Tuesday, April 15, 2014

(Belated) Frozen Review (mild spoilers)

  There is a chill in the castle of Arendelle.

  Young princess Elsa, born with magical powers of ice and snow, has created a winter wonderland in the palace halls, at the request of her younger sister, Anna. It has become a sort of special sister time between them, late at night, when the castle sleeps, to entertain themselves with Elsa's powers. Eagerly, they build snowmen, make snow-angels, have snowball fights, sled, and leap from snowbank to snowbank.

  Unfortunately, roughhousing with magic is never a very wise idea, and Anna is struck in the head accidentally by Elsa's ice.

  The horrified king and queen gather both their children and take an emergency midnight trip to the wise trolls. The chief troll assures them that Anna can be cured, “the heart cannot be so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded” and advises them to let him remove Anna's memories of Elsa's magic and keep their elder daughters powers a secret. The king and queen are desperate and agree, causing the downward spiral that may eventually lead their kingdom to ruin.

  Elsa, terrified of her hurting her sister, or anyone else, and tortured by the constant threat of the harm of her magic, locks herself away as her parents and the trolls urge, distancing herself from everyone. Including her beloved sister. Confused and disheartened by her sister's sudden “iciness”, Anna tries vainly for years to get Elsa to come out and be close again, but Elsa, out of sacrificial love for her sister (albeit misguided love) stays far away, just beyond Anna's reach, hidden behind a locked door.

  So when the day comes, as it seems is inevitable in Disney films, when Elsa's parents are no longer around to watch out for her and lead her, a desperate and despairing Anna comes slowly to her sister's locked door. Looking for comfort, guidance, arms to hold her in this troubled time.

  Little does she know the depth of her older sister's fear and loneliness as she weeps alone in the icy shadows of her cold room.

  “We only have each other. ” Anna laments sadly. “It's just you and me. What are we gonna do?”

  But, just as before, no answer came from behind Elsa's door that day. Or any day since.


  A few years down the road, the two princesses are preparing (in utterly opposite ways) for Elsa's coronation as queen of Arendelle. Young and impetuous Anna is desperate for human companionship and thrilled to see the castle gates open wide for the flood of guests come to celebrate and witness her sister's coming of age. In true Disney fashion, she sings of all the thrilling things that she imagines coming to pass in the night ahead, including possibly finding her “true love”.

  Elsa, meanwhile, takes a very different approach to the impending social gathering. She covers every inch of her skin possible, slipping on the blue gloves her father gave her to shield the world from her icy blasts. Repeating the instructions of her parents, she reluctantly welcomes the inevitable with a sort of resigned dignity, determined to do her duty, determined not to let anyone know.

  “Conceal. Don't feel. Put on a show.” she tells herself repeatedly, clearly struggling, while Anna rushes out to greet the people. Finding herself face-to-face (or should I say, face-to-horse) with Prince Hans, a handsome and charming prince of the Southern Isles who immediately strikes Anna's fancy, and continues to do so well into the night. So smitten is the young (and slightly naïve) princess, that she actually agrees to Hans' marriage proposal, and promptly drags her new fiancée to meet her sister and receive the queen's blessing on their marriage.

  However, Elsa – dutiful, frigid Elsa – says no. Leading into an argument in which Anna rips off Elsa's glove, driving her to anger and greater stress, until she finally snaps. And the effect is both shocking, and devastating.

  “Sorcery! Monster!” the terrified guests whisper, and Elsa flees the ball, the castle, the city. Heading into the lonely wilds of the mountains beyond the lake, where she can be free to use her powers and not worry about hurting those she loves, where she, and everyone else can be safe.

  But Elsa never reckoned that her sudden release would bury her country in snow and ice, setting in a slowly deepening winter that grows only more frigid as time passes. Arendelle's citizens are left behind in the cold, afraid, outraged, and unable to do anything to fight the chill. Only princess Anna is willing to go after Elsa and speak to her, insisting her sister is not a monster, that she isn't dangerous.

  “She's my sister, she would never hurt me.” she asserts, leaving her new beau, prince Hans, in charge of the kingdom before riding off into the frosted forests in search of Elsa. Thus begins an adventure in which love, in its truest form, is realized, and the eternal bond between two sisters proves to outlast any ice or storm.


  Frozen came to my attention late last year, not too far from the film's release, and while it had caught my interest, as most Disney films will, I didn't have amazingly high expectations. At least, I certainly wasn't expecting what I got.

  I am a huge fan of Disney, it was such an integral part of my childhood, I grew up on films like The Lion King, Bambi, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Mulan, and Robin Hood. When I was really young, before my siblings were born, we didn't have much TV, I had my Disney movies and my Veggie Tales collection. They shaped me at a young age, and I am so glad of it.

