Frozen (2013)

Frozen Poster 4

I’ve been wanting to talk about “Frozen” for a while now. “Frozen”, to me, is easily one of Disney’s strongest films from the 21st century. I mentioned a few reviews back that a lot of the films from the post-Renaissance era and the early Disney revival felt lacking. Very few of them were terrible, but many felt content to be average. Films like “Bolt”, “Winnie the Pooh” and “Tangled” hardly did anything especially charming, unique, innovative or memorable. “Wreck It Ralph” and “Frozen” were the first Disney films in about a decade to really go that extra mile and be something special, and “Zootopia” was the point where I officially agreed with the general public that Disney had gotten it’s groove back. However, since 2013, “Frozen” has since been incredibly overexposed, receiving tons of publicity from the press, merchandise of all kinds from the Disney company, and feedback from fans and detractors alike. It’s been dissected many, many times over as either one of Disney’s greatest works, or an overhyped, overrated sham, to the point where a lot of people are burned out on it now, along with everyone talking about it. And honestly, as much as I like “Frozen”, I can’t say I blame them. Still, I’m here to offer my opinions on the film, it’s flaws and merits.

Elsa

“Frozen”respectfully deals with some pretty hefty subjects like fractured family ties, anxiety, and the consequences of isolation. Basically, the royal family of Arendelle teaches us all how not to deal with childhood trauma. After their daughters have a near-fatal magic accident, the king and queen instruct their eldest daughter to control her abilities with the Bambi method of closing herself off and suppressing her emotions as a proper royal should, which does nothing for her over the years except stunt her development, all while keeping the girls sealed away from the outside world and Anna locked out of the loop. By the time Anna comes of age, there’s really no reason to continue keeping the secret from her, but by this point Elsa has succumbed to her fears and given up on herself, even after her and Anna are the only family members still alive. By the time Anna and Elsa are women, neither of them are anywhere near prepared to take on the outside world – Elsa is a nervous wreck while Anna is so starved of love, affection and company from her family that she rushes into a relationship to try to fill the void – so everything goes to hell in a handbasket on their first day interacting with the kingdom. Anna and Elsa’s respective character arcs in the film are all about finding their way back from this.

Let It Go

Disney’s version of the Snow Queen is a benevolent Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Being one of the more powerful characters in the Disney multiverse, with her powers tied to her emotions and a tenuous grip on them, Elsa finds herself scrambling for control throughout the film. Her signature song, “Let It Go”, can so easily be taken out of context as an empowering power ballad that it’s easy to forget that in the film itself it actually serves a purpose similar to “Hakuna Matata”: a protagonist at their lowest point, fooling themselves into thinking running away from their past and secluding themselves in the wilderness forever is a good, permanent solution to their problems. With that much having been said, “Let It Go” is still a pivotal point in Elsa’s character arc; it’s the first time since she was a girl that she embraces her powers, starts to value them and simply lets herself be. It’s a good first step, but it’s not enough. Elsa loses her newfound confidence not long after this, and it’s Anna’s love and devotion that pushes her the rest of the way to being free to express herself wholeheartedly. I do love the implication in “Let It Go” and the siege on her fortress (where she tries to straight-up murder the Duke’s men with her powers) that Elsa has a lot of repressed anger about how cruel her life has been, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jennifer Lee and company flesh out her personality further in “Frozen 2”, now that she no longer has to fear killing anyone she talks to (something they’ve already begun to do in “Frozen Fever”).

For The First Time In Forever

Elsa’s sister, Anna, may not be the Snow Queen, but she is, in many ways, the beating heart of “Frozen”. A fun-loving, spirited, impulsive young woman, Princess Anna doesn’t always make the best decisions (in fact, some of them are really foolish), but she has as good a heart as any and has been burned many times over the last thirteen years. After she accidentally outs her sister to the kingdom, Anna embarks on a perilous quest through the mountains, facing all kinds of beasts with some boys she found along the way, her boys, to bring her sister home. Anna’s fierce loyalty and her sense of responsibility are her two most admirable traits. Despite Elsa appearing to be an incredibly selfish person for at least the last few years, from the moment Anna discovers her true nature she wastes no time pursuing her old childhood friend and never gives up on her throughout the film, despite there being some times I know she wanted to. Anna learns her own lessons during the trip, like the importance of not rushing into things, for her first love might not be her true love, and how to be patient, thoughtful and supportive for Elsa. By the climax, it actually hurts watching her die, petrifying from the inside out, so like Elsa I’d consider Anna a success as a protagonist (though I do wonder why her first reaction to finding a talking snowman is to kick it’s head off).

