Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Movie Junkie: Rise of the Guardians

I remember watching this trailer and thinking in the back of my head "I want to see this."

I thought the idea was really intriguing -- Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and The Sandman join up with a new Guardian added to their ranks -- Jack Frost -- to protect the kids of the world from an old threat reasserting itself: Pitch Black (a.k.a. The Boogeyman).

We finally saw it this past weekend. I thought the movie came out last year and i was finally catching up -- but it had came out in 2012! Time flies entirely too fast.

I gotta tell you, this movie -- much like reading Neil Gaiman's Coraline last week -- made me feel like I was 9 again. There was just this thrill of the story and the wonderment in reading/watching both. Seriously, we rented it, and I watched it 3 times in 48 hours. 3 TIMES! I don't usually do that. In fact, I very rarely do that in such close proximity. I mean, yes, I'll binge-watch, so we'll watch a bunch of episodes over say, a weekend but that's usually episodes of a TV show. And yes, there are movies (The Apartment, Pollock, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Herb and Dorothy) that I will watch over and over or play and just listen to as I draw my comics, but I don't usually sit and watch a movie several times in the space of 2 days!

I'll tell you why I fell in love with this movie and its art direction.

Firstly, it's based on William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood children's storybooks series. I discovered William Joyce when I first moved to Nashville. While I drew, I would play the PBS channel and watch his cartoon, George Shrinks. (It's like Stuart Little except it's a teeny little boy instead of a teeny little mouse.) His artwork is beautiful and the cartoons were mellow, fun, inventive and pretty to look at. The animating team on Rise of The Guardians did an amazing job taking his work all to the next level and beyond.

The art direction is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Not only did I enjoy the story immensely, but the visual details were amazing -- like Santa Claus had tattoos! And spoke with a Russian accent! The Easter Bunny was a bad-a**, was the size of a kangaroo and wielded boomerangs!! The Tooth Fairy and her little fairy army were all dressed like iridescent hummingbirds! And The Sandman was adorably  -- and appropriately! -- squishy, cuddly-pillow shaped and mute!

How can we NOT love these elves??!!
And the Elves, Yeti, and Stone Eggs were just fantastic-looking and great characters!

The story further fell in to this theme I've bumped into since watching Tomorrowland a month ago. (And I love when a theme happens; makes you pay attention, doesn't it?) Mainly the one about overcoming FEAR and aiming for and protecting dreams and imagination and Hope.

Here in Rise of the Guardians, The Sandman guards Dreams, Santa Claus guards Wonder, the Tooth Fairy guards (childhood) Memories, the Easter Bunny guards Hope, and (newly appointed) Jack Frost guards children's sense of Fun (appropriately timed I thought, considering the new threat of children staying indoors too much more than they ought to and not having as much outdoor fun as earlier generations have had.)

Even the Yeti are adorable!!
I loved that they were Guardians, because in a very simple way it helped me resolve a puzzle I have been struggling with for years and years. And I'll be blunt.

I'd been raised Catholic, so I knew all these legends.

When I became a Pentecostal after I was 18 we were taught "not to mix with the world" -- no Christmas trees, no TV, no movies (!) etc., etc., a lot of rules that are essentially supposed to help us to focus on Jesus Christ and on each other. I understand the point: the rules are supposed help us to not create idols out of the everyday so that we can focus on what's actually important, loving one another. Only nobody says it that way. Instead it's all about "these things are evil and are idols and don't get carried away by them, so keep away!" It's all approached in a more fearful-of-getting-World-cooties, in a way, instead of teaching each other how we need to be mindful of what we put into ourselves so we don't put out garbage.

So what do you do with all the things that used to delight you with their prettiness? You throw them away. Or stuff em in a box and pretend they are no longer there.

But I loved the premise of Rise of the Guardians, which is part of this greater theme I've been seeing: the simplicity of -- without making them idols -- just guarding each other's sense of wonder, each other's hopes and dreams, even guarding memories and fun because without those, the vaccuum has to get filled by something. And fear is not an acceptable substitute. And yeah, yeah, the Religious will argue 'Yes, but fill the vacuum with God' -- and so I will say, "Yes! These are all good things and are all of God, because He is the Author of all Good Things."

So I finally understand their appropriate place now. Why we share these sweet little legends that make childhood so much fun. Not for them to become idols and make holidays plastic. There is just no substitute for God and the Life He offers. But just to make the sharing of Life with each other more enjoyable and happy.

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