  As I've grown up, Disney movies have sorted of faded, in both quantity and quality. Studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have become more popular. Disney's classic 2D animation is all but dead. The company has invested so much time and effort into other unrelated franchises that they've forgotten everything that made them so special in the first place.

  Perhaps Frozen has come along just in time to save that.

  Grand, strikingly relatable, and emotionally entrapping, Frozen has enthralled viewers of all ages and all walks of life, bringing back the old Disney magic in a almost indescribable way. There is just something distinctly “Disney-ish” about it that I haven't seen or experienced in the Disney films of this millennium. Maybe it's because Frozen has been in talks since Walt Disney himself was alive, or because it was adapted from a classic fairytale like most of the Disney Princess movies, maybe it's the music, or the characters. Maybe the world was just ready for something magical again.

  Out of all of Frozen's wonderful songs, it is the Oscar-winning 'Let It Go' (sung by the fabulously talented Idina Menzel) that has captured the world's heart. It has started a youtube trend, it seems everyone is performing their own version of this popular hit.

  For myself, I really do like the song. The visuals of Elsa creating her ice palace was INCREDIBLE, the music was beautiful, Idina Menzel's voice is just unbelievable, and the lyrics a lovely. The only thing I disliked was the self-centered message behind it.

  “No right, no wrong, no rules for me.” Elsa sings out, shooting ice left and right. This was one of the problematic lines that caught my attention. Does the song deserve all the attention it is getting? I think so. It's definitely magnificent musically. However, I think we should enjoy it without soaking up too much of its philosophy, which may be hard to do, considering the generally young age of the Disney audience and the widespread popularity of a song that has been stuck in people's heads since the film premiered last year. However, as a lover of Disney music, I think it has earned its popularity and will continue to revel in that fame for a long time to come. We may as well just enjoy it as music, no matter how tired some of us may be of hearing it. ;)

  Besides the Frozen soundtrack, which has wowed and enraptured the world, I think it is the theme of 'true love' that really stands out the most about this film. Going against its own past philosophy on the now cliched 'true love romance' between a prince and princess, Frozen seeks to show us a different and far more powerful form of true love, mainly through the bond between Anna and Elsa.

  You may have gathered from my intro that the relationship between the two sisters is frosty at best, but it wasn't always that way. Buried beneath years of hurt and rejection is a love for each other that grows and blossoms into something beautiful by the end of the film. Despite how Elsa has hurt her, Anna still sacrifices herself to save Elsa from the sword of the film's (surprise!) antagonist. And it is shown throughout the film that Anna is willing to put herself on the line for Elsa, even when the other characters suggest she isn't worth risking it for. That Disney would step away from its old ways to paint this lovely picture is truly surprising and the results are inspiring.

  That's not to say there aren't other characters who demonstrate acts of 'true love' to one another. Olaf, the walking, talking snowman Elsa brought to life is there for Anna when she most needs a friend. He stays with her, keeping her warm at his own (*ahem* wet) expense and when Anna sees what he is doing to himself he gently replies; "Some people are worth melting for." 

  Likewise, Anna's newfound traveling companion, Kristoff, a tall, blonde-haired, ice-harvester, helps Anna search for Elsa, keeps her safe, and goes back for her when it's clear she is in danger. Charging right into the heart of a fierce snowstorm to save her life. Before this however, he took her back to the castle, despite his feelings for her, knowing that her fiancee, prince Hans awaited her, and could save her "frozen heart" with "an act of true love", in essence, true love's kiss. In true gentlemen's spirit, Kristoff gave her up to save her, an act of sacrifice, of true love in itself.

  What the film strives to teach about love is that it comes in different forms. There is Anna and Hans' mushy-headed, lovey-dovey drivel, as echoed by their duet, 'Love is an Open Door'. Then there is the love of friends like Olaf, who are there for you no matter the personal cost. There is love like that between Kristoff and Anna, one of friendship, one of companionship, substance, and yes, some romance. And then there is the love between Anna and Elsa, pure and perfect, full of strength, of laughter, of hope and of sacrifice. The act of giving up everything for another person, no matter what.

  That is a rare love to find in our world today, as these days, when people hear the word "love" they automatically assume that which refers to Anna and Hans' romantic relationship. It is only after that first thought that other kinds of love, such as the love between friends or family enters their mind.

  Hopefully, it is Anna and Elsa's bond that audiences remember the most as they leave the theatre, or turn off the TV. Hopefully it is their relationship that resonates with viewers, old and young, and inspires them in their own life.

  After all;

      "Some people are worth melting for."

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