The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013)

Some franchises die when they hit a blip in the road. And by die, I of course mean “get rebooted”. From scratch – new actors, same plots. It’s a shame, as sometimes you can just have a bad spell, which can be amended and made up for in future releases. However, that’s not Hollywood’s current modus operandi when it comes to films. It doesn’t make the money, or doesn’t go down well with fans? Can it and reboot it some time in the future. Look at Superman Returns, for instance. Fans didn’t like it, critics didn’t like it… end. Then we saw Man of Steel re-occur this year, which itself didn’t perform “as expected” at the box office. It only looks like that’s been saved by audiences’ lust for heroes and the addition of Batman into the mix in 2015. It’s probably this same lust that’s kept another franchise going… well, that and the fact that Fox needs to use these characters or they’ll lose them to Marvel. And these are some big characters… the X-Men. With perhaps one mutant standing above all others: The Wolverine.

The Wolverine (2013)

Now, Wolverine’s not been immune to being in some duds. X-Men: The Last Stand riled fan boys and girls around the world as not being that good. This was followed up with X-Men Origins: Wolverine… a film that was detested even more by the same set of fans. Me? Sure, both films went a little whacky and weird, bastardising plots and characters, but I wouldn’t troll along on some internet forum moaning about them. But Wolverine’s survived… and he’s back in The Wolverine. No mention of X-Men in the title, no mention of “X-Men” in the film… it’s a one man odyssey set in Japan, based on a very famous storyline from the comics.

Okay, so there are some (major) revisions to the comic storyline, but essentially we find ourselves with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in Canada as he comes to terms with what he did in X-Men: The Last Stand (namely, killing Jean Grey / The Phoenix, played by Famke Janssen). He’s still seeing her in his dreams, tempting him to try and do something he knows can cannot do… join her. You see, Wolverine is 200 years old by this point, but thanks to that regenerative ability, cannot die (well, except by drowning, but that’s not been disclosed yet in the movies). We then see Wolverine shipped to Japan to meet an old man he’d saved from the atom bombs being dropped during World War 2. Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) wants to repay Logan by removing his healing ability. Wolverine disagrees, but then gets thrown into a whole Yakuza storyline with him trying to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

The Wolverine (2013)

There’s a lot going on in the plot here, but overall… it works. For the most part. One of the problems levied against X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the fact that too many mutants were shoehorned into the plotting for the sake of it. Here the problem is yet again mutant based: Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova)… she’s pointless. She’s apparently hired as a biochemist / geneticist by Yashida to help him out with acquiring Wolverine’s powers. But she’s just a nuisance. Every single plot point pertaining to her could have been dropped and not had the slightest impact on the overall film. And her powers? Well, they just annoyed me.

Viper... Why?

Viper… Why?

Speaking of powers, one of the draws of this film is the promise of Wolverine losing his immortality. Normally, there’s no peril to be had, as you know he can heal from anything. Hell, in the comics he gets ripped in half, chewed up and digested by the Incredible Hulk (in a distopian future where the Hulk’s the head of a redneck clan of Hulks that rules the west coast of the US). But Wolverine heals and slashes his way out of the Hulk’s stomach. But here? Well, we have a very vulnerable Wolverine who CAN be killed. It makes for quite the interesting plot point and one that was pretty different. Sure, we still saw him pop his claws and tear the hell out of Yakuza (with no bloodshed), but he gets injured pretty damn well.

Hugh Jackman has to be admired for the commitment he puts into playing Wolverine, and he clearly loves the part. Physically you’ve got to hand it to Jackman, who at 45 still looks ripped when he plays the part. Indeed, some of the veins in his arms are actually quite sickening at one point – the guy is big. Some criticise the fact that “he’s not the Wolverine from the comics… he’s too tall, handsome etc.” – screw that. Sure, he’s not AS perfectly cast as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, but he’s damn good and delivers what we’d expect of him again. Sure, we want to see more of a feral, angry Wolverine – we all want that bezerker, but this is a 12 / PG-13 movie… we’re not going to get it.

Hugh Jackman... 45, and still ripped. Impressive work, bub.

Hugh Jackman… 45, and still ripped. Impressive work, bub.

I need to mention the constant recurrence of Famke Janssen in the movie. It’s a bit odd. Remember, X-Men: The Last Stand was released back in 2006… a good while ago. But The Wolverine places great emphasis on continuity. This is great, but also a hindrance. For anyone not familiar with the 2006 film, the appearance of this woman in his dreams is a bit peculiar. All they’ll notice is Janssen‘s cleavage coming on-screen every 20-30 minutes (she’s always in a bra or night-dress… with cleavage on show). Sure, we need to know he feels guilty, but too much reliance was put on this.

