Story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Shane Morris
Screenplay by Jennifer Lee
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Disney’s take on the Snow Queen tale is an overall positive experience, but I hesitate to praise Frozen as a new classic. Despite some very good twists and themes that throw some classic Disney Princess tropes on their ears, the good parts don’t transform an overall uneven story into something great. Instead, we have something that is pretty good, just not amaze-tastic.
Frozen‘s strength is in its story of sisterly love. As children, Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her snow powers, causing Anna to have part of her memories erased. Ever since, the girls grow up separate, with Elsa hiding away due to her powers, taught to fear and suppress them. Anna is forever wondering why her sister hides away, and no one bothers to just tell her what happened. After the deaths of their parents (this IS a Disney movie!), Elsa comes of age to be coronated as queen, which will be the first time the palace has been open in years.
Anna’s elation at having actual people to interact with causes her to act almost drunk with gittiness, and it helps that one of the first things she does is bump into a handsome foreign prince, Hans. Elsa’s increasingly solemn demeanor (a manifestations of her duties and her worries that her powers will be exposed in front of all the visitors) drives Anna closer to Hans, to where they become engaged that night. Elsa realizes this is crazy, and doesn’t want to give her blessing at such a quick relationship, nor have a giant wedding where more people will be around to possibly expose her powers. This leads to an argument that leads to Elsa accidentally blasting parts of the palace with her ice powers. The powers go out of control, Elsa runs for the mountains, and accidentally freezes the whole town as she flees.
Elsa sets up shop in the mountains, now using her powers to their fullest extent, creating a huge and beautiful ice castle, all while singing about how she’s free to live her life the way she is. Elsa’s powers were hidden away, her oft-repeated lines about “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know” enforcing that she has to hide who she is. She’s forced to live a lie of a life, and to hide her true self away from those that she cares about: “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be”
It is only when she is exposed as having magical ice powers and she flees that she becomes free, free to be who she is, free to live her life the way she feels. Instead of being locked away behind a door, she’s exposed to the world. Elsa’s whole arc is an allegory to coming out. Elsa is specifically said to have been born with her powers, spends most of her life concealing them, unable to speak to anyone about them. Her entire life is about conforming to some other standard. When she is exposed and flees, and gains her freedom, she’s happy and powerful and beautiful. Elsa is not eager to go back to town, because she wants to be who she is (and is unaware of what happened in town.) People want to kill her for what she is, she’s imprisoned and persecuted. Elsa not having a love interest just enforces the gay subtext.
The bond between the sisters still manifests itself despite their years of separation, Else subconsciously creates the Snowman Olaf while exploring the freedom of her new powers. He is a key to their lost childhood, the prologue of the sisters as children has them building an identical snowman. His dippy personality a reflection of their childlike innocence. I did think the snowman was going to be incredibly annoying (he looks like a character you want to punch) but instead he’s one of the best parts of the film.
Overall themes of isolation for all the characters. Anna is separated from her sister, essentially growing up alone (especially after some of her memories are removed.) Elsa is forced to isolate herself, both out of duty and out of fear that she will hurt Anna again. She runs off into the mountains and builds herself a huge ice palace to live out her life in isolation. Kristoff grew up alone, his only friend was a reindeer named Sven (who does not talk – in fact, we see Kristoff doing the talking for Sven in several scenes – a true sign of someone who has been alone.) Kirstoff’s tale is somewhat different in that he’s adopted by the trolls. So he in essence goes from having no one but a reindeer to having a huge extended family, though one that includes no humans. Kristoff still grows up distrusting of other people. The characters solve their dilemmas by not being isolated and alone, by instead working together to overcome the problems facing them and the nation.
Frozen‘s flaws include a villain businessman character who is transparently evil. The trolls that do the magic healing are much more interesting when they’re talking and not singing. Their song is by far the worst of the film, and it’s message is terrible and at odds with the bigger message of Frozen.
When it comes down to it, I liked Wreck-It Ralph better, I thought that film delivered a more solidly consistent story. While both films follow the traditional hero’s journey while breaking some conventions, Frozen feels more like it is geared just for the unique twists. While what happens is great and unexpected, the rest of the film fails to deliver subsistence equal to the bright points. The twists are important in a cultural standpoint, but when viewed within the context of the film, parts of Frozen don’t measure up to the exception sections. It is a shame, I wish Frozen was more solid. I do fully expect “Let It Go” to become a gay anthem, and it’s my favorite song from the film.
One interesting thing is the Mickey Mouse short that precedes the film, Get a Horse!, fails to deliver the same important messages that Frozen does, in fact, it delivers the complete opposite! At the risk of sounding like a grinch, I did not like Get a Horse!, though I love the old Mickey Mouse cartoons. I thought the use of animation was wonderful, but the actual plot and execution was poorly done. That does mirror Frozen, as Frozen looks marvelous, it might have my favorite visual style of a Disney film. I fully admit I do hold Disney films to a higher regard, because they are Disney films, and are supposed to be premium brands. Frozen is a very good film, but it isn’t perfect. There are some cracks in the ice, but it is still refreshing.
Rated 8/10 (powers, trolls, price gouger, weasels rip his flesh, not in sheep’s clothing, buy these bears, I hope this ain’t phallic!, hot melting mess!)
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