The short and spoiler free version:
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Overall: A fun, good-humoured, friendly story uniting many of our favourite fictional icons to fight against nightmares.
Summary: ‘When the evil spirit Pitch launches an assault on Earth, the Immortal Guardians team up to protect the innocence of children all around the world.’ -IMDB
The slightly longer version (spoilers):
Who’s your favourite Guardian? Mine has to be the Sandman.
He’s silent, adorable, and beautifully animated. Though that last one could apply to all of the characters in this fan favourite. But Sandy, who communicates only through sand images above his head and through dreams, wins my heart. He is also the perfect opposite to this story’s villain, Pitch. PItch gives nightmares to Sandy’s good dreams, Sandy fights with golden sand whilst Pitch with black, physically Sandy looks short, round and cuddly, whilst Pitch is thin and angular. All in all, a good case to have Sandy wounded near the start of the film and out of action until the end, lest he steal too much of the show. In an adult version of this tale I would have them become reluctant acquaintances, each of them enhancing the belief in the other with a sort of begrudging wisdom.
But the star of this film is of course Jack Frost, fun-loving and caring and painfully invisible to the children he cares for for most of the film. This is both endearing and a plot hole, as spontaneous ice generation could have inspired belief in him a lot earlier than it did. With a friendly face and Chris Pine’s friendly voice he forms an ideal starting point to walk us into the world of the Guardians, characters we think we know that aren’t quite as we typically picture them. This includes Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman.
Of course the film is rich in undercurrent – using belief to fight fear, dreams versus nightmares, the strength of teamwork, finding your core and purpose… But the visual imagery is just distracting enough that we don’t feel overly patronised. Pitch makes a complex villain (like Loki, though they don’t share much else in common), and I am not the only one to be a fan of villains with a hint of backstory. In fact each of the Guardians have just enough understated backstory to be ripe for the picking by fan exploration.
The settings and loving flicks of humour throughout the film are what make it for me. Santa’s grotto with his personal office, globe, and cute toy-making army forms the centre hub, but the tooth fairy’s floating world and Bunny’s warren are likewise beautifully coloured and realised. The rivalry banter between Bunnymund and Santa for most important holiday, the frustration of a particular painting Yeti and Toothiana’s teeth enthusiasm (‘Have you ever seen a more adorable lateral incisor…?’) are just a few of the endearing moments that season this film.
It is doubtless a film easy to franchise. I already want a toy version of Sandy, a wind up musical elf and a live wallpaper of the final scene.
But for now, friends, I shall settle on a rewatch.