But what really bugged me with the movie was the conclusion. The final battles and what happens. Sure, it has a nice little twist to it, but it’s not what I was expecting. It also left me with a massive plot hole that was clearly shown on-screen but never discussed. Without spoiling anything… can someone tell me what Wolverine’s claws are made of now that battle’s over? Bone again? Hmm… I wonder if that’ll be forgotten by the time X-Men: Days of Future Past rolls around. Speaking of which… the mid-credits scene? Definitely worth waiting around for. Possibly the finest mid-credits scene of a superhero movie in quite some time. It’ll leave every X-Men fan buzzing for what’s to come – both the cameos and mentions of certain “Industry” names… Roll on 2014…

The Wolverine does some great service to ol’ Logan and finally gives him a starring role in a film that will overall be enjoyed by many. Having said that, it does have its flaws and struggles to hold a candle to even the weakest of the Marvel stable of films. I applaud its stripped down, character-centric approach and really liked the removal of his abilities for a while. It was still hampered by a lacklustre final showdown (as so many superhero movies do) and odd character inclusions. Still, credit to Jackman and director James Mangold… there’s life in the ol’ kanucklehead yet!

It’s ironic that the one mutant that’s capable of regenerating has yet to been rebooted in movie form. Some six movies on, we still have Hugh Jackman as Wolverine up on the screen. And it’s set to continue with next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past where we see the X-Men: First Class and X-Men: The Last Stand timelines merged with one another. This could FINALLY be the X-Men movie fans have been clamouring for. That, or we’re finally going to see true X-Men reboot… because unfortunately for Fox, they can’t just throw another hero that DOES earn money into the mix like Warner are doing with Superman / Batman… Damn studio politics!

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

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Les Misérables (2013)

Les Miserables (2013)

Back in a former life, before Film Phage was born, I actually worked in the record industry. I scouted bands on a national and international basis for a rather large record label. As such, I’ve got a pretty discerning ear for music. Most music. And if I had started a music site, it’d be called Phonic Phage. Maybe one day we’ll mutate into that, so hands off the name – same for Flick Phage if I ever decide to start reviewing books! All that being said, nothing terrifies me more than the prospect of a musical film. I don’t even like it when someone sings a solitary song in an otherwise tuneless film, so with that weighing heavily on my mind I headed out to see Les Misérables

Les Miserables (2013)

As I say, I’m no musical film fan. I remember seeing Sweeney Todd a few years ago and being mortified by the endless churning out of songs! Even my great love of all things Matt Stone and Trey Parker was tested with South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which featured a whole slew of songs. Some enjoyable, some less so. But saying that, I’m not averse to musical theatre and I’ll be one of the first to see The Book of Mormon when it hits the UK in a couple of months… but me and musical films? An entirely different kettle of fish.

Before seeing Les Misérables I was ready to write this off. For me, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine and not Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe is Maximus Decimus Aurelius and not Javert and Anne Hathaway is now Catwoman and not Fantine. And Sacha Baron Cohen? Well, his role’s pretty accurate: bizarre. And certainly none of them sing. Wolverine certainly doesn’t sing. But the film caught me off guard… Although I may have checked my watch a couple of times.

Wolverine needs to get his act together and have a shave before July!

Wolverine needs to get his act together and have a shave before July!

So, a real summary? Essentially, Wolverine / Jackman / Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread and is jailed / enslaved for an illogical length of time in revolutionary France. He’s overseen by Gladiator / Crowe / Javert – an Inspector who swears to monitor Valjean for the rest of his life to make sure he doesn’t reoffend. But Valjean flees. And does quite well for himself after changing his name – a total character reformation. But Javert never gives up – he’s a lot like Wile E. Coyote constantly chasing that roadrunner. Or General Ross who constantly chases The Hulk. He’s remorseless. There are also several subplots woven in here to add more songs. You’ve got Anne Hathaway‘s impoverished quest to get money for her daughter (who’ll become Amanda Seyfried) who’s in the care of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Oh, and you’ve got the whole French Revolution underclass being led by Marius (Eddie Redmayne).

