Monday, December 16, 2013

Disney's Frozen

So, having seen Disney's Frozen twice now and having memorized all the lyrics to all the songs, here are a few thoughts about the film. If you've seen any previews, you really have no clue at all what the movie's about. I'm not sure why they ran trailers that focus on bits not even in the movie and with zero plot revealed. 

1. It's much better when you can actually see the details! Our first attempt was Thanksgiving weekend when we were still in Dumas and hit up the tiny little theater in town. I got up and asked, TWICE, for the film to get put into focus. It was really like watching the 3D version without glasses and incredibly irritating. He never did get it sharp. And I still can't believe I was the only person in a theater of more than 100 people who complained. Maybe they're all conditioned to think this is as good as it gets? So we went again last night here in Highlands Ranch and remembered why we love living in a large metropolitan area. The screen was six times the size and actually sharp and beautiful. I wish we could've caught the 3D version but it wasn't playing at a time we could make. This film is made for 3D, with its endless fractals and gorgeous ice effects. 

2. The soundtrack is still a puzzle to me. Some of the numbers, "Let it Go" in particular, are amazing and right at the top of ones Sam and I sing at the top of our lungs in the car. "For the First Time in Forever" is also up there, although we love the reprise more than the primary song, since there's more interplay of the soprano (Anna) and alto (Elsa) going on . Some songs are just catchy, but a little off in the lyrics department. "For the First Time" has the awful line 

"Don't know if I'm elated or gassy
But I'm somewhere in that zone
Cause for the first time in forever
I won't be alone"


This clearly isn't from the writing team that brought us Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which Sam had to look up words to understand what was happening (granted, she was much younger) such as the line, "Why invite their calumny and consternation?" 

By the way, "Out There" is still one of the best Disney tunes, ever.

Okay, so not Hunchback, but, like I said, still catchy. 

The real strangeness is that there seems to be songs . . .  missing. 

The film stays true to its Broadway style numbers for the first half of the film and then just. stops. The last song of the film comes a little past the midway point and far ahead of the big climax of the film. It's as though halfway through they ran out of steam or decided, "Yep, that's enough singing." And the last song is the oddest of the batch. "He's a Bit of a Fixer Upper" really doesn't match the rest of the soundtrack (and, I'd argue, the animation seems to have been shopped out to another studio with a very different style). It doesn't fit. And that's the last time we hear any singing until Demi Lovato breaks into the credits with her pop (read: incredibly inferior) version of "Let it Go."

3. The backstory is horribly rushed. We get ONE scene and a small musical montage of Anna and Elsa before our present day story opens. And it really creates more questions and issues. Elsa is wakened by her little sister Anna, whose been awaked because of the activity of the Northern Lights. Anna begs Elsa to do her magic so they can play in the snow (in the palace ballroom) but Anna's exuberance gets her hurt by Elsa's magic. At this point, Mom and Dad (Queen and King) burst in and ride her out (ALONE in the NIGHT with ZERO guards) to the forest where they get this giant family of trolls (??) to heal Anna. Grandfather Troll sets up the predictable plot narrative by comforting the King that Anna's only been hit in the head by the magic, which is easily fixed, instead of the heart, which is much more difficult. He tells them their best bet is to wipe Anna's memories of Elsa's magic completely away (WHAT?) and the King insists he'll hide Elsa away until she can control her magic and never tell anyone. Who thinks this is a good idea?? Show of hands? The Queen doesn't say a single word. Not ever.  Is she mute? 

So, cue the musical montage where Anna is constantly knocking on her sister's door asking her to come out and play and getting routinely ignored by everyone in the entire palace. They've closed the gates and cut the staff and apparently locked Elsa up until she can learn to "conceal, not feel" (repeated in multiple songs lyrics). She's only shown being taught to suppress everything by the King, and the Queen remains pretty much exactly like her painted portrait on the wall. They speed through childhood and pre-teen years in about 30 seconds of song. Then the parents take some trip out to sea and promptly drown. Don't blame Disney for this. All good children's stories have to get rid of the parents, even if one of them was already a mannequin. 

And that's it. In the space of seven minutes, we're supposed to understand these sisters and their devotion to one another in the rest of the film when the only connection established between them has been erased from Anna's memory. According to the soundtrack outtakes, there was a lot more written that was hacked away for the final version. That's a shame. 

The girls grow up (the screen just flashes "THREE YEARS LATER." ostensibly raised by the five staff still holed up behind the castle gates, until coronation day when Elsa has to take off her gloves and hold the scepter for a minute bare-handed without freezing it into ice.  Naturally, having been suppressed since childhood, Elsa is a little uptight and lives entirely in fear, which is what brings on the ice storms. Brilliant idea to squash it down into a tight little ball of terror inside her. 

Anna, growing up alone and neglected, is surprisingly not bitter or angry, but quite desperate to find someone who doesn't shut doors in her face. So on coronation day, Prince Hans showing up, dances her around for one number, and then asks her to marry him, and she's sure its true love. When Elsa refuses to allow Anna to marry this stranger, the confrontation reveals Elsa's magic to her kingdom and she flees into the mountains, unaware she's set off an eternal winter behind her. 

Without any back story, it's really difficult to understand why memories-removed Anna is so sure of her sister's goodness and is willing to ride out after her, which sets up the rest of the film. 

4. Hans. I'm on the fence about this character. I watched, knowing the twist, both times, and it really feels like the writers came up with this plot device long after the first scenes were in the can. (Spoilers ahead) I'm really not sure children need the lesson that people aren't always what they seem shoved down their throats in this manner. They really don't need to be five years old and wondering if all the people who are incredibly nice and generous and helpful to them will, at the moment of their impending death, reveal themselves to have been heartless killers all along. It's as if there was no warning sign, at all, with any of Hans' actions until the crucial moment when he leans in to kiss Anna (who's been told only an act of true love can save her) and says, "Oh Anna, if only there was anyone who actually loved you."

Holy crap. Really?!? We're into seriously twisted adult pathology here, especially when there is no where in the film we can go back to and say, "See, here? These are warning signs of a sociopath" after the fact. 

In spite of all of the above problems I have with the movie, I still really enjoyed it. Olaf hearkens back to the best of Disney sidekicks, and Sven the reindeer is really wonderful fun. I was worried the film was going to be too derivative of Tangled, both in animation and character development, but it holds its own. Sam also showed me how to spot Rapunzel's appearance, cleverly hidden in a group scene, which was a nice nod to what was clearly its predecessor. 

Here's the clip of  the film's "Let it Go", sung by Idina Menzel 
(who is the original Elphaba on Broadway in Wicked)

Honestly, how could I not love a song whose lyrics end with 
"The cold never bothered me anyway."


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