Sunday, December 1, 2013

Movie Reviews: "Frozen" (2013)

“Frozen” (2013)

When I first heard about Disney’s next 3D animated movie, “Frozen,” I was excited. Two of the last films that came out of this animated giant, “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” both managed to be engaging, imaginative and reminiscent of previous Disney films without stealing their thunder. So to hear they would be doing another one so soon was something that had my attention and curiosity.

Unfortunately, “Frozen” didn’t hold my attention for very long.

Part of the problem might be that I’m comparing “Frozen” to Disneys’ previous entries without even realizing it. That in the shadow of such ambitious projects, “Frozen” just doesn’t hold a candle to it.

It also might be that “Frozen” has very little going for it. While “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph” drew me in almost instantly without even trying, “Frozen” had to work extremely hard to get interesting and takes far too long to set up an otherwise interesting premise.

In the far-off kingdom of Arendelle, there is the royal family, consisting of the king and queen and their two daughters, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Unbeknownst to the kingdom, Elsa, the eldest of the daughters, was born with magical powers and the ability to control ice and snow. One day though, the king and queen are killed in a raging storm and Elsa becomes the new queen of Arendelle. 

However, due to a traumatic childhood experience involving Anna, where Elsa’s powers nearly killed her, Elsa has spent nearly her entire life in confinement, never to see or interact with anyone, especially her sister. 

So when Anna wants Elsa’s blessings to merry a man she just met (Disney, am I right?), Elsa freaks out and runs away from her own coronation and accidentally casting the entire kingdom in an eternal winter. Now Anna must find a way to break the curse on Elsa before she becomes consumed by her own power.

Let’s start with what I felt worked for “Frozen.” Elsa is a great character, especially in the classic Disney sense. If this were any other Disney film, Elsa would simply be the one-note villain. Pure evil, set on conquering the world and making everyone gravel at her feet. But she’s nothing like that. She’s merely misunderstood and lost. Having spent most of her life away from others and taught to never use her powers, even though they seem to have a mind of their own.

Elsa never does anything to intentionally harm others, unless out of self-defense or by pure accident. She is certainly a flawed character, but that’s what makes the most interesting character in the entire film. She doesn’t play to the audience or is the picture of perfection. She has a character-arc and a realistic one at that.

Another element that works well in the film is the art-style. I’ve never seen ice and snow look so cool in animation before. For example, Elsa builds an entire castle out of ice and carved into the side of a mountain. The interior of this castle is massive and yet surprisingly empty, which is both haunting and beautiful to look at. 

Also, there are some nice inside jokes that seem directed at other Disney films, such as “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid.” As I mentioned, Anna meets a guy and instantly falls in love with him and wants to marry him. Later on, any time she mentions this to other characters, they laugh her off and question her knowledge of true love. I couldn’t help but laugh at this because of how it raises questions towards the actions of Cinderella and Ariel and how quickly they “fell in love.”

Anyone else ever think that Cinderella and her prince broke up like three weeks after the film ended?

However, outside of the excellently flawed queen and wonderful art style, the film doesn’t have much going for it. It’s a basic, by the numbers journey to save a kingdom. Granted, in the end, it’s more about the relationship between sisters rather than a romantic one, which is greatly appreciated, but not fully realized. 

Elsa and Anna have such a small connection to one another, due to Elsa being forced to stay away from Anna, that their relationship had no foundation. It would be more interesting if Anna was the only one who knew Elsa’s secret and had to keep it hidden from the world to protect her sister and herself, but instead they decide to erase Anna’s memory of her sister’s powers. 

Also, for being a magical kingdom where someone can be born with ice powers, this world hardly seems fleshed out. We know nothing about the kingdom of Arendelle or the people who live in it, nor do we know anything about the king and queen before their demise. Not even their names.

I hate to harp on this, but in “Tangled” we knew everything about the kingdom and how it operated. There was a unique style to the world, backstories were given, the side characters had multiple dimensions to them and as a result, the kingdom became its own character. The same cannot be said for “Frozen.”

I think the reason I’m disappointed in “Frozen” is due to its lack of imagination and creativity, something that the previous Disney films had plenty of. Here is this unique and interesting premise of a queen who accidently freezes her kingdom and its up to her sister to save everyone, and I feel like little came from it. The way in which Elsa uses her ice powers can be fun its own right, but its not enough to save the film.

Overall, “Frozen” has a few good elements to it, but it ultimately left me cold and wanting so much more. If you like Disney and whatever they do or just enjoy a heartwarming story of family love, give this one a try. Otherwise, it’s really not worth your time.

Final Grade: C-

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