OK, a tough plot to summarise, I’ll concede that. That’d be why it’s a three hour West End / Broadway musical then, split up into three acts. As someone who has no clue about what happens, I found Les Misérables particularly interesting and the plot intrigued me. I was dubious of how Hathaway‘s somewhat short time on screen could tally with all the praise and awards she’s been nominated for / received. But that dubiousness evaporated pretty sharply… Wow…

Les Miserables (2013)Much fuss has been made of the singing calibre of the cast. Praise has been rightfully doled onto Jackman, who is fantastic as Valjean – he really sells you every emotion that his character feels throughout the film. And Valjean has some major highs and lows in his life. However, less praise has been given to Russell Crowe as Jalvert. Some are saying his singing is awful, out of key etc. etc. However, I’m going to go on record as saying I thought Crowe was perhaps my highlight of the film. I loved his character and just think he conveyed it brilliantly. I’m no thespian, and my talent scouting days are from more popular music genres, but I still thought he brought the goods. I’m a fan of Crowe in general though. He’s often mocked, but I still hold him in high regard. In my eyes he’s on par with Jackman here. Maybe less emotional, but certainly as entertaining.

The other roles? They all do their part. I need to of course focus back onto Anne Hathaway. She looked incredibly distraught and beaten down and really sold me her plight with stark emotion, but she was somewhat “absent” from most of the movie, as fans of the musical will be well aware. Cohen also merits mention for providing some great comic relief. His accent lurches from horny Frenchman to cockney geezer to Ali G, but he definitely plays his role with aplomb.

Les Miserables (2013)

You’d be surprised just how accurate College Humor’s send up is… But it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

What was slightly more confusing is the choice of extras / minor parts. Why were all of the peasants in revolutionary France either from Yorkshire in the north of England, or from the east end of London? Yet all of the middle class were clearly from somewhere around Hertfordshire. I found it quite laughable that they still use northern accents / cockneys to play the impoverished. Some of the singing sounded like a track from the British punk band Gallows (see below for a great, aptly-titled, tune).

That wasn’t my only gripe either. I mentioned earlier how I was checking my watch. The film is simply too long winded in places. Its run time pushes 2 hours and 40 minutes, so it tests your resolve. If you love the stage version of Les Misérables then you’ll surely see time fly by. But for everyone else? Well, let’s just say that the third act drags quite a bit. Further to this, I just found some of the filming techniques a little dull at times. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the close up of the person singing. That’s great… but this is a film, and not a stage musical. I don’t need to see every mouth movement. I want to see the scene and put it in context. Films have such a large budget for a reason… use it.

Having said that, Les Misérables was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think I’d stay awake for the entire film, let alone enjoy it. I think a good deal of that enjoyment comes from the fact that I’ve no prior exposure to the plot, so as a film lover I could enjoy where events would take us next. The singing was just “there” in my eyes. Yes yes, it’s all delivered live to film and it worked well, but that wasn’t the reason I enjoyed the film. And I really think more credit needs to be given to Russell Crowe – people are being too snobbish about his performance. He’s an actor. A damn fine one. He’s not a musician.

So whilst my past is shrouded in mystery, you now know me as The Phage that used to dabble in music: the Phonic Phage. But much like Jean Valjean I’ve been on the run from my past for too long. It’s good to have it out in the open. But what I won’t do is sing a merry little song about it. For two hours. Because although I enjoyed Les Misérables, I hope Hollywood doesn’t jump on the bandwagon of making all musicals into films. It’s not a two way street, nor should it be! Just look at poor Spider-Man!

Phage Factor:

4 Star

Thirteen of the Best for 2013

Gaze into the Phage's Ball...

Gaze into the Phage’s Ball…

Happy New Year one and all! We’ve all managed to survive the armageddon and hopefully survived the welcoming in of 2013 last night. So now you have just one question on your lips about the year ahead right? What are the best films of 2013! No? You’re telling me you want to know if you’ll get that promotion / girl / boy / revenge? Well, I’m afraid I’m just going to answer the query about some of the biggest films to come in 2013. Last week we had a retrospective look back at 2012 with the 1st Annual Phagee Awards and now, like Janus – the namesake of January, we’re going to look forward to what’s to come. So I’ve picked thirteen films for 2013 that should be on your radar. Whilst I hope they’re all going to be hits… I can guarantee they’ll be an interesting watch, for better – or worse.

