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20 December 2013 @ 06:46 pm
Picoreview: Frozen  

Picoreview: Frozen: conflicting.

There are a lot of things I didn’t like about this movie. The music is possibly the worst I’ve ever heard in a Disney film. Usually their songs tend to fit into the narrative pretty well; this really felt like the songs were being forced to fit into spaces unnaturally, and that these characters would prefer to be speaking.

There were any number of times that I found myself thinking how much I would like to have seen it done in hand-drawn animation. There were moments where the characters just looked so plastic and uninspiring. And I thought, y’know, I don’t know, the ice and snow animation was so incredible and I dunno if they could have rendered it so beautifully in hand animation, but then I thought of the utterly mind-blowing opening of The Lion King and yeah, they coulda done it.

Further on the animation front, I am sick unto the very death of these weird-headed Disney princesses whose entire forehead slopes down into the teeniest, bridgeless, ski-jump nose with a bizarrely foreshortened lower face. The wasp waists have always been absurd, but just come *on* now. And this is as an ElfQuest fan who didn’t develop a bridge to her nose until her late twenties: it’s not like I inherently disapprove of impossible physiques in cartooning. But I’ve had more than enough.

All this kind of thing really left a bad taste in my mouth, which is incredibly unfortunate, because the movie’s story is actually shockingly good. And yes, I do mean shockingly, because, like Brave, it goes somewhere you don’t expect a Disney Princess movie to go, and I’m a long way out from that ceasing to surprise me.

I’d really like to get to the day where I’m *not* surprised by it, but for now, I am surprised.

First off, this is not, by anybody’s stretch of the imagination, The Snow Queen. In the end, the only reason to say “inspired by” is because they’d mentioned beforehand that they were doing a movie based on The Snow Queen and they probably would’ve caught endless shit for un-saying it. Its resemblence to the Hans Christian Anderson story begins and ends with there being snow and a queen in it. If this is likely to disappoint you beyond measure, don’t go see it.

Now I’m going to put a cut, behind which I will tell you all the reasons why you *should* go see it. It will be chock full of spoilers.

This is basically a movie about a little girl whose parents (and some trolls) screw her up irrepairably while trying to do the right thing, and who comes out of it not just okay, but utterly fabulously brilliant, because of her sister’s unstinting love.

There’s a romantic storyline. There are even two. But the love story that matters is the one between Queen Elsa The Screwed Up, and Princess Ana The Determined, and it’s terrific.

Elsa’s ice powers harm Ana when they’re both very young, leading to some nice well-meaning but stupid trolls taking away all of Ana’s memories of Elsa’s ice powers, which Elsa then has to hide from Ana forever.

You can see why this might go wrong. Elsa grows to fear her powers, Ana doesn’t understand why she’s been suddenly rejected, their parents die, Elsa is finally old enough to be crowned queen, her ice powers get out of control and she runs away…

…and all the Disney Princess Movie rules get broken.

It’s not about Ana. Ana is fine. Ana is a Modern Disney Princess, she goes forth pluckily, etc etc etc.

It’s *Elsa*. Elsa–look, just go read Ursula’s review, because it’s all the thing she says.

This is the point where Elsa becomes the bad guy. Where she embraces her powers and turns evil and becomes the thing they have to defeat and you all know how this story goes.

And she does embrace it. She’s *so* relieved to be able to stop hiding her magic (the pop version of her song has a line that goes something like “I know I’ve just left my life behind but I’m too relieved to grieve,” which I thought was wow), and she’s not off to conquer the world, she just wants to be left alone with her power so she can’t hurt anyone. When she learns she’s turned the whole kingdom to ice, she’s devastated, but she’s terrified too, because she’s never learned how to control her magic and is afraid anything she does will just make it worse. So she lashes out–

–and hurts Ana again, much more badly, and this time it’s only an Act of True Love that can save Ana, and there’s an increasingly tense (well, you know, for Disney movie levels of intense) scene where Ana’s searching for her true love and Elsa is in trouble and

look, this is 100% spoilery for the end of the film, so stop here if you really don’t want to know


All right, it’s on your own head now.

Throughout the film, Elsa tries not to feel; that’s how she’s trying to control her magic. Then she’s told she’s killed Ana with that magic, and there’s a to me pretty well flawless moment of response: the huge, desperate blizzard she’s called up goes *poof* out of existence as her feelings are finally, totally, completely numbed. It’s perfect: it’s that moment I’ve tried to write at least half a dozen times, the shock of unbearable news, the nothingness of it, so beautifully, perfectly reflected in animation. I was so, so happy with it.

And across the suddenly clear ice fields, Ana, who is dying (freezing to death, turning to ice) sees the boy she’s fallen in love with coming toward her but still a long way away. And much closer is Elsa, who is about to be beheaded by the actual bad guy.

And again, perfection: we see Ana look to Kristoff, the boy, and then we see her make her choice…and she chooses Elsa. She chooses her sister over herself, and runs to save her. And does, and that’s the Act of True Love that saves her, as well.

But it doesn’t just save them both. It teaches Elsa what will thaw the ice: not fear, but love. She’s able to undo the freeze she’s put over the kingdom.

