A trilogy is really only as good as its final chapter, and our hidden Santa Trilogy brings with it a bit of a genre shift, as Santa's world is expanded.
Last time, Santa restored people's belief and faith in him as a symbol of hope and joy. Now he must take a stand once more, and rally allies to his side as an old foe returns...
If you have a problem, and no-one else can help...
Based on William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood books, Rise of the Guardians reveals that Santa Claus isn't the only mythical figure watching over children. In Part 2, Santa mentioned sometimes playing golf with the Easter Bunny, and that suggestion is proven true. Also, it's fun to note that Santa said that Bunny spends winter in New Zealand, and here he is voiced in full-on Aussie mode by Hugh Jackman.
|*SNIKT* "Hey, bub."|
Now, really Rise of the Guardians is about Jack Frost, the plucky young newcomer, but Santa plays an important role as the leader of the Guardians, and he's the driving heroic force behind much of the film.
A bit of backstory from Joyce's books, here.
Earth was once a pretty nasty place, especially for children. Things lurked in the dark and preyed upon them, making their lives a misery. But in the Dark Ages, the Man in the Moon, whose moonbeams chase away the dark, chose four individuals who would stand for, and protect, those things that were most important in children.
E. Aster Bunnymund, the Easter Bunny up there, was chosen to protect hope, for Easter is the herald of spring and rebirth.
Toothiana, the queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies, collects children's teeth in order to safeguard the most important memories of childhood, which are stored within the teeth.
Sanderson Mansnoozie, the Sandman, ensures that children can dream of wonderful things, free of fear.
And Nicholas St North, Santa Claus, protects children's sense of wonder.
Remember back in Part 1, when Claus and his wife Anya died in the blizzard, and were brought to the North Pole? There you have it. Claus/North was chosen to become Santa Claus at that moment. He had literally sacrificed his life in trying to give wonder and joy to children, and so he was proven worthy of becoming a Guardian.
The movie opens with Jack Frost's introduction. We see him rising from an icy lake and discovering he has the power of flight and the ability to create and control ice. Unfortunately, he is invisible and immaterial to mortals. He has no idea why he is here. All the Moon told him was his name. And so he waits, dwelling among humans, but separate from them.
We cut to 300 years later, to the present, where Santa is working away in his workshop. There's a cute concept represented here, that Santa designs new toys out of ice, and sends these as prototypes for his workers. Also, these are the elves...
Yep. Remember how I said in Part 1 that the toys Santa delivers aren't made by the elves? That comes up again, as we learn that it's actually yetis who do the manual labour at the Pole, while the elves are simply allowed to think that they really help out. Santa's learned his lesson from Patch's horrible mistakes.
|You are so fired, you daft bastard|
Santa, whose workshop now includes a funky steampunk globe for monitoring the status of children who still believe, sees a vision of a dark shadow moving across said globe. The Enemy has returned.
|"I'm in this movie?"|
No, Pitch Black. The Boogeyman. And what's his schtick? Fear. He wants nothing more than to spread fear among all the people in the world. The other Guardians aren't entirely convinced, as they already defeated him back in the Dark Ages, and when Santa summons them (the Northern Lights are his Bat Signal!), Bunny is particularly annoyed as it's three days before Easter and he has eggs to paint.
The Man in the Moon interrupts their arguing and confirms that Pitch is back, and reveals that he's chosen a new Guardian. Jack Frost.
Reactions are mixed, with Tooth's fairies swooning and Bunny being disgusted, as Jack apparently enjoys dicking around with Eager egg hunts. Still, destiny is destiny, and the Guardians deploy to bring Jack in.
Jack, voiced by Chris Pine, has grown into a mischevious rogue who causes trouble, ducks responsibility, and whose antics result in minor injuries.
|"I majored in Antics and Hijinks"|
He's also a lot of fun, and despite never receiving any recognition and not being believed in all these years, he still works to bring fun to kids.
Jack is... forcefully invited to the North Pole, by means of a sack and a magic portal. Though entertained at the idea of finally getting in (he's been trying to sneak in for years), he angrily rejects the idea that he can be a Guardian, leading to a tense stand-off between himself and Bunny, who takes offence at his attitude. Tooth is quite smitten, however.
|But who can blame her, right?|
Santa tries to talk to Jack about how important it is to be a Guardian, explaining that his own centre, wonder, is what makes him a Guardian. And once Jack figures out what his centre is, what it is he protects in children, he will be ready to help them fight Pitch.
Unfortunately, there's no time for a training montage, as Pitch attacks the Tooth Palace. The Guardians race into battle in Santa's sleigh.
|Pimp My Ride - Christmas edition|
It's a much more decked-put sleigh than we've seen before. Perhaps Santa took some ideas from Patch's flying car?
Something to note here is that, despite Santa traditionally having eight reindeer, there are only six shown in this movie. What happened to the other two? If you remember Santa Claus The Movie, Comet and Cupid were sick with the flu and had to sit out the movie's climax. So...?
One could infer from this that they actually died from the flu. That's certainly dark enough to fit with Santa Claus The Movie, but don't forget that scene from Miracle on 34th Street, with Santa visiting the reindeer in Central Park. He specifically apologised for not being to see them more often. And at the start of that movie, he wasn't on his way to watch the parade. Dorey had to follow him into Central Park to catch him and ask him to be their Santa. He was actually on his way to see the reindeer! Comet and Cupid are in reindeer retirement, having gotten on a bit in years.
So using a magical snow globe, Santa transports them all to the Tooth Palace.
|Where does he get those wonderful toys? Oh wait...|
When they arrive, they find the palace swarming with black nightmares. Pitch has developed a way to turn normal dreams into terrible creatures under his control. And somehow gained the power to create an entire army of them. The Guardians fight back, but the nightmares escape with the teeth, taking with them the most precious memories of every child in the world. Worse, they have also captured all of Tooth's fairies except one, Baby Tooth, meaning there is no-one left to collect children's teeth.