1) 14th February: A Good Day To Die Hard

2013 Die Hard 5

Yes, Bruce Willis will once again be donning a dirty vest and reprising his role as the unluckiest man in the world: John McClane. We cannot wait for this film. Film Phage are massive fans of the others in the franchise, so we’re eager to see what happens in the fifth. Sure, Die Hard 4 can’t hold a candle to Die Hard: With A Vengeance, but it was still great fun and we’re hoping for more of the same. The only worry? Having John McClane Jr. (aka Jack McClane, aka Jai Courtney) running around with him. Whilst we’re sure Courtney will do an admirable job… we still wish it was Tom Hardy in that role. We can dream right?

2) 27th March: Trance

2013 Trance

This one’s coming in low and hard, because I don’t think many people even know that Danny Boyle‘s latest film will be hitting cinemas in the Spring. This is the guy that brought you Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours to name but four of his eclectic movies. Whilst he’s not released too many details, we know it has James McAvoy at its lead and deals with art, ripping off gangsters and hypnosis, which leads to a reality-bending story where you don’t know what’s real from what’s resulting from the trance. It all sounds ludicrously trippy and we’re looking forward to having our minds warped.

3) 12th April: Oblivion

2013 Oblivion

Whilst nerdy gamers worldwide may be rejoicing in the premise of a live action retelling of the Oblivion video game, that’s not the case. No, this is a post-apocalyptic film starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. Whilst Cruise has been known to produce a dud once every so often, he’s a pretty bankable actor and only commits to promising films. This film puts Cruise as an engineer who returns to a war-ravaged Earth (we’ve been at war with aliens) and discovers a secret that turns the whole war on its head. Sure, Cruise has dabbled with aliens in the less-than-well-received War of the Worlds, but we’re excited by this. It has great potential.

4) 26th April: Iron Man 3

2013 Iron Man 3

Don’t tell me you couldn’t see this making my list? We’re massive Marvel fans at Film Phage and can’t wait for Robert Downey Jr. to don the red and yellow suit once more. Whilst it’s great to have Sir Ben Kingsley as a menacing Mandarin, we’re also very curious about Guy Pearce‘s role. If it’s true to the Extremis comic-book storyline then his character should have a nice meaty role. Pearce has impressed us in 2012 with his slimey performance in Lawless and we couldn’t help but like him in Lockout too. This could potentially be Downey Jr.‘s last outing as Iron Man in his own dedicated film, so we’re hoping that if it is – he goes out with a bang! We also get this a week before the US… which makes it even better.

5) 24th May: The Hangover Part III

2013 Hangover Part 3

The Hangover was a breath of fresh air for the comedy film world. It was rude, bombastic and totally absurd… it was great. So when Part II reared its head in 2011… well, we were all a bit disappointed. It was near enough a copy-and-paste of its predecessor. However, The Hangover Part III is promising to turn the concept on its head, with the guys (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) coming to the aid of Zach Galifianakis‘ Alan. At least, that’s what the rumours are indicating… we’ll see for sure come May.

6) 7th June: After Earth

2013 After Earth

When Will Smith releases a film, the world raises its head and takes notice. He, like Cruise, has released some dud movies, but he’s another incredibly bankable actor and generally has a fantastic number of releases under his belt. In After Earth we see him reunited on-screen with his son Jaden Smith, which is great… but isn’t the reason we’re excited about this. The film also marks the return of M. Night Shyamalan to the director’s chair some 3 years after the disaster that was The Last Airbender. All we really know is that it sees Big Willy crash land on a planet that’s not been inhabited by humans for 1000 years. We just hope that “the twist” isn’t that he’s time travelled and this IS Earth… A bit like Planet of the Apes, but without the damn dirty apes.

7) 14th June: Man of Steel

2013 Man of Steel

Although Batman’s done and dusted, Christopher Nolan‘s dabbling with the DC superheroes isn’t over. With Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, and Nolan as producer, we see the return of Superman. Whilst the trailers have been suitably vague, we’re excited to see what they’ll do with this franchise. Could it be the next Green Lantern, or will he be the new Dark Knight… or a Light Knight. With laser eyes, who can fly… and spin the world backwards. How they manage to ground such a ludicrously powerful hero will be interesting. Because as we know, all Hollywood cares about nowadays is making heroes “gritty” and “realistic”. We’ve high hopes for Henry Cavill though – he certainly looks the part, and with the main villain touted as Zod (another superpowered guy), we’re expecting fireworks.

