Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Movie Review: Frozen

Well this was an unexpected delight of a movie. We went to see it after my grandmother's funeral, to help detox a bit from the emotions of the day, and boy did it help! It was a fantastic movie.

*spoilers ahead*

Set in the mythical kingdom of Arendell, the princess Elsa was born with cryokinetic powers, the ability to create and manipulate ice and snow. After an accident where she almost kills her younger sister, Anna, she and her parents go into hiding, hoping to help her learn to control her powers at the behest of the local mystical troll shaman (though I think they severely misunderstood what he meant by "control"). After her parents die, Elsa is crowned Queen. Her emotional state unraveling under all the stress, she accidentally unleashes her powers and turns the weather of her nordic kingdom into a perpetual winter. Horrified at what has happened, she flees into the mountains.

What I really enjoyed about this movie were all the plot twists? Plot twists? In a Disney movie? Work with me here.

First, there is no villain. Not in the traditional sense where you know who the bad guys are at the beginning. Sure there's the Duke of Weaseltown (pronounced, he says, "wessel-ton"), but he's not a very central character. Elsa is not the bad guy. Her journey and development in this movie are more about discovering herself and learning to love herself than a simple bad guy development. (Bad guys are rarely well-developed anyway.)

Second, the love triangle isn't a love triangle. In fact, there are several times they set the princesses up  to have a love interest, and it doesn't materialize. Anna falls for Prince Hans, and for a while it looks like Kristof, the ice expert, will fall for Elsa, who can make an ice palace that rivals that of Dr. Manhattan's martian glass palace. However, Hans turns out to be a selfish conspirator after the Arendell throne, and Anna and Kristof end up in love at the end, though not yet married. There is no consort in sight for Elsa by the end of the movie.

Third, the "act of true love" has nothing to do with romance. Everybody in the movie assumes that a "true love's kiss" will unfreeze Anna's magically-damaged heart, but it is Anna sacrificing herself to save her sister, despite all the destruction Elsa has caused, that causes the magic to work, saving Anna and teaching Elsa how to fully control her powers.

So all the twists and turns made the movie enjoyable, because you genuinely didn't quite know what was going to happen next. And I also thought the supporting character of Olaf, the snowman who loves warm hugs and doesn't have a clue about what heat will do to him, was very entertaining. As usual, Disney's animation is stunning, especially the snow and ice effects.

I will make one note, however. Though the movie gets an A from me because it broke all of the conventions, I still find myself slightly wistful for those same conventions. There's a reason that "true love's kiss" is a trope of many fairy tales, and though I enjoyed this very much as an adult movie, it felt in some ways like The Princess Bride, which is another great movie that undoes all of the traditional tropes (the handsome prince is also a jerk in that movie). Even ABC's Once Upon a Time relies much on that trope, though a true love's kiss has also been given from a mother to a son in that series, and Snow White and Prince Charming's marriage is an actual marriage, complete with fights and disagreements. It's the same reason I articulated that Star Wars and Star Trek are so different at Awesome Con last year. As a child, I enjoyed the Star Wars movies more because they were more straightforward. Vader is a bad guy from the moment he walks in. "Anger. Fear. Aggression. The Dark Side are they!" It's nice to have some straightforward stories. Star Trek is more about nuances and ethical dilemmas. This was more of a Star Trek type story than a Star Wars one, and while I celebrate it, I hope not all of Disney's future projects follow in the same vein, because their last four with Disney Princesses (Frozen, Tangled, Brave, and The Princess and the Frog) have, and I can't help but feel something's being lost there.

Also, I'm convinced some feminists don't have a clue how to celebrate movies that are clearly better than what came before for their purposes, or even what the devil they want in movies that would suit their purposes.

Also, good heavens can Idina Menzel (Elsa) ever sing!

Overall Grade: 95.


Randel McGee said...

Spot on review! I am also a rather nerdy Mormon from CA. Who portrays Hans Christian Andersen in storytelling performances. Andersen was credited at the end of the movie for "inspiring" the story. Inspired is the working word here. "Frozen" was a great movie with intriguing twists and turns, but had nothing to do with the HCA story, except for the snow and ice. However, HCA was known to write stories "inspired" by other tales he'd heard, so it balances out.

nathalia said...

As a mother of two girls I just loved having some sibling interaction in an animated movie! We're big fans over here. Also happy with the messages: don't marry the first guy you 'meet' and true love can come in the context of love and sacrifice for family. And Olaf just makes us all smile!

Melanie said...

I really liked Frozen but felt absolutely no wistfulness about the absence of "true love's kiss." We've had decades and decades of princes rescuing princesses; I like that Disney is finally moving beyond that story line.