Children wake up, realising that the Tooth Fairy never came. Tooth's feathers begin to fall and her palace walls crumble. But Santa has a plan. The Guardians will step in and collect the teeth, delaying Pitch's plans for a little while. In exchange for help getting his own memories back, Jack Frost agrees to join the Guardians on their mission.
Of course, like any good villain, Pitch has a back-up plan, and ambushes the Guardians. With the rest of the team accidentally knocked out by Sandman's dreamsand after they were discovered by Jamie, a boy Jack has been trying to befriend, it's up to Jack and Sandman to face off against the nightmares.
The pair fight bravely, but Pitch takes a sneak shot. Just as the other Guardians join the fight and the tide is turning, Pitch shoots Sandman with an arrow, killing him.
The Guardians are left to mourn their friend, and for children the world over, there are no more good dreams, only nightmares.
|"This Pitch guy ain't that bad!"|
Lights start to go out. There is only one chance left. Easter. Bunny rallies the team and brings them to his Warren at the centre of the world, where the Guardians help him prepare the eggs (after almost murdering Jamie's little sister, Sophie), and learn an important lesson from Jack about how to deal with kids and have some fun with them.
Jack and Baby Tooth return Sophie to her home, and Jack is drawn away by the sound of his name being called. He is led underground to Pitch's lair. Which, incidentally, is located under an old bedframe in the middle of a forest. Yeah, not creepy at all...
He finds the tooth fairies, but they can't fly because not enough children believe in them anymore. Pitch tries to bribe Jack into leaving everything alone, by offering back his teeth. Jack takes them, but finds himself in one of Bunny's tunnels after refusing to leave. To his horror, he discovers that it was all a ruse. Pitch just wanted Jack out of the way to leave the Guardians vulnerable. All of the Easter eggs have been smashed, and now no-one is left to believe in the Easter Bunny.
Jack leaves, and encounters Pitch in a frozen wasteland. Pitch tries to convince Jack to join him, but he refuses, and so Pitch threatens to kill Baby Tooth if he doesn't surrender and hand over his staff. Jack complies, and Pitch snaps the staff in two, shattering Jack's power. He leaves them both in the cold and goes to watch his plans come to fruition, as children stop believing all over the world.
Jack opens his tooth box and regains his memories. We learn that Jack was human, and had a little sister. He saved her from falling through ice on a frozen lake. Although he was afraid, he makes a game out of getting her to inch closer to him until he can use a tree branch to sweep her to shore. Jack, however, falls through the ice, where he dies.
As with Santa before him, Jack was chosen because he sacrificed himself for a child.
Jack uses his powers to repair his staff and flies off to find the one light still remaining, Jamie. He manages to convince Jamie that the Easter Bunny is real, and in doing so, makes it snow in his bedroom. His reminds Jamie of his mother referring to "Jack Frost" and causes Jamie to believe in him. For the first time, a child can see Jack.
Santa, Tooth, and Bunny crash down in the sleigh, which is falling apart as belief fades from the world. Santa himself, an old man, can hardly stand without leaning on his sword. As for Bunny...
Pitch descends with his army of nightmares, and the Guardians are in no shape to fight. Even Jack isn't able to stand against Pitch, so great has the Boogeyman's power grown now that children can only have nightmares when they sleep. But Jack figures out the way to stop Pitch. Have a little fun.
Interrupting the villain's monologue with a snowball to the face, Jack drags Jamie and the Guardians on a sled ride through town, recruiting Jamie's friends to help. The children all start to see Jack, and their fun drives Pitch into a fury. He summons all of his nightmares to strike at the children.
Even weakened, the Guardians make a stand, and insist they will always protect the children. But who, Pitch asks, will protect them.
Jamie and the other children have an "I am Spartacus" moment, declaring that they're not afraid of Pitch or his nightmares. A nightmare dives down and bursts against Jamie's outstretched hand, turning back into glowing golden dreamsand.
The children's faith restores the Guardian's powers and they fight back. Santa uses his snowglobes to summon elves and yetis from the North Pole to help, while Bunny calls on his stone eggmen from the Warren. It's a great sequence, as each Guardian in turn gets to take a shot at Pitch, until the Boogeyman sneaks up behind Jack and is about to deliver the killing blow...
When a dreamsand whip snaps down and pulls Pitch over a truck and up a hill to a glowing, swirling mass of light.
|You're fucked now, mate.|
Not only have the children given the Guardians back their powers, but their belief has brought Sandman back from the dead! He pummels Pitch and turns all of the nightmares back into regular dreams. All over the world, children's dreams are restored and they start to believe once again.
Pitch is beaten, reduced to an invisible, immaterial thing like he used to be, and a pack of nightmares, this time created by Pitch's fears, drag him back down beneath the Earth.
The children of the world are saved. Jack is now the Guardian of fun, and he joins his new friends as they say goodbye to the children who have, in turn, saved them.
Of course, the question remains, how did Pitch get so powerful? He says it took him a long time to learn how to turn dreams into nightmares, but would knowledge alone be enough? Pitch is a creature of fear and darkness. If he was defeated once, left powerless, how could he come to affect dreams at all? Something must have happened. Something... someone, with a heart so dark, must have felt fear so great that it awoke the power in Pitch...
|You psychotic bastard!|
So there you have it. The hidden Santa Trilogy. I've enjoyed looking into these movies and picking at the story threads to see what we can weave. I might do more posts like this in the new year.
But for now, Merry Christmas everyone. I'll see you on the other side of the 25th, and hope you all have a happy, peaceful time with the ones you love.