anna-and-elsa

While “Frozen” is fairly humorous in the first act, the comedy factor doubles once Anna has someone else to play off of, namely Kristoff. The surly, knowledgeable mountain man with a reindeer for a buddy serves as the rugged straight man in a gang of oddballs, which makes it all the more endearing once Kristoff begins to soften and we learn he has quite a few quirks of his own, having been raised by trolls with little to no sense of personal space. On the surface, Anna and Kristoff’s growing spark seems like an opposites-attract type of deal, but like Ariel and Eric, the two actually have a lot of in common. They’re both loyal, courageous individuals who feel a good deal of responsibility for the people around them and wind up bonding a lot during their adventure. I’d say both of them wound up with quite the catch by the movie’s end. Olaf, who I think has surpassed Elsa as the film’s mascot, could easily have been an annoying, overdone character, but instead makes for a nice addition to the cast. A quirky, optimistic snowman who provides the film with some silly comic relief and gives the sisters, who he has some history with, a helping hand. Olaf’s goal in the film is pretty weird though and kind of a stretch. This snowman somehow knows all these intimate details about summer but doesn’t know he’ll fucking die if he experiences it (mind you, considering that ‘happy snowman’ gag he could just be in denial). Lastly, his friendship with Sven, the reindeer steed, is so precious.

Kristoff 2

My thoughts on the Duke of Weselton? It’s a good thing he’s not the actual baddie, or he would be a really lame villain. As a secondary antagonist and a red herring, he’s pretty good though. A scheming little weasel with muscle to back him up, looking for any and every opportunity to cause unrest in Arrendelle. It’s also a nice touch that Prince Hans is basically a far more crafty and successful echo of the Duke, showing that while the world can be every bit as wonderful and exciting as Anna dreamed, it can also be dangerous. Upon rewatch, that seemingly innocuous shot of Hans catching Anna by the wrist becomes a lot more unsettling once you know he’s playing her and making his move while she’s at her most vulnerable. In fact, the animation for Hans’ expressions becomes subtly, progressively creepier, perhaps falser throughout the film, the closer we get to the reveal. I really like the twist of Hans being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hungry for power, but what I don’t like is Hans turning into an evil villain cliche as soon as he drops the act, monologuing his plot to Anna and leaving the room before she’s even dead yet. Scar playing a long con and making rookie mistakes right when he’s at his endgame was every bit as stupid, but at least that felt like his envy and vindictive streak catching up to him. Here, it’s pretty clear that the only reason Hans does this is because the plot would stop dead if he didn’t get cocky / sloppy. It’s a bit too contrived, but he’s still a great villain for the type of film “Frozen” is.

Anna and Kristoff

Something I enjoy about “Frozen” is that it has a nice, long leisurely runtime, reminiscent of the slower pace Disney movies had during Walt’s time. Disney films started to become a lot more fast-paced and ambitious during the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, and there were definitely some films from that period that I felt could have used an extra ten to fifteen minutes to breathe, so it’s nice to see some of the more recent films in the canon like “Frozen” and “Zootopa” slow it down and drop what I suspect was a fear that children would lose interest if a film exceeded eighty-five minutes. “Frozen’s” slow burn pays off masterfully in the third act, when the threat level ramps up from all sides: Elsa’s increasingly unstable powers, treacherous men, Anna’s curse. The 3-D animation is rendered impressively as well. Like “Monsters University” from the same year, there are times when the graphics and direction in “Frozen” are simply divine: the Broadway-eqsue joy coursing through every shot in “The First Time In Forever”, the runaway romanticism of “Love It Is Open Door”, ice trailing behind Elsa as she runs across the fjord and her sleek, shimmering flurries blowing through the night in “Let It Go”, the attack on her vibrant castle. In regards to the soundtrack, I feel like one of the best choices made during production was hiring Kristin Bell and Indina Menzel as Anna and Elsa, because whenever they get to sing they provide “Frozen” with some of the best vocal talent Disney has had since the Renaissance. Their songs are quite rightly seen as the highlights of the film; elsewhere, “Frozen Heart” gets the movie off to a surprisingly foreboding start with a warning to “beware the frozen heart” that might have more than one meaning, “Vuelie” joins a growing list of harmonious native chants in the Disney canon, and songs like “In Summer” and “Fixer Upper” manage to be completely ridiculous but actually kind of sweet.