Let me repeat that: Sisterly love saves the kingdom. It’s not a prince, it’s not True Love’s First Kiss, it’s one sister who never gives up on the other.

I’ve never seen its like. And that’s why, despite its myriad flaws, this is a movie worth seeing. Waugh.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Alix (Tersa): Hazel-Rah (tersa)tersa on December 20th, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the movie, probably won't until it's out on DVD, but I got goosebumps reading the big twist at the end. That's fantastic. And awesome. Hooray for Pixar.
Chrysoulachrysoula on December 20th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Not Pixar! Pixar consulted and certainly paved the way, but hey, it's the actual Disney Animation team.
kitmizkit on December 20th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
I got teary writing about it, and got teary telling a friend in real life who wanted to know the twist, too. This is, admittedly, partly due to exhaustion, but it's also because wow. The friend I told got chills too, so this is something that's really affecting us women folk.
Bryantbryant on December 20th, 2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
Biased, obviously.

I didn't hate the music, but I didn't love it as much as I like to love Disney music. The thing I noticed in particular is that it's Broadway music -- the clever little lyrical bits, the syncopation, etc. Which felt weird, even though I like Broadway music. But I'm not used to it in this context.

Some of it worked for me (Let It Go, of course). Some did not.

Also I thought it was weird that we didn't get any songs after the second troll bit.
kitmizkit on December 20th, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
The no songs after the second troll bit kind of emphasizes to me that this was not really a Disney Princess Musical Movie. Even Olaf's song felt shoehorned in, and the only saving grace of it was Kristof: "I'm gonna tell him. Somebody's gotta tell him!"

I *liked* the opening song very much, except my Alaska-Native-trained-musical expectations were struggling to understand what the musical inspiration for that was. It sounded to me like it had Inuit tonalities, which is obviously not impossible, but then every person in the song (and film) was white, which...I was confused and frustrated.

"Do You Want To Build A Snowman" was beautiful and sad, and "Let It Go" obviously rocked the stars, but nearly everything else just seemed like they felt obliged to shove a song in here, to me.
Bryantbryant on December 20th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
The opening piece was inspired by traditional Norweigan music, apparently. I was baffled too.

And yeah; even if you were going broadway, you'd have a big finale. There is no musical theater tradition in which everyone just stops singing in the final act.
kitmizkit on December 21st, 2013 07:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, I kind of figured it was inspired by traditional Norwegian music, which in turn may well be influenced by Inuit music, but...yeah. o.O

Maybe they thought the pop credits version of "Let It Go" was enough of a finale...? o.O again :)
Chrysoulachrysoula on December 20th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
I love it too, as you know. I'm going to call out an early part I really liked: when the troll asks her parents if she was 'born this way or cursed?' And how her parents try to convince her to pretend to be something she's not, because that's being a 'good girl'.

I so strongly identify with reaching a point where you just can't pretend any more, pretending doesn't do any good, so you're going to go out and be yourself as hard as you can because nothing else is living.

kitmizkit on December 20th, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
oh yeah! The born this way or cursed! That was an awful thing to say in front of the kid! It was also very interesting in storytelling terms, because among other things, it implied there are people out there (Malificent!) to curse you! But man, her parents and that troll really blew it. @.@
Ellen Millionellenmillion on December 20th, 2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it yet, but I'm looking forward to it. (And I suspect I will watch it 800 billion times during Guppy's princess-stage.)
kitmizkit on December 20th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
There are many, much worse films to have to watch 800 billion times.
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kitmizkit on December 21st, 2013 07:28 am (UTC)
While I'm inclined to agree in principle, in fact I really hate The Little Mermaid and was hugely relieved they Disneyfied it. :) But I'm more with you on The Snow Queen, yeah. And it's really not that they 'esssentially' left the real story alone, but that they *completely* left it alone. I mean, there's one other element that the stories share besides snow and a queen, but everything about how they approach that element is different from the fairy tale. Yeah. Anyway. Yeah. :)
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kitmizkit on December 21st, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
at least one of my best friends *love* the original Little Mermaid (it's her favourite fairy tale), so you're not alone. I'm not one for the rocks fall, everybody dies sort, though. :)
A large duckburger_eater on December 21st, 2013 04:01 am (UTC)
I liked it, too, although I thought it lagged when the princess and the ice guy were getting to know each other.

Also: needed more female characters.
Chris: icon90scartoonman on December 28th, 2013 06:02 am (UTC)
Personally, I loved it, and it had more to do with the Snow Queen than I thought it would (the mirror in Kai's eyes and heart became ice in Anna, and Kai was kinda combined with the Snow Queen as Anna went on a quest to save her).

Character designs...good point. I thought it was fine for Tangled, they could've gone a different direction for Frozen.

As for music, I've heard other people say it's more theatrical than other Disney movies, and I see that. I mean, they have Idina Menzel in the cast (who I've been waiting 14 years to be in a Disney movie since her appearance in the Hercules cartoon as Circe), they put her talents to use. I agree some of the songs were unnecessary, but you kind of have to fill out the soundtrack (and "In Summer" cracked me up).