Monday, January 14, 2013

Rise of the Guardians and the Problem of Evil

Yesterday I saw the movie Rise of the Guardians after much pestering about the glorious animation. And it was glorious, and I did enjoy it very much despite not exactly sharing all of the traditions in the movie, and I was glad to have the opportunity to see it in theaters.

But the ending of this movie bothered me very much, actually. First, let me give a quick rundown of the plot:

A guy revives and is declared "Jack Frost" by the Man in the Moon, and for hundreds of years is invisible to all mortals and causes snow days and general mischief. Elsewhere, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman are guardians of childhood wonder and do things like give kids presents and hide Easter eggs and make good dreams to preserve childhood wonder and protect the children of the world. However this is thrown off by a bad guy, the Boogeyman or "Pitch", who exists to ferment fear in the minds of children, and seeks to destroy the Guardians because he wants to be believed in and feared. Jack Frost is chosen by the Man in the Moon to be a Guardian and to help the existing Guardians defeat the Boogeyman; however, Jack Frost also wants to be noticed and have a purpose so he sympathizes with the Boogeyman. After much havoc and drama, he sides with the Guardians, eventually becomes believed in by children, the Boogeyman is banished to his underground lair because even though "[kids] believe in him, [they're] just not afraid of him." All is well, and the story ends.

It's beautifully animated and a nice story, but by the end I honestly thought there would be some sort of reconciliation with Pitch, about fear being necessary. Because the Guardian's existence is based on belief, the fact that "I believe in you, I'm just not afraid of you" could have been very powerful. Fear needs to exist for bravery to exist. Kids overcoming their fears is a big deal. He might not have been a nice guy and brought candy and presents to kids, but he still could have been important, without need to banish him forever and ever.

I guess I shouldn't have expected it, there weren't really any hints of there being any good in Pitch, just that Jack Frost and the audience were sympathetic to his (selfish) need to be noticed. Pitch existed in the dark ages and made things terrible for all children, making them all live in fear until the Guardians existed. So there's really no reason he should be allowed to continue to do anything. He's just a terrible creature, inside and out.

Or... is he?