Today I am starting an ongoing series of posts that aim to find the spiritual truths hidden in secular films. I will often sit with my wife and sift through the movies we see to find the metaphors and analogies that are bigger than the film. I love analyzing movies like this, and I hope that by reading these posts, you will start to see the metanarrative as it plays out on the big screen.
This is not a review. If I’m writing about a movie, then I probably really like it. However, you may not. If you haven’t seen the film and wish to, then I would suggest you stop reading and go watch it. Come back when you’re done. I’m just giving a heads up that I may give some spoilers in my attempt to explain what I’m talking about. You’ve been warned.
I just recently watched Rise of the Guardians for the second time. I was thoroughly impressed with the film in theatres, and was delighted when my wife bought it for me for my birthday. We tend to watch a lot of animated films because it’s getting harder for us to find live action movies that we enjoy. Yet this film floored me with the messages it gave.
I argue that the story of Rise of the Guardians is really about trying to find the meaning of one’s life. Jack Frost, called into being by the Man in the Moon, is left to figure out his existence on his own. Completely cut off from the rest of the world, he struggles to understand why he was made. Jack’s creator is frustratingly silent on the subject of his purpose, so Jack must take leaps of faith, trusting in the wisdom of others and confronting his past to find out who he really is.
Who hasn’t felt the angst of purposelessness? Jack can stand for everyone on the spiritual journey who has ever wrestled with the question “Why am I here?” God, like his lightly veiled metaphor, the Man in the Moon, is often not as forthcoming about the specifics of our purpose as we would like. It is only as we pursue this question and take risks to figure out the answer that we find our true callings. We can be helped along the way if we open ourselves up to the aid of mentors and fellow people of faith. It is often in relation to other people that we find our true purpose.
Perhaps my favourite part of the film was the characterization of several themes, like hope, wonder, dreams, and fear. I feel like this is the gold mine from which we can get much of the wisdom of this film.
Pitch, the main antagonist, is the embodiment of fear. He is the bogey man, creator of nightmares. Throughout the film, we see fear poison the dreams of children, something that happens all too often to children and adults alike. We allow our fears to corrupt our dreams, make short work of our hopes, memories, and wonders, and eventually destroy our faith completely. Fear can sap a person of strength and kill any belief in a better tomorrow.
Yet humanity is not without a chance in this fight. Arrayed against the forces of fear are the Guardians, embodiments of Hope, Memory, Wonder, Dreams, and (eventually) Fun. They shine like a light in the encroaching darkness, ready to sacrifice all for the sake of the children.
Each of these Guardians are also powerful tools in the real world when combating fear. Memories can instill a sense of confidence in the face of new situations. Seeing our situations with childlike wonder can take the fear out of any challenge. Hope can carry us through the darkest of times. Dreams can help us focus our efforts through the struggle. And maintaining an attitude of fun takes the fear out of any adventure.
Fear may cripple these Guardians in our lives, but it cannot destroy them. If we put faith in these tools, they can rise, like Sandy, from a place of apparent death to eventually overcome the fears. We need only trust that they, with help from above, can do their job.
In the end, we must look at our giftings and personalities to find our calling, our “centre.” If we can figure out how to work within our calling for the good of humanity, purpose is sure to follow. Like Jack, we can embrace our God-given potentials and perhaps battle back against the darkness that is encroaching on our world. With love, humility, and teamwork, we can all make a difference, no matter our age.
What do you think? Are there other themes we can draw from this film that I haven’t talked about? Or do you completely disagree with the ideas I have pulled out of Rise of the Guardians? Let me know!