Thursday, November 28, 2013

Disney's Frozen: A New Kind of Heroine(s)

Going into Frozen, I was a little dubious. Not that I wasn't excited about the movie; I was. I thought it definitely had potential, and I liked the setting and storyline from what I could gather about in in the trailers. But still, I wasn't expecting an amazing movie. After all, Disney doesn't always pull it off. Tangled was great, and while it was obvious they were trying to do another Tangled with Frozen, I wasn't sure that they would succeed. The most worrying aspect of the previews was the talking snowman. He seemed silly and pointless. What was he doing in the movie?

So when I walked into the movie theatre and took my seat, I was cautiously optimistic, but not expecting a whole lot. Certainly not anything up to the level of Tangled.

And then the movie started. The opening segment gradually melted all my reservations (and I'm not talking about the Mickey Mouse short before the movie; that was just kind of weird). The first thing was the opening music. This may sound kind of corny, but it really transported me to a fairytale kingdom. It had the right feel for fairytale music, kind of magical and ancient sounding, but distinctive. The next thing was the opening scene with the men breaking up the ice. It was so cool. They were singing this cool song and breaking up the ice in time to the song, and it really set the mood for the whole movie. In fact, now that I think about it, the opening scene is really interesting in the context of the rest of the movie. There's a male dominated world, with men using their brute strength to break up ice, all the time singing about "breaking the frozen heart" and how ice is both beautiful and dangerous. Also, little Kristoff and Sven were so cute in this scene, so by this time my worries were beginning to subside. But they hadn't quite disappeared yet.

I was pleasantly surprised, but not yet ready to turn myself over to the movie free of reservations and just enjoy it all. The next part of the movie turned to a softer, more feminine world: the castle of Arendelle (pronounced Airindale, which, on a side note, might remind you of a Tolkien name). In the castle we see the royal family of Arendelle, starting with Anna and her older sister Elsa. The beauty of the animation and the absolute adorableness of Elsa and especially Anna were the things that began to convert me at this point. Not only Anna's appearance and actions but just her whole character and personality were adorable. And Elsa was pretty cute, too.

Then we went to the Trolls, and I was kind of thrown off guard. What was this? It was like something out of a fairytale. Wait a second. Doesn't Disney do fairytales? Yes, but this was like, an actual fairytale. It was magical in the supernatural, faerie sense. And it was cool. Also, I loved Elsa's relationship with her father in this scene and the following ones. Even though he was obviously trying to get her to repress her abilities (which is never a good thing in these movies), he was so tender and caring towards her. It was very sweet.

And then (spoiler alert) the parents die. OK, but seriously, that isn't really a spoiler, is it? The parents (or at least both parents together) are seldom present in Disney movies. And in all the great fantasy adventures, the parents are dead. So you had to see it coming. But moving on, the segment with Anna constantly coming back to Elsa's door and asking her if she wanted to build a snowman was so heart-breakingly sweet and adorable. And then, after the death of their parents, when Anna returns to Elsa's closed door and asks her once again if she wants to build a snowman, I found it very touching. That was the thing that finally convinced me this was going to be a good movie. After I realized that, and after letting go of my last reservations, I just sat there and let the whole thing wash over me and it was great. I loved it.

I don't want to spoil the movie for those of you who haven't seen it yet, so I'll stop here without giving away any more of the plot. Before I finish though, I'd like to say a few things about other parts of the movie, such as the characters, general themes, and storytelling.

I'll start with the main heroine (though not to shortchange Elsa): Anna. She was spunky, cute, and determined. Where other Disney princesses try to be spunky and fail, Anna succeeds and wins over everyone's heart (except for one certain character in the movie). She just had a delight and joy for life that was kind of amazing and inspiring. And she was so funny. I loved it when she was wandering around the castle by herself and doing crazy things like talking to the paintings and hanging out with the suits of armor. It was great. And then she was so sincere. There was no begad nonsense about her. She loved her sister so much, and she was so sure that she could just talk to Elsa and resolve everything. She was kind of simple but in a good way. In the best way. In short, she was a very compelling character, possibly one of Disney's strongest and most compelling.

