Rise of the Guardians – Movie Review



I was so excited when I saw Rise of the Guardians because of how many strong, clear messages there were about faith and calling and your relationship with your Creator.  Of course, those messages were couched in the traditions of Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Man in the Moon and so forth, but they were there, and they were actually generally well done.  It wouldn’t take much tweaking to translate those messages to a relationship with God, as if it was just one big, beautiful parable with the Man in the moon representing God, the Guardians representing Christians and Jack Frost representing someone seeking Christ. 

Let me explain.   Jack doesn’t know why he is on the earth, but he senses he has a purpose, and he senses that the Man in the Moon (aka Manny) has something to do with it.  Jack is frustrated because he is invisible.  Kids can’t see or hear him, they don’t know he exists.  Jack feels like he is lacking substance, along with wondering about his purpose.  The Guardians, however, are different.  Kids believe in them and can see them—the Guardians have substance and purpose.  Jack wants what they have, (and yet, he is afraid that to get it he will have to give up all the fun and joy in his life).  Jack cries out to Manny for answers, but feels that Manny is distant and absent.

It seems to Jack that Manny is silent, but Manny is working on his behalf and he doesn’t even know it.  Manny goes to the Guardians and tells them to bring Jack in – that he too is to be a guardian.  This is a surprise – they know Jack, they know his reputation.  He doesn’t appear to have the stuff  of a guardian in him, but Manny is the Man in the Moon – and though they don’t understand, he is their leader, and they follow his lead. 

As is so often the case when we are sharing Christ with someone, it didn’t happen in an instant.  Jack may have wanted to be a guardian, he may have wanted to believe that Manny had a purpose for his life, but nonetheless, he took a little convincing.  Jack didn’t think he was cut out to be a guardian any more than the other guardians did, and as I mentioned before, his primary concern was what becoming a Guardian would cost him.  What if becoming a guardian meant a boring life–all seriousness and work and no play?  It took quite a few challenges and hard times before Jack began to embrace his calling and become the guardian Manny intended him to be, but in the end, Jack joined the other guardians in following Manny and protecting mankind.   Not only that, but Jack found his joy increased, not decreased as he did so.

What were they protecting mankind from?  In this story it was Pitch, Pitch Black, aka the Boogie Man.  Pitch has striking similarities to Satan in the way he operated.  Both deal in fear and lies and manipulation.  Pitch provides a wealth of opportunity for families to safely and clearly discuss the enemy and how he works in our lives…but you don’t need my help to figure specifics on that one out!  I do want to point out though that Pitch is defeated when the kids resist the temptation to fear, replacing fear with hope and joy – beautifully done!  Resist the devil and he will flee!   

I do want to take a moment however to point out a few ways that the Christian story is even better than this one.  It’s a great story, but it falls short in a few ways – and that provides a fantastic opportunity to get your kids or friends even more in love with Jesus, when they see how much better He is.

The guardians question why Jack was chosen.  They keep thinking that Manny must see something in Jack that they don’t see.  While this is true – while God sees in us who He intended us to be, no matter how far from that we may be – I think it’s important to note that God doesn’t choose us because of what we have to offer to Him, His kingdom or His people.  We are never chosen because of our gifts or our abilities.  We are chosen in our absolute and utter poverty.  God needs nothing from us and we have nothing we can give to him (except our love and worship).  God chooses us because He loves us. Period. In fact, the Bible says that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27).  Jesus came to heal the sick, to set the captives free. Those are the people he chooses, those who are desperate for a savior, who need light and life, who need health and freedom—those who are nothing without Him.  So yes, God sees more in us—He sees who He intended us to be with His help—but we are not chosen because we are special or because He gave us special gifts.  It’s just the opposite, actually—we are special because we are chosen.  We are not chosen because we are gifted, we are gifted because He chose us, and when He chooses us, He equips us.  What a glorious concept!

