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Better Late Than Never: Disney's Frozen

I know, I know, I'm one of the last three people in the whole world to have seen Frozen...but at least I caught it a few hours before it picked up its Oscars.  Some thoughts:

In general, it's an impressive film, and it's definitely in the upper tier of modern-era Disney animated features.  I don't think it quite reaches the topmost tier alongside Beauty & the Beast, but it's a solid companion piece to Tangled and Brave and more of a traditional musical than either of those.  One online comment I scanned earlier today referred to the movie as "Wicked Light" -- which is both an apt characterization and a very good reason for Disney to be developing a stage version.

The opening setup sequences are troubling in a couple of respects.  First, I need a second look at the initial sequence between the sisters' parents and the rock troll elder. While the trolls are ultimately portrayed as benign, the elder's blocking of Anna's memories is a key catalyst for the subsequent crisis -- which is a trifle disconcerting when we eventually see the trolls again.  The second catalyst is the late King's and Queen's spectacular failure to follow up on the elder's advice that Elsa must learn to control her powers; rather, they reinforce Elsa's choice to try and suppress them instead.  The parents' deaths are also peculiar. Their passing is decidedly convenient for the plot, and -- amazingly -- causes no political upheaval whatsoever in Arendelle.  It's unclear how much time elapses between the deaths and Elsa's coronation, but I had the definite sense that Elsa wasn't old enough to take the crown immediately.  Yet we see nothing about a regency council or royal advisors, and no one objects when Anna puts a wholly foreign noble in charge of the kingdom while she goes after Elsa.  This is...odd at best.

The other scene I want to see again is Anna's initial dockside meeting with Prince Hans. Despite having waited 15 weeks to see Frozen, I had managed to avoid being spoiled for Hans' character arc, and I entirely failed to anticipate the twist he springs on newly  white-haired Anna on her return to the palace. One key reason for this involves the last few moments of that first meeting, in which Hans' horse drops him into the fjord...and even though Anna is no longer there, the bit is played purely for its comic effect, with no change in the tenor of Hans' reaction.  It's a very sneaky fake-out, and I'm not sure whether to compliment the creative team for its deviousness or chastise them for essentially cheating viewers with regard to the scene's true context.  In the end, Hans emerges as one of Disney animation's creepiest villains (offhand, I'd rate only Frollo of the much-underrated Hunchback of Notre Dame as nastier), in which light it's unnerving that he's also one of the few who survives mostly unscathed by film's end.

The preceding reservations notwithstanding, I enjoyed the movie very much. The animators do their usual brilliant work with the various sidekick characters, the deliberate winks at fairy-tale convention are clever -- clearly, both sisters have seen Enchanted, the film that introduces the phrase "true love's kiss" to the Disney canon -- and the chemistry between Kristen Bell's Anna and Idina Menzel's Elsa is charming throughout.  (It may be just me, but I also find it amusing that both actresses were cast against type: the blonde is playing a brunette, while the brunette is playing a blonde.)

My overall grade: B+ (A for voice performances, A for visuals, B for music, C+ for script/story).  Not quite a classic, but a very respectable effort.

Crossposted from my mirror-journal on Dreamwidth (at http://djonn.dreamwidth.org/39649.html); feel free to comment here or there.

Comments

( 4 comments — Agree, disagree, kibitz )
sartorias
Mar. 3rd, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it, but I will when it hits Netflix.
twilight2000
Mar. 3rd, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC)
Interesting - I was confused by the "no one in charge" thing as well - I wonder if they didn't want to deal with the time involved in creating, introducing and handling a "regent" - it might have added another 5 minutes to the film, after all :>.

***I'm not sure why the troll memory being blocked bothers you, that one works for me.
***The King & Queen's spectacular failure to follow up on the Elder's advice needed more film time to my mind. I wanted to see more about why they chose to ignore the advice and about how they handled the separation between the sisters as a result - their death? Yea, WAY too convenient. Disney's handled that better before and it makes no sense that they'd blow it here. They're KNOWN for having, at best, one parent and a great backstory for why.
***I remember a scene of objection to Anna's putting Hans in charge - but it was fleeting and unmemorable. (Or did I put it in myself and only *think* I saw it? Have to watch again :>).
***Dockside meeting with Hans: I watched this with my 18 year old daughter - I remember thinking "How's she gonna choose between these 2 men" all the way until they got back to the castle, where Hans shows his true colors - she said she knew Anna would choose the moose-guy within minutes of meeting him. Interesting difference of reaction for two women who have watched Disney their whole lives :>. I LOVED the horse dropping him in the fjord - It told me the horse thought he was a bit big for his britches - but it didn't tell me Hans was EVIL (or creepy for that matter). I wonder if that's what tipped off my kid or if it was something else - I'll have to ask her.
***Hans is DEF one of the creepiest - but I wonder if that's not at least in part because almost ALL Disney Villains are "not quite human" - from Malificent to Ursula, the "Bad Guy" is often not quite "human" - because any of them are easily as creepy, but less creepy because they couldn't be someone we meet? Interesting discussion there.


Edited at 2014-03-03 05:21 pm (UTC)
djonn
Mar. 4th, 2014 04:16 am (UTC)
Interesting. The minute we met Kristoff again via Anna, I had him tagged as Elsa's love interest (because he'd been tagged earlier as an "ice master"). So I immediately figured that the plot was going to riff on Shakespearean comedy, with the issue being how to get the two couples properly untangled from each other. In that context, I assumed that the trolls' musical number pairing Kristoff and Anna was an early complicating element in the Shakespearean riff, and -- correspondingly -- continued to take Hans at face value until just a few seconds before he heel-turned.

I don't know that it's the not-quite-human aspect that makes most Disney villains feel relatively "safer"; rather, it's that most Disney villains are pretty honest about their villainous ambitions -- from Maleficent to Ursula, as you point out, and right on through to Jafar, Gaston, Scar, and Yzma. There are just two major exceptions to this: Frollo, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (easily the darkest of the contemporary-era features till now), and Mother Gothel in Tangled. Frollo is distinctive (and scary) because -- unlike, say, Scar -- he doesn't regard his actions and ambitions as evil; he genuinely thinks he's acting for the greater good. Mother Gothel is more self-aware; like Jafar and Yzma, she knows she's the villain of the piece, but she's also considerably more competent than most Disney villains, as she manages to keep Rapunzel in her power for most of the girl's life.

But Gothel is also closely protective of Rapunzel, even if it's for the wrong reasons. Even if her "mother/daughter" relationship with Rapunzel is a lie, it's a relationship she values at least in part for its emotional component. Hans is altogether nastier. All that matters to him is his own advancement, he's willing to use any means to achieve his ends -- and his outward charm makes him all the more dangerous, as we see in the film's climax. I can't think of any other animated Disney villain I'd regard as an outright sociopath, but that word fits Hans all too well.
twilight2000
Mar. 4th, 2014 06:28 am (UTC)
troll musical number - ya know, that may well have caught me as well - I didn't see the heel-turning till just a few seconds before he turned either ;>.

Your description of Hans as a Sociopath is spot on - when he turns, he's all too base a character with all too base a set of personality drivers.

He really *is* creepy.
( 4 comments — Agree, disagree, kibitz )

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