Elsa was interesting. I've heard there have been some feminist interpretations of this movie, and I can definitely see where they got that. Elsa is good. She wants to do what's right and she loves her sister very much, but she's also conflicted. She has this amazing power, either terrible or wonderful or both, and she has to find the balance within herself to keep this power in check. I thought that the song where she was finally "letting it go" and not trying to repress her powers anymore, was a powerful moment. All her life she had been hiding what she could do and trying to pretend like she didn't have these powers, but that only seemed to make everything worse. Now she finally just lets it all out and rejoices in what she can do. Ultimately, she has to find the balance, which means neither repressing nor giving free reign to her abilities, but... you'll see.

Kristoff was also pretty compelling. I might just have fallen in love with him by the end of the movie. I loved how he was always having conversations with himself by projecting one side of the conversation onto Sven (his Reindeer). And I still think his "duet" was hilarious. Like Anna, he was very funny, but not just flat comic relief, and he was very loveable. As the Trolls said in one of my favorite musical sequences from the movie, he's a fixer-upper, but he's worth fixing up... or you can fix him up... or love can fix him up... or whatever it was.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the time has come to say a few words about the talking snowman. That's right: Olaf. Now, while it is true that most of my reservations had disappeared by the end of the opening sequence, there was still the matter of the snowman, and when we reached the part of the movie where I knew he was going to make his entrance, some of my worries came back temporarily. I was thinking something like, well, this movie has been pretty dang good so far, but now it's time for the snowman. Great. Surprisingly, I didn't mind Olaf as much as I thought I would. Of course, that's not to say that I loved everything about him and that he never made me cringe with some of the things he did or said, but overall, he was actually pretty funny; his remarks made me laugh more than once. And he was kind of interesting. The whole idea of him longing for summer even though summer would mean his pretty immediate death is actually rather deep once you start thinking about it. It reminds me of some things that C.S. Lewis has said, especially in the Narnia books. I think it's Emeth, in The Last Battle, who says that he would want to look on Aslan even if it meant his death in the next moment. Not that I think Disney was aiming at this (although you never know) but still, it's an interesting concept. Strange that the screenwriters chose to put some of the deepest lines of the movie in the mouth of Olaf, the talking snowman. One of my favorite lines was, "Some people are worth melting for," which sort of reiterates Olaf's summer conundrum. But I guess Sam the Snowman says some pretty deep things, too (he's in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, if you were wondering).

I'll just say a few general things about the storytelling of the movie, by which I mean, the way the story was told and the way the plot unfolded. Aside from a few predictable elements like the death of Elsa's and Anna's parents, this movie was pretty surprising. It threw you some loops. Especially that one, towards the end, regarding a certain character, which, if you've seen the movie, you know what I'm referring to. While I'm still not entirely convinced that everything leading up to it was consistent with this twist, I have to admit that it was a pretty great twist. I never saw it coming, and neither did the two people who saw the movie with me.

And then there was that big thing, the thing which, at the moment, is kind of overshadowing for me the whole rest of the movie. This is the part leading up to the climax and then the climax itself. I thought I knew how the climax was going to work. It was going to be like so many other Disney movies. It was going to be like Enchanted (that's all I can say without giving too much away; if you've seen Frozen you'll know what I'm talking about). I knew what was going to happen and, while it was pretty clich√© and predictable, I figured it would be sweet and romantic, so I didn't mind all that much. It had happened many times before, but after all, why not? Except it didn't happen. Something totally different happened. Something infinitely more satisfying happened. And I can't tell you what it is.

So go see Frozen and find out for yourself. Go enjoy it. Go without reservations, or, if you do have concerns that you can't seem to shake, hopefully the movie will melt them for you as it did for me (yeah, sorry about the bad pun). Enjoy the numinousness, the adorableness, the humor, the love, and the inspiring story of a different kind of heroine who doesn't wait around for other people to save her. Find yourself in the movie and then sit back, relax, and just "let it go." 


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