The concept of belief (or rather who to believe in) gets a little muddled in Guardians because of the layers.  Jack is struggling with his belief in Manny.  The humans are struggling with their belief in the Guardians, and the Guardians are desperate to be believed in…  that works for this story, but in real life it’s much simpler.  It is the triune God who is to be believed in.  We, His followers are not seeking for others to believe in us.  We are seeking solely to point others to God (at least, we ought to be!).  It would be better (for the sake of illustrating Christianity) if the guardians were seeking to help mankind believe in the Man in the Moon (who represents God).  Because they don’t, it’s potentially confusing as to who actually represents God.  While they do clearly look to Manny as their leader, they don’t really treat him as God.  The glory is theirs, not his.  Mankind looks to them, not him.  This is absolutely not the Christian life.  We are never the point.  We are not to be believed in or to receive glory.  In fact, in John 3 we see John the Baptist working hard to deflect attention from himself and to the proper place, Christ.  John says “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:31).  At least the end of Guardians does redeem this confusion a little when Jack says, “My name’s Jack Frost and I’m a Guardian.  How do I know that?  Because the moon told me so and when the moon tells you something, believe it.” 

Jack asks the Guardians when was the last time they actually spent time with the kids they served.  North (aka Santa) sheepishly admits, “We are too busy making joy for children.  We don’t have any time for kids.”  The Guardians have to learn to reconnect with the kids they claim to serve and protect and love.  And Manny –the god-like figure in Guardians – he is nearly absent altogether.  We never see him interact with humans at all.  How totally unlike Jesus!  Jesus came to earth to be reconciled to mankind.  He said “let the little children come unto me.”  He is never too busy serving us to be with us.  He longs to be with us.  It is we who are too busy for Him, never the other way around.  In this respect, Jack is a far better representation of Christ in the way he loves kids, enjoys them and spends time with them.

Along those lines, one final comment about how Christ is so much more beautiful and wonderful than the Guardians—at the end of the story, the guardians had to leave.  Of course, they were still sort of around, but in a distant way.  There are a lot of similarities with Acts 1 when Jesus leaves the disciples and returns to heaven – so take the opportunity to explore that!  But I want to point out that though Jesus left,  He did it so much better than the guardians did.  He left for our benefit, that He could send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit…so that He could be even more present with us by indwelling us with His presence.   HE is ever present, Emmanuel, GOD WITH US. 

We may not always feel His presence, granted, and when we don’t, Jack’s comment to Jamie is spot on:  “Do you stop believing in the moon when it goes away, or in the sun when clouds block it?  Besides, we’ll be here [points to Jamie’s heart]…”  It’s a great point.  Just because clouds block the sun, doesn’t mean it has gone.  The thing is, the guardians only promise to be real and to be near…they don’t promise to give the kids a helper like Jesus did.  God is not just an observer; He is our Savior.  He promises to be SO much more—the guardians pale in comparison. 

Hopefully Rise of the Guardians will be a tool for you to help your children fall even more in love with Jesus this Christmas season.  May they rejoice to know that the Guardian of ALL Guardians, the one who is really the point of Christmas and Easter, has come to earth, to be GOD WITH THEM.  And may they rejoice to consider how much better He is than all their superheroes, all their fairytales and all the guardians combined—the best they have to offer is but a shadow of Him.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Have you ever wished God would speak to you, like Jack wanted to hear from Manny?
  • Do you wonder what your purpose is?
  • Why didn’t Jack want to be a Guardian?  How does that relate to non-Christians and their perceptions of Christianity?
  • Is it hard for you to believe in God when you don’t see him? 
  • What do you think comes first, seeing or believing? 
  • What similarities do you see between God and the guardians? 
  • What differences do you see between God and the guardians?
  • How are the guardians like Christians? 
  • How is Jack like a person who is seeking God?
  • How are God and the Man in the Moon alike?  How are they different?
  • What made Pitch so frightening?  How did the kids overcome his attack? 
  • How is Pitch like Satan?  How are Christians supposed to overcome His attacks?
  • How is God better than the guardians???!!!

Click here to read a collection of Quotes from Rise of the Guardians.

by Stacey Tuttle