8) 21st June: World War Z

2013 World War Z

This could be fantastic… but it could also be awful… This film worries us and excites us in equal measures. I’m a massive fan of Max Brooks’ original book by the same name. It’s utterly fantastic. But the Brad Pitt-led film deviates heavily from the concept of the book (an oral retelling of a war against a plague that turns people into zombies – told by the survivors). Instead, this film opts to follow Pitt -who works for the UN, during an onslaught in Pittsburgh. The trailer looks a bit of a mess, with the zombies somehow forming a tidal wave – they move like a liquid. An odd choice. I’d rather we saw the runners from 28 Days Later… but we’ll see how this turns out. We’re curious, to say the least.

9) 12th July: Monsters University

2013 Monsters University

Finally we get the follow up to 2001’s Monsters Inc., which is one of my favourite animated movies. We’re hoping that Monsters University goes beyond what was done back then and creates a truly funny and imaginative film. The original gang is back, so we can look forward to seeing Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in their University of Fear days. We know that they weren’t necessarily friends back then, so it’ll be an interesting plot. Let’s just hope the sequel / prequel is at least as good as the original so that it doesn’t sully (ha – that’s his name!) what was a great original film.

10) 26th July: The Wolverine

2013 The Wolverine

The most popular X-Man reappears on-screen this year – once again courtesy of Hugh Jackman. This one should be interesting. Apparently it’s going to skip over X-Men Origins: Wolverine and actually pick up from where X-Men: The Last Stand left off. Very interesting. Incidentally, it’s set in Japan and sees Logan coping with his losses and dealing with his life. Naturally, he’s going to have to pop those claws too to deal with some samurais. We’re also intrigued to see whether this somehow links in with 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which should feature Wolverine quite prominently. Hugh Jackman‘s signed on for it, so we shall see…

11) 20th September: Elysium

2013 Elysium

This is probably our most anticipated film on the list. Why? Because we’re seeing Neil Blomkamp returning as the writer and director. Who’s he? Only the guy behind District 9 – one of our favourite films. We’re still waiting on District 10 though – get on it Neil – we want to know what happened to Wikus! Why else should this be great? 1) the actors: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, 2) the story: rich folks live on a spacecraft, poor folks live on the wrecked Earth… and Matt Damon‘s going to equalise it! We’re very, very excited.

12) ??th October: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

2013 Sin City 2 A Dame To Kill For

2005’s Sin City was a beautiful piece of cinema. In every sense. It was pulpy, gritty and looked sublime. It was Robert Rodriguez at his best, adapting a great Max Miller story. Can he do it twice? Well we’ve got a hell of a lot of the cast back for events that are set just before the original film. That means Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Michael Madsen, Clive Owen etc. It’s a shame Bruce Willis doesn’t figure in this story, as his character was great. But hey – if we’ve got more of Mickey Rourke‘s Marv back up there smashing things, then we’re happy. It also features some bizarre cameos… Lady Gaga anyone?

13) 30th October: Thor: The Dark World

2013 Thor The Dark World

Rounding out our list of the thirteen most anticipated films is everyone’s favourite Norse God: Thor. Yes, Chris Hemsworth will be back at his ripped best and fighting a new evil… one that isn’t just Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki again! Hurrah! This time we’ll see him squaring off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith in what should be a refreshing new angle – not all God vs. God again, or Thor landing on Earth in the middle of nowhere doing his best impression of Crocodile Dundee… minus “y’call that a knife?” routine. Oh, and again… UK beats the US release by one week. We may have lost the battle for Wreck-It Ralph, but we’ve not lost the war yet my friends.

And that’s it – just a selection of thirteen of our picks of films to watch in 2013. We’ve not even touched on the new Fast & The Furious movie, which again has Dwayne Johnson in it, so it should be pretty good. Then there’s Gangster Squad, the eventual release of Wreck-It Ralph, and Spielberg‘s Robopocalypse. But hey – it’s thirteen films for 2013… I’ll do more films next year. Probably fourteen. If the world doesn’t end this year either.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

When I was a young ‘un I used to love the Christmas period. Well, I still do, but I used to love it even more and nothing signalled the arrival of Santa Claus (and the birth of some other dude… Ghandi?) than Christmas specials hitting TV and wintry films arriving at the cinema. There was Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Clause to name but three. Yes, the early 1990’s were a golden age for Christmas films. It was also a golden time for The Santa Clause’s Tim Allen who was still enjoying his fame thanks to Home Improvement. Although since then, he donned a space suit and started yabbering on about going to “Infinity” (an impossibility), the loon has been unable to find regular employment. Nowadays however, I rely on Die Hard and Die Hard 2 to get me in the mood for Christmas. Nothing embodies Christmas like Bruce Willis in a vest. So how does Rise of the Guardians fare in bringing about some Christmas cheer… despite being set at Easter?

