By Joygirl 31 Comments
Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before this moment. Frozen is Disney's current golden child – even after the massive success of Tangled and the slightly-less-massive (but still massive) success of Brave, this movie has blown everyone's expectations out of the water. People absolutely love this movie, in an almost creepy way. I've never heard an unkind word spoken about it. So it was only a matter of time before I got off my lazy ass and actually watched the damn thing. I did that last night.
My feelings were immediately mixed, and I decided to give myself some time to chew on it. I thought and talked about it all night, annoying family members with my proto-review of the film and, inevitably, humming “Let It Go” as I went to sleep. Waking up refreshed and with my coffee in hand, I'm ready to give this film a proper review and tell the world what I think.
But where do I start? I realized a few hours after watching it that this film has a lot going on, even if it isn't apparent at first. Unless I'm overthinking it, there are actually a lot of highly conceptual ideas lurking in this movie, complete with subversions and little tricks.
I'll start, I suppose, with the music. The music was... admittedly, underwhelming to me. I went into this after hearing the hype for it, so I figured that, twenty seconds in, this thing would rock my socks off. It really didn't. Most of the songs felt recycled from other Disney flicks (The Little Mermaid, specifically), even if they were very well-sung. At points there were songs that were barely even songs, but simply characters holding a conversation that consisted of normal sentences that they decided to sing (normally I don't have an issue with this, but it felt... forced, to me).
The film makes up for this weakness in a small way, with a single song – “Let It Go,” which pops up around the twenty-minute mark and is also played during the ending credits. I actually was immediately blown away by this (both the song and the singer) and got chills a couple times. This song was powerful, and conveyed a specific message very strongly, and very well (more on that a little later).
So, overall, the music didn't impress me. The singing was good, but of course it was. The songs themselves just... didn't grab me.
Next is the characters, of which there are a good few. Some are amazing. Some are less amazing.
Elsa is the film's antiprotagonist (I made that up! Yayyy) and I'll have a lot to say about her later in this review. For a quick, superficial summation of her character – she's okay. She starts off as a total ice queen, but she has her reasons. That's cool. She then becomes more of a tragic figure, also with good reason. She's more of a plot device than anything, though she brings the largest amount of heavy emotion to the production.
Anna is the real protagonist, which isn't obvious right off the bat, but becomes moreso in a short time. I have to say, I was really impressed with her – Kristen Bell puts out a genuinely spectacular performance in this, and Anna was my favorite part about the movie before I start getting into the contextual stuff. Anna is innocent, vulnerable, and lonely. She's awkward and real in a way that is actually befitting of a Disney movie, in that she's just over-the-top enough to stand out, but not so over-the-top that she loses her organic quality. She performs her “everyman” purpose perfectly, while still having enough character to stand out and be worth having an actual name of her own (not every everyman can pull that off).
Kristoff is, um... Kristoff shows up. He also has a reindeer. And while I really want to say something about him, I just don't have anything to say. He never really felt like more than a stock character to me, and while he has his “talks to himself/his reindeer” thing going on, it never really felt like enough to give him a personality. His dialogue didn't stand out in any specific way, his design was bland, and overall he felt like a void in the film that could have been replaced by pretty much anything else. Maybe I'm just not appreciating him properly, but Kristoff just never felt like any more than another plot device/stock companion.
Then there's Olaf.
I'll admit it right now – when Olaf (the little snowman guy) came onto the screen, I outright groaned. Here comes the token slapstick comic relief character, who will show up, act stupid, talk stupid, and look stupid. He will do stupid things to make children guffaw but he will subsequently cause my brains to melt out my ear.
Only that's not what he did, at all. I mean, a little bit. He did look stupid. And his voice was a little goofy, but it wasn't that goofy. The thing is that Olaf actually carried jokes, real jokes. With punchlines and stuff. And, though I hate to admit it, he was... well, funny. He didn't rely on slapstick or goofiness to get a laugh, he said and did things that were actually worth laughing at. Now, while the humor wasn't this film's strong point, Olaf alone did his part in turning that around. The kicker is, not only was he funny... he knew when to get lost. When he wasn't needed, or comic relief was otherwise not wanted, he either found a way to disappear or he toned himself down. A lot of movies can't boast a comic relief character who's handled this well.
