Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen

Initially I had no intention of seeing this movie and my list of reasons why was pretty long. From the fact that, in retrospect, the marketing was terrible (someone has to reassure me, and I had to do it in turn afterwards, that the snowman actually wasn't this terrible character who ruined the movie), compared to the original story (a girl saves a boy and goes on an adventure to do it!) the summary for it (a girl must save her sister from becoming evil and a guy helps her do it!) sounded rather, uninspired. The character designs also rubbed me a bit the wrong way, both the fact that Anna and Elsa looked like they were Rapunzel's sisters (especially once again compared to the original designs, plus there was a comment from one of the staff about having to constantly make the girls look pretty which didn't sit well with many) and the reminder of how many stories we get about cute, young white characters and so few about non-white ones (the This Could Have Been Frozen tumblr both has some really cool art and for me was a reminder of how rarely you see non-white characters as leads in traditional American media). So why did I try it after all? Because at the heart it's a, non-romantic, story about a relationship between two sisters and that's a kind of story I want to see and I was hoping that the story was strong enough to make up for all of the things I just listed.


Summary: Anna and Elsa are sisters in the kingdom of Arendelle and while Anna is a happy, outgoing child Elsa is a bit more withdrawn and quiet, terrified that she'll hurt someone with her strange ice creating powers. When she ascends to the throne her secret slips out and she accidentally turns their sunny, summer land into a winter wonderland and Anna has to set out to apologize to her sister and bring her back so that everything can be set right again.

The Good: That was a way better story than I was expecting, hurray! Unlike what I predicted Elsa has not turned evil and it's up to Anna to use the power of love to restore her heart, nope Elsa is just a combination of scared and embracing the new freedom of not being where she can harm people (and as many people have pointed out, this is one of the rare times where a Disney film has shown that the parents, while well-meaning, were certainly wrong). The movie questions the idea of love at first sight, makes it clear that familial love is just as important and great as romantic love, and actually has a plot twist that caught my theater by surprise (I figured it out once the movie started but Disney waited just late enough that I had started doubting myself so kudos to them). I liked Anna and Elsa's character arcs and felt like the story stayed true to itself by the end, this wasn't supposed to be some very very silly comedic story, it's a fun story with plenty of funny moments but at it's heart it's about two sisters and it remembers this all the way to the end.

The Bad: Really, whoever was in charge of the marketing (in the US anyway) did a terrible job at getting across the real mood of the film, if I hadn't looked up reviews and heard some good word of mouth I never would have seen it this soon. As for the movie itself, I felt like it dragged on in one or two points in the last third/half (especially since this was when there was a time-specific plot point) and there were times when Anna/Kristoff felt like a little too anachronistic compared to the rest of the cast (as much as I like Anna and I'm sure tons of little girls feel like she's just like them she feels a bit like they were trying really hard to inject bits of a "modern teen/pre-teen" into her).

The Production Values: I heard the song "Let It Go" before the movie and wasn't sold on it but somehow when it played in the movie it just worked. That was easily my favorite song of the film but I thought that everything sounded fine. I know some people on tumblr have been up in arms about some moments of shoddy animation but even when I stared at the cam-rif-gifs of the scene in question I still couldn't spot it so I feel like I can say that the movie looked pretty good too. Still not thrilled that Anna and Elsa have easily the most boring faces in the entire film (as I mentioned earlier that just felt like, well, a cop out considering what's previously been done in animation) but the rest of the designs (character, clothing, and setting wise) were rather pretty.

For being actually a really good movie and having the kind of plot I've wanted in a story for years I'm giving this film a 4 out of 5 and just hope that Disney A) Actually changes the faces for the female characters in their next film and B) Realizes that just because you have one black/Middle Eastern/Asian female lead of a film doesn't mean you should wait another five, eight, or more years to make the next film (and for god's sake you can put them in the backgrounds too, non-white people appeared in the background in just ONE scene!)