The most commonly asked question about “Frozen” is whether it deserves to be regarded as one of Disney’s classics, and honestly I’d say that it does. The plot is fresh, the animation is stellar, the characters are adorable and there are plenty of feels to be had. It’s one of the highlights of 21st century Disney.

Side-Notes:

happy-snowman-2

* If Anna and Elsa had been a bit more knowledgeable about Disney movie formulas, they would never have let their parents walk out that door.

* “I know it ends tomorrow, so it has to be today! Cause for the first time in forever, for the first time in forever, nothing in my waaayyyyy!”

* “I love crazy“.

* “Elsa, please, I can’t live like this anymore!” “Then leave” Not gonna lie, if my sister stopped talking to me for over a decade, even after our parents died, and she said that to me I’d verbally rip her butt to shreds in front of dozens of strangers, queen or not. Anna and Elsa’s public meltdown could have been much worse than it was.

* “My power flurries through the air into the ground! My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around! And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast! I’m never going back, THE PAST IS IN THE PAST!”.

* “Let It Go” ends on something of a sinister note (“The cold never bothered me anyway”), so when I first saw this film I immediately wondered ‘is she gonna descend into evil now? Is that where this film is going?’. Obviously, that wasn’t the case but it does feel like a bit of remnant from when “Let It Go” was intended as a villain song for Elsa.

* On their way up the North Mountain, Anna and Kristoff are accosted by wolves (“IT”S TRUE LOVE!!!”; “Christopher!” “It’s Kristoff-OW!”). I suspect this scene is a “Beauty and the Beast” parody.

* “But I just paid it off”.

* “But you won’t get your new sled if she’s dead”.

* “Oh, I am going to talk to my sister”.

* “Knock. Just knock. Why isn’t she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?”.

* “Does it look bad?” “…No” “You hesitated”.

* “He’s crazy. I’ll distract him while you run. Hey, Sven’s family, it’s nice to meet you! Anna, because I love you, I insist you run. I understand you’re love experts. Why aren’t you running?!” Girl almost ran too.

* Those trolls want to get Kristoff married off so badly that they not only suggest he off Hans but they actually try to trick Anna into marrying him. Dudes, calm down. Also, why is blondness unmanly?

* I know Elsa regretted making herself some ice heels when she had to haul ass up all those stairs.

* Hans sees one of the Duke’s goons trying to kill Elsa and thinks ‘NO! I’m the villain of this movie, Elsa is MY kill!’.

* “Oh Anna, if only there was someone who loved you” The irony being that the climax is comprised of literally everyone worrying about Anna.

* “Love is… putting someone else’s needs before yours, like how Kristoff brought you back here to Hans and left you forever”.

* Anna stops Kristoff from jumping Hans so she can deck him herself. I wholeheartedly approve.

* After some trepidation, Queen Elsa’s subjects come to accept her, abilities and all. That is a really fortunate outcome, considering the worst case scenario was that “Kill The Beast” song from “Beauty and the Beast”.

* Sven got swag. So much swag.

* I actually do recommend checking out “Frozen Fever” and the “Lego Frozen: Northern Lights” special at some point. Not because they’re anything great – they’re pure fluff that gives Anna and Elsa’s sister bond more time to shine – but because its nice to see Disney having fun poking fun at this franchise. At one point, drunk Elsa even shows up.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

frozen-gang

Fanfics:

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2 Responses to Frozen (2013)

  1. Pingback: Brother Bear (2003) | The Cool Kat's Reviews

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