All together, the dynamic between characters is adequate, but not amazing. The majority of characters don't interact with anyone but Anna beyond a few words, so she has to carry the film's relationships on her own. She does alright, but it's a big job – character dynamics beside Elsa/Anna are generally lacking in depth.
Did you notice that, while mulling over the cast, I never mentioned the core villain? I didn't, did I? That's because I... really can't. This brings me to my central point of this film – the morality.
The morality in this is actually interesting, in that a lot of the characters fluctuate and change over time. Check it out:
We have the Lawful Neutral Elsa. By the time the events of the intro have passed, we get “Let It Go,” which is entirely about her shift from Lawful Neutral to Chaotic Neutral, all in one go. After the events of the movie progress some more, she eventually shifts to a warm, cozy Neutral Good. These changes make her an absolutely fascinating character from a moral standpoint. She fills the role of the villain for much of the film, but she is obviously never actually evil, and getting to watch her fluctuate and grow as a person is really amazing.
We have the Chaotic Good Anna. Technically she doesn't really change her views, but that's because she's, y'know, the hero.
Kristoff starts off as a very firm True Neutral, outright stating that he doesn't give a damn whether or not Anna lives or dies. Of course, by the end of the film he also progresses into more of a Neutral Good role.
Olaf is a silly snowman and doesn't count. But while I'm at it, I'll peg him as Chaotic Good too.
The Duke of Weselton is a very brutal kind of Neutral Evil and it shows pretty quickly. But I didn't list him as the villain, did I? That's because he's not.
The true villain is so devious, so cunning, so vile, and so utterly, adeptly, masterfully well-hidden that he shall remain a mystery. For those who have seen the film, you know who I'm talking about. For those who haven't, I won't ruin the twist.
Now, how many films (let alone Disney films) can boast that amount of moral ambiguity and subtlety? Sure, none of this is really going to flip you upside down, but for a kids' movie the actual depth and organic development that goes into these characters is pretty amazing. “Let It Go” is the catalyst here, as the herald of Elsa's initial change, and it was when I started to realize that there was more to this movie than met the eye.
Though, there were other hints. The film is self-aware in a small way, such as its quick and brutal subversion of twenty-minute-marriage Disney love, and the concept that romantic love is not the only (or most powerful) kind of love out there.
Though, that reminds me of something else.
What the hell, movie?! When are you going to get it through your head that if you're trying to establish a platonic, familial relationship, it has to look and feel different from a romantic one? There were at least three (I think four) points during the film where I was compelled to say “...Now kiss.” The sisters would wait until the most tender and emotional moments, the music would soften, they would grow close together... and then it would jarringly break to something else. It really feels like the sisters could make out at any moment (though obviously we know that they can't do that; society would crumble and fall apart) and even the culmination of the film leads up to a “true love's kiss” that doesn't end up happening because the true love is Elsa, so it has to be a “true love's hug” instead. Now, I'm not a filmmaker, so I'm not going to suggest any alternatives. But seriously, Disney, figure out what you want, because the amount of femslash out there is in no way unfounded (not that it would need to be founded to exist anyway, but still).
Now, at this point it probably sounds like I really liked this movie (I certainly have a lot to say about it, don't I?) yet at the beginning I mentioned mixed feelings on it. Well, yeah – the movie was fine. It was good, and I can see how people liked it. Honest.
Now, do I believe it lived up to its hype? Was it the best thing I've ever seen? Even the best Disney movie?
It was good, but it wasn't great. The music needed to stand out a bit more. A lot of the humor was just not that funny. A good deal of the ending just didn't really hit home, and the touching parts were only so touching – they lacked that raw moment of “holy crap is this actually happening” usually exhibited by animated tear-jerkers, and there was never really the serious moment of fear that is needed to elicit a sensation of sorrow/hope/happiness. Even the moment where it looks like Olaf is about to melt could have gone a lot further – he starts getting a little soggy, says he'll risk it and stay anyway, but then ends up just leaving with Anna and being totally fine. The saddest point is in the very beginning (where Elsa starts avoiding her sister full-time), and the rest of the film fails to live up to that brief spark early in the beginning.
That said, it wasn't bad by any means. Even its worst parts were only mediocre, and it was mostly good as a whole. But is Frozen the divine's gift to Disney, a miracle that will revolutionize animation, filmmaking, and storytelling as a whole?
Find this review, along with some pictures of kittens, on my Tumblr page, Ravencourt Asylum.
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