Recently I went to a pair of recently released films, one from Disney and one from Dreamworks. I enjoyed both films greatly but they were certainly different from each other. Between Wreck It Ralph and Rise Of The Guardians, I liked Wreck It Ralph more. That being said, I did enjoy both and will explain here momentarily. But first a spoiler warning. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
I saw Wreck It Ralph first and was drawn by my inner video game nerd to the cameos from real live games and the premise of live video game characters. I felt connected and sympathetic to Ralph from the get-go. a guy cast as a villain for his game's entire life when really just wanted to be accepted among the game's other citizens. The story gets even better from there.
To those interested in the hero's journey plot structure and other elements of plot, there is everything there. In the first act, Ralph is unhappy with the status quo and accepts the call to adventure to try and change his life. He gets his medal surprisingly easily but rather than having true value, fate strikes out to complicate his goal. He loses his medal and must partner with the girl who stole the medal from him to get it back.
Some stories have the lead protagonists have a misunderstanding or falling out that feels contrived or out of place. The emotional low point of Wreck It Ralph is not such a story. The falling out between Vanelope and Ralph hits you hard. You know King Candy is manipulating things to keep her out of the race but he sells it to Ralph in such a way that he feels he has to destroy Vanelope's dream for her own protection, because at this point of the story, he has grown to care deeply for her and you can tell it's hurting him as much as it is hurting her.
Pouring salt into the wound, the hero(aka villian's) return to home, supposedly triumphant, turns out to be a bitter victory. Ralph comes back to his own out-of-order game with the medal and the key to the penthouse to find it all pointless if his game is to be shut down and removed from the arcade. Things are the worst they can get. But in that moment of hopelessness and despair, Ralph realizes what has to be done and rises again to become the good guy and propels us into the triumphant third act.
The film has solid defining moments which mark the beginnings and ends of each act. We see the try fail cycles of the characters involved, and we solid foreshadowing early in the story that doesn't necessary spoil the major revelations later in the story. Wreck It Ralph is a good story to study to understand plot structure.
The second film I saw, Rise of The Guardians, was a good film too but it didn't hit me emotionally or intellectually on the same levels as the previous film. Now this is the movie of a book I haven't read. The take on the various magical characters from our childhood was nice and refreshing. Jack Frost struggles with being invisible and unbelieved by the children yet gets called to join the exisitng guardians to defend the world against the fear and doubt from the recently returned Pitch Black, aka The Boogyman.
The story has the heroes race from one disaster to another, trying to stop Black's plans for the children, all while Jack struggles internally with the same issues that Black has. The parallels were quite fascinating.
What didn't hold this film for me was how it seemed each stage in the story was often more of the same. They find out Black is up to something, they race to stop him, they struggle and have some bit of dialogue between the good guys and the bad guy, then they barely win only to realize that Black had something else planned they now have to stop.
As cute and funny as the tooth fairy was, I've never been a fan of bird people. I always dreamed of having wings and flying and I think birds are awesome, however, people covered in feathers and being part human part bird always seemed a little bit gross or creepy to me. It bothered me in the movie.
The visuals for Rise of the Guardians were stunning but so were the ones for Wreck It Ralph. The music for Guardians was pleasant but not remarkable. The music for Ralph is a lot more "punchy" as fits the video game theme. My son and I both love the See You Again song and I find myself humming the Sugar Rush theme sometimes. "S-U-G-A-R, hop into your racing car, Sugar Rush! Sugar Rush!" Yeah, I like it.
Go see both films if you can, but if you can only see one, make it Wreck It Ralph, especially if you're a gaming nerd like me.