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Rise of the Guardians
Album Cover Art
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Conducted by:

Co-Orchestrated by:
Conrad Pope
Clifford J. Tasner
Jean-Pascal Beintus

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Produced by:
Solre Lemonnier
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Varèse Sarabande
(November 13th, 2012)
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Regular U.S. release.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you seek to hear Alexandre Desplat retain his trademark structural and instrumental complexity while coming back to the mainstream with the more genuine heart of his thematic core for this children's genre score.

Avoid it... if the improved expressiveness of Desplat's intentions here cannot compensate for the fact that his themes are still elusive in their progressions and he prances into parody territory more often than some listeners may like.
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WRITTEN 11/11/12
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Rise of the Guardians: (Alexandre Desplat) Although not rigidly loyal to the storylines of William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" series of books, the 2012 adaptation Rise of the Guardians was whole-heartedly approved by the author. The events in the film take place hundreds of years after those of the books, bringing the setting into line with today's society while retaining the core characters and the concept of a group of guardians that protects the dreams of young boys and girls. This clan, consisting of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman, keep children safe from nightmares caused by the Boogeyman. When this force of evil launches an attempt to dominate the dream world, the Guardians unite with winter-obsessed Jack Frost, in this context a rebellious young man, to restore their universe. The DreamWorks production is decidedly darker than most animation topics aimed at kids, the graphics strikingly scarier than usual, the characters somewhat menacing by design, and the performing talent including beefy, muscular voices in counterintuitive ways (including Hugh Jackman as, of all things, the Easter Bunny). While the concept of colliding holiday icons may raise concerns about overlap with Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, director Peter Ramsey and his team take Joyce's ideas in a fresh enough new direction to warrant interest. The project was met with significant anticipation from fans of French composer Alexandre Desplat, who triumphed in his major entry to the genre when tackling The Golden Compass in 2007. The absence of sequels to that film left Desplat enthusiasts wondering what else the composer could offer to serious children's fantasy concepts, and Rise of the Guardians finally answers those questions. Few will argue against the notion that The Golden Compass, regardless of its ability to attach itself to (or alienate) the listener, is a technically marvelous, melodically complicated achievement. Desplat's capacity for intellectual structural development and instrumental creativity is always a pleasure to behold in the composer's larger, more ambitious projects.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rise of the Guardians is that Desplat, while maintaining nearly all of his trademark writing techniques, actually manages to tone back the complexities to yield a more mainstream children's score. There are certainly enough of the composer's mannerisms remaining in Rise of the Guardians to firmly establish it as a Desplat work, and listeners will encounter a few moments of hair-raising orchestral mastery along the way, but equally surprising is how much of the score resembles a merging of the conventional children's film score mechanisms and tone of James Horner and John Williams' equivalent efforts of the 1990's. As such, Rise of the Guardians is likely to be considered a more readily accessible work for those not always enthralled with the technically precise and sometimes emotionally cold nature of Desplat's writing. His instrumental palette is as varied as always, featuring accent players and a touch of electronics at times. The orchestra receives a healthy workout, Desplat's usual multiple lines of activity requiring close attention by the London Symphony Orchestra. His application of a chorus is very judicious, saving the singers for specific cues of particular importance in the fantasy element. Not surprisingly, the piano and the woodwinds carry the bulk of the emotional weight in Rise of the Guardians. When the piano doesn't convey one of the score's two softer themes, you'll always encounter a clarinet, oboe, or flute taking that lead. Those enthused by Desplat's ability to use the piano, fluttering woodwinds, and triangle to convey magical dreaminess will love portions of this work, especially early (accenting Santa's workshop). The existence of the villain, Pitch, and his associated shrouds of darkness, allows the composer to let rip with trombones and French horns with particularly awesome force at times. True to Desplat's knack for spreading the wealth, however, expect to hear a solo tuba convey the character themes with a touch of humor as well, a throwback to one of Horner's favorite techniques. Varied drums provide forceful rhythms at the forefront of the mix in a few cues. That mix is extremely dry, a normal choice for Desplat, forcing all the elements to the front and sometimes diminishing the fantasy atmosphere.

