For the last year and a bit I have been doing what I can to avoid watching Frozen. When it first came out I saw the poster and heard a little about it but thought nothing more of it. Unless it had the words Age and Ice in it, I was going nowhere near it. I didn’t even see a trailer for it at all. Months went past, saw it climb up the highest grossing films list for the year (annoyingly making more than The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), but the only thing I heard more about it was a mention on Film when it had been nominated for Best Song (it also, annoyingly, won best animated feature, which really should have gone to The Wind Rises) at the Academy Awards, for “Let It Go.” Many months passed with no mention of it which I did not notice due to me not watching it. Then come November and the Christmas sales. Talk of people shopping like mad for Frozen Merchandise, rows of DVD’s at HMV of Frozen, Jumpers with the snowman on, and a clip of the snowman for Sky Movies. So why am I reviewing it then? In November, while in a Fairytale Writing class at University, my tutor showed me some clips from Frozen, and I got a little interested to find out what the rest of the film is like. I recorded it on Sky Movies Premiere, then eventually got round to watching the whole thing. My opinion of it was “Not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale The Snow Queen, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and released by Walt Disney Pictures; Frozen has been in development for a long time. Original plans for a Snow Queen film came in 1937 but over the years and through many script changes finally got produced for a 2013 release. The film though is different in one crucial fact to the Hans Christian Anderson story as in the Snow Queen in the Fairytale is actually the villain, where as in Frozen she isn’t.
The film begins with Princess Anna pestering her older sister Elsa if she wants to build a snowman. They go into the grand hall where Elsa uses her powers to create snow and ice related things to entertain them. Things end badly however when she accidently strikes Anna. Their parents, the King and Queen (Maurice LaMarche and Jennifer Lee) of Arendelle take them to see a group of Trolls (Ciarán Hinds and Maia Wilson) who fix Anna and her memories. Elsa is then isolated from her sister and Anna grows up wondering what she is doing. One night their parents are killed and three years later Elsa (Idina Menzel) is to be coroneted as Queen. Anna (Kristen Bell) is excited about this as she can finally go outside. There she meets charming prince Hans (Santino Fontana). They quickly build a relationship and decide to get married. Elsa does not agree with this and after a brief confrontation with Anna, her powers are revealed and she runs away creating an eternal winter in the process.
Anna goes in pursuit of her and tells Hans to look after the Kingdom. At a trading post and sauna run by Oaken (Chris Williams), Anna meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven. Kristoff who sells Ice for a living has suddenly hit hard times. Anna gets him some supplies if he’ll take her to North Mountain. He reluctantly agrees. They travel to North Mountain with Kristoff’s sled getting destroyed in the process. Along the way Kristoff and Anna begin to bond gently even though Sven takes an immediate shine to Anna. Soon they encounter Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman created by Elsa who wants to experience summer (completely unaware that he’ll melt). Eventually they arrive at Elsa’s castle but Elsa does not want to return accidently freezing Anna’s heart in the process and creates a giant snow troll (Paul Briggs) to throw out Anna, Kristoff and Olaf. Back in Arendelle; Hans sends out a search party to rescue Anna. The Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) on the other hand asks his guards to follow and kill Elsa. Kristoff discovers Elsa is dying and takes her to see his friends and adoptive family, a group of rock trolls who tell her that she is dying and needs an act of true love to save her. While it is obvious to the trolls that Kristoff and Anna are made for each other, Kristoff takes Anna to Hans. Hans’s men arrive at Elsa’s castle and are attacked by the snow troll. In the ensuing chaos Elsa is knocked out and imprisoned at Arendelle.
Anna arrives at the castle to receive true love kiss from Hans, who backs away saying she doesn’t love her and says that he only wanted to marry into the family to become King. He claims that Anna has died and uses the opportunity to kill Elsa who has escaped. Sven convinces Kristoff to return to Arendelle just as a big storm builds up over it. Anna is rescued by Olaf who sees Kristoff is coming back. On the ice plains Kristoff is within reach of Anna, but Anna spots Hans trying to kill Elsa and stands in front of him, destroying his sword just as she turns to ice. Elsa’s love for her sister enables her to bring Anna back to life and cause summer to return. Olaf is given his own cloud so he can enjoy summer without melting, Kristoff and Sven are given a new sled as Kristoff (ok, this is not stated, but it’s pretty obvious) and Anna starting a relationship. Hans and the Duke are forced to leave the area and Elsa returns as a loved queen, providing everyone with a snow rink and promising to keep the castle gates open.
As someone who has rarely seen any Disney films, Frozen is not too bad. During my childhood I resisted watching Disney Films as my knowledge of them was along the lines of flowers and singing, whereas I was more into action based things like X-Men (and Godzilla). I have not seen The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast (another one I saw a bit of recently and want to actually want to see), The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians (I have seen the live action film though) and many more. I have seen the beginning of The Rescuers Down Under, the end of The Rescuers, all of Hercules, Almost every Pixar film from Toy Story to Up (missing out Wall-E although did see the last bit), and have seen Dinosaur. I do remember going to see Aladdin but don’t remember anything about it except the first frame. Along with those I have also seen One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing; which is awesome. But back to the point, as a non-regular Disney watcher (minus films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and probably the next lot of Star Wars Films) I was pleasantly surprised by Frozen. It’s alright, not bad at all, just generally good but probably won’t rush to watch it again other than to watch the Oaken Trading Post scene (best moment of the film). The films cast are an interesting mix and the characters they play are almost on the edge of being a group of hits and misses. The Duke seems a bit too comedic with his guards being more a part of the film than him. Hans is an interesting villain (on the other hand), and given by the plot of this film, the only one and need of. He is quickly able to get on the right side of the audience as the ‘dreamy’ prince but when his real motives are revealed, more of his character is released and becomes someone you just can’t stand. Elsa meanwhile for many reasons should be the film’s villain (as given by the original source text), however her character being one of more caring but locked from the outside world is more interesting than the plain villain. Her song (I’ll get to it later) reveals more about her character, and once understood better makes her a stronger character. The way she continues to lock herself away after supposedly letting everything go as given context by the song just continues to make her intriguing. As in relation to the rest