Sandman, bringer of only good dreams in this version, was clever and (I’m trying not to give too much away here) surprisingly unstereotyped. I liked him quite a bit.
Jack Frost, the hero of the story, is called from mythical-creature-obscurity to be a Guardian early on in the film (this is in no way surprising, so I don’t think of it as a spoiler). In many ways your typical new-called hero, he’s a prankster with a heart of gold–an iconic trickster. I did love how his character growth doesn’t change who he is, but finds the strength in who he is.
Overall I really enjoyed this film and recommend it as family entertainment that will actually entertain the whole family. Any Pagans looking for a holiday film that will appeal to our vision of the holidays will find it here. Plus it’s not going to offend people of other faiths, so you can go with the non-Pagan cousins. Bonus for Heathens, the moon–which is sort of a character in a very Pagan way–is named Mani, after the Norse god of the moon.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
* One note about our girls’ ages and movies. They arrived at our house having already seen all sorts of movies I probably wouldn’t have let them watch, particularly the four-year-old. One result of this is that movies don’t scare them. I mean, I’m not plopping Saw in front of them or anything crazy like that, but what my girls’ can watch without flinching may not be a reflection of what’s typical for that age. I’m not sure, though, because they’re my only point of reference. So be forewarned that there are some creepy animated horses (“night-mares”), but my ladies didn’t find them frightening, even in the 3D version we went to.
+ Featured Image: Promotional poster for Rise of the Guardians. Used without permission, but I hope Dreamworks forgives me as I’m using it to tell people to go to their movie. (Same goes for the North poster above.)