The demeanor of Rise of the Guardians is a clear deviation from The Golden Compass. Rather than embroil the score in layers of obfuscation, Desplat plays his ideas in relatively straight forward fashion, developing one theme for the end credits song and keeping the overall number of melodies down. There is no doubt a much stronger feeling of innocence at the heart of this work, the two tender themes countered by accessible fanfares for the noble concepts and the whole seemingly friendlier and more genuinely caring than what Desplat has produced in similar situations in the past. There also exists a fair amount of "Mickey Mousing" in Rise of the Guardians, the cue "Tooth Collection" wildly passing through several genres and utilizing parody mechanisms to reflect, once again, Horner's vintage wacky moments in prior circumstances (We're Back! A Dinosuar's Story actually comes to mind most frequently). There is no mistaking the villain's material, either, the ensemble matching Jude Law's snarling attitude with dissonance and familiar descending figures. When it comes to the themes for Rise of the Guardians, Desplat seems to have followed the Williams playbook when constructing the core of his ideas for the wholesome side of the story, consulting at times with the Alan Menken playbook as well. You can't fault Desplat for taking this route, even if the result is a main theme that has more than a pinch of flowing Broadway personality to it. There are technically two major themes in Rise of the Guardians, joined by two clearly delineated secondary ideas and a couple of vague lines that recur as well. Listeners will be pleased that the two primary themes include one of pretty drama and another of heroic bombast, applied in almost equal time during the work. On the other hand, the arguably more impactful themes are the two secondary ones, and as with so many scores that leave their best thematic constructs to duty buried in fragments and expressed in too few places, Rise of the Guardians has the capacity to frustrate in this regard. The primary ideas represent the dream world as a whole on the sensitive side and the heroism of the Guardians on the other, while the secondary melodies are dedicated to Jack Frost (for the other soft theme) and the evil Pitch, whose musical identity has difficulty remaining defined for much of the work. Additional motifs include one for the elves and another seemingly denoting the magic applied to real-life kids by the Guardians.

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Average: 3.29 Stars
***** 81 5 Stars
**** 78 4 Stars
*** 81 3 Stars
** 50 2 Stars
* 46 1 Stars
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Just a little correction
Marvin Arnold - July 23, 2014, at 10:37 a.m.
1 comment  (987 views)
Excellent review!
Rick - January 9, 2013, at 8:27 a.m.
1 comment  (1166 views)
A beautiful soundtrack to a great movie!
LordoftheFuture - November 26, 2012, at 12:47 p.m.
1 comment  (1484 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 68:31
• 1. Still Dream - performed by Renee Fleming (3:12)
• 2. Calling the Guardians (2:06)
• 3. Alone in the World (2:04)
• 4. Fanfare of the Elves (0:53)
• 5. Wind Take Me Home! (1:28)
• 6. Dreamsand (2:03)
• 7. Pitch on the Globe (0:57)
• 8. The Moon (1:32)
• 9. Snowballs (1:31)
• 10. Busy Workshop (1:33)
• 11. Sleigh Launch (1:45)
• 12. Nightmares Attack (7:17)
• 13. Tooth Collection (2:22)
• 14. Jamie's Bedroom (2:31)
• 15. Jack & Sandman (4:18)
• 16. Memorial (1:21)
• 17. Guardians Regroup (0:58)
• 18. Easter (3:39)
• 19. Jack Betrays (3:20)
• 20. Kids Stop Believing (2:35)
• 21. Jack's Memories (2:24)
• 22. Pitch at North Pole (2:00)
• 23. Jamie Believes (3:01)
• 24. Jack's Center (4:52)
• 25. Sandman Returns (2:36)
• 26. Dreamsand Miracles (2:18)
• 27. Oath of the Guardians (3:11)

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The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Rise of the Guardians are Copyright © 2012, Varèse Sarabande and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/11/12 (and not updated significantly since).
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