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians is every child’s fantasy come true. Or I like to think it would be, as kids are a bit “too” mature nowadays and probably fantasise about semi-naked pictures of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus more than true fantasy. Regardless, Rise of the Guardians follows the exploits of a superteam of Santa Clause / North (Alec Baldwin by way of Moscow), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (voiceless) as they fight the resurrected evil that is the Boogey Man / Pitch Black (Jude Law). However, to stop the nefarious Pitch Black from eradicating the joy from every child on Earth and shattering their belief in the four heroes, they need the help of a newly selected Guardian: Jack Frost (Chris Pine). But Jack has issues. Cue the story…

The premise certinaly isn’t unoriginal. It’s also quite delectable timing considering how The Avengers have primed audiences for big team ups this year. And how do you get bigger than Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny teaming up? Well, I guess you could pursue South Park’s Super Best Friends route, but we all know how well that would go down nowadays considering who is in that team. He who shall not be named… No, not Voldermort you fool. Someone else. Anyway, getting back on track, the story itself has a nice set up and follows a tale of temptation and redemption. Sure, you’re not going to see a twisting Seven Psychopaths style storyline, and you can probably see every twist and turn coming (it’s a kids’ film after all), but it’s one of those movies that you can switch off and just enjoy for what it is.

Avengers Assemble! Or Guardians Garrison! Whichever.

Avengers Assemble! Or Guardians Garrison! Whichever.

Now I’m going to need to draw on a few other big animated films from this year in order to assess its quality. Namely, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Brave and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. I’m well aware that I’ve reviewed other movies that are “animated” this year, but I’m excluding the stop-motion brilliance of Frankenweenie and the creditable ParaNorman (let’s also forget about Wreck-It Ralph, as I annoyingly have to wait until February to see this thanks to a lapse UK release schedule). So how does it compare? Well, favourably. I wouldn’t say it’s better than those other films per se, but it is different, and is equally enjoyable. This goes for both adults and children. In fact, I’d argue that it’s far more enjoyable for the youngsters than any other animated film this year. Bold statement, but there we go. It combines those childhood fantasies with a superhero-esque team up. How can that not be enjoyable?!

Regular readers will know I never applaud actors for essentially just reading from a script to lend voices to a film and this will be no exception. All voice work is fantastic and I especially loved Alec Baldwin‘s North – beautifully Russian and beautifully funny too. It’s also nice to see Jackman in something a little more “cuddly” than late. I’m sure Les Miserables will alter his image in the public’s eye too (though to me, he’ll always be Wolverine).

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

What I’m more inclined to comment on here is the quality of the animation. Once again, it’s utterly sublime. At least to my eyes. Another fantastic job from the guys at Dreamworks. Hell, if you see Pixar or Dreamworks stamped in front of a movie, you know you’re getting a quality looking piece of work. It doesn’t always tie closely with the quality of the film itself, but is always a reliable gage of animation quality, which is no bad thing.

Although the film was fun overall, I just felt it was a bit vapid in places. It’s hard to put my finger on why this is exactly, but I didn’t leave the screen thinking it was as solid as it could have been. I was engaged, I laughed and I enjoyed it all, but something was lacking for me. Don’t get me wrong, Rise of the Guardians is a solid film and one that probably deserves to be seen this December, especially if you have kids, but it doesn’t leave me as spellbound as it should do. Or maybe I’m just still bitter about not having Wreck-It Ralph in the UK yet. Bah humbug indeed.

All in all, Rise of the Guardians is a beautifully put together Christmas film. It’s just one that’s lacking that biting edge and indeed lacking Christmas itself, despite the copious amounts of snow on show. Considering the film’s set at Easter there’s a hell of a lot of snow on show. I mean, where is it set? Siberia? Considering the thin smattering of Christmassy films on show this year, Rise of the Guardians should be your ideal choice to get you in the mood. Especially if you have children, who’ll simply lap it up.

But me? I’ll be going to Nakatomi Plaza again and “we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”, as Bruce himself says to me on an almost yearly basis. Because, as well know, nothing really represents Christmas like a load of guns, terrorists and Holly McClane ruining John’s December year after year. Yippee-ki-yay turkeystuffer!!

Die Hard at Christmas

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star