Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On Second Thought - "Frozen"




Welcome to a new series entitled “On Second Thought.” In this series, I will be taking a second look at a film I have previously reviewed and analyzing how my thoughts and feelings on this particular film has changed over time. 

I’m using this mostly to demonstrate the biggest flaw within movie reviews: While a critic can give an accurate representation of how the film made them feel at the time, it doesn’t take into account how they might feel about it in the future. Opinions and feelings change over time just as much as a person can change. A film which someone once loved could suddenly become unbearable and irritating, or vice versa.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had second thoughts on a film. Where a new thought or feeling is produced, and suddenly that changes the entire outlook of the film. Some of the notable ones in the past have been “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” and “Rear Window” both of which I didn’t care for upon my initial viewing but grew to adore them over time. 

While I believe this is a problem within film criticism, it is also something that I believe everyone can relate to. We’ve all had second thoughts about events in our lives, or have grown to love something which we once hated. Forgiveness and admiration can be powerful forces when put together. 

I hope this series helps to show just that. Let’s start off with something that has become quite successful lately and has garnered much praise, “Frozen.”



In my initial review of the film, I talked about how I loved the design and look of the film and thought Elsa was a wonderfully developed character. Yet, I was turned off by the film’s lack of imagination and creativity, something which the two previous Disney animated films, “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph” had in abundance. 

“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,” I wrote. “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.”

In the end, I gave “Frozen” a C-.

I realize now that this grade was way too harsh and undeserving for such a beautiful movie. 

While I still feel like it took a while for the film to get interesting, once the entire kingdom knew about Elsa’s powers, suddenly the film got intense and exciting. There are rivals from opposing kingdoms who want Elsa hunted down, while Anna just wants to save her sister. She says that it is for the kingdom, but we all know that the love for her sister comes above all else.



Perhaps the reason I was so hard on the film in the first place was because the relationship between Elsa and Anna wasn’t as strong as I thought it could have been. The two spend a little time as a kid, Elsa nearly kills Anna but is saved and has her memory wiped of Elsa’s powers, and then the two spend the next ten years of their lives hardly ever seeing one another.

I do believe this is a problem, especially the mind wiping part. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Anna knew about Elsa’s powers but had to keep it secret from every one else? That way, in moments where Elsa needed comforting, Anna could have been there for and made the pain of near death go away.

However, I feel like I was only observing it from Anna’s perspective. Most of what she recalled about Elsa were implanted memories. For Elsa, her memories of Anna were real. It was clear those were some of the best moments of her childhood, before she had to be put in solitude. Kind of a Charles Foster Kane moment, if you will. 

When you look at it like that, suddenly the lengths that Elsa goes to near the end make it all the more powerful. She is doing everything to get back to that moment of happiness, but nearly repeats it again because she is so absorbed in the past. 



So even though I think their relationship could have been stronger, it is much deeper and more complex than I gave it credit for. 

I also hardly touched on the musical numbers in “Frozen.” Most of them I found to be rather forgettable, apart from two. I have a hard time remember any of the lyrics or tunes to the songs, other than “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go.” 

“Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” serves as the emotional relationship between Anna and Elsa for the opening of the film, and shows just how much love Anna has for her sister even after all that has happened. Years pass, but Anna never gives up on her. All punctuated by Anna’s final line, repeating the title and giving us a great shot of Elsa and Anna, back-to-back, but separated.

“Let It Go,” on the other hand has become a huge sensation. Not only has it just won the Oscar for Best Original Song, but there are parodies of it everywhere, along with different styles of music set to the lyrics. 



It honestly was the highlight of the film, served as a wonderful transformation in Elsa’s character, had the best visuals of the whole movie and was extremely catchy. I’ve had the song stuck in my head since Adele Dazeem sang it at the Oscars and I have no problem with that. 

The last thing I’d like to mention about my initial review was how it was unfair of me to constantly compare “Frozen” to films like “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” A film deserves to stand or fall on its own merits, without being compared to any other works and “Frozen” is no exception.

It felt like my initial review wanted to talk about how “Frozen” was a watered down “Tangled.” Now I see that the two try entirely different things and have vastly different approaches to their presentation. “Tangled” wanted to tell a tale similar to many of the classic Disney princess films, like “Beauty And The Beast” meets “Aladdin.” “Frozen,” on the other hand, may have had princesses, but wanted to tell a story of the love within family, something that has been rarely touched upon in Disney films.

It seems like Disney is in the process of starting up its second Renaissance Era. The first “Disney Renaissance” began with “Beauty And The Beast” which took their animated features in a whole new direction, which eventually gave us films like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King.”

“Frozen” just might be the beginning of a new Renaissance Era, especially if you include “Saving Mr. Banks” and the upcoming “Maleficent” film. All three of these films have something in common: They take classic tropes and story that is inherently Disney, but they take a new spin on. “Frozen” is about the bond between sisters. “Saving Mr. Banks” gave us a depiction of Walt Disney, but were not afraid to show his darker and more brash side, as we seem him swear, smoke and drink. While we don’t know much about “Maleficent” I think we can assume the plot is going to be that of “Sleeping Beauty” but rather told from the villain’s perspective. 



That’s what this new Renaissance is putting above all else: perspective. Who is telling the story makes a huge difference. When you look at “Frozen” as a film about Anna, you get my initial review. If you see it more as Elsa’s tale, or even better as both Elsa and Anna’s story, then it comes out looking much better.

Not only is “Frozen” beautiful, hilarious and catchy, but it has incredibly well written character and a wonderful relationship between the two leads. It is not the best, but for what it was, it gives some touching moments that will melt any heart. 

Initial Grade: C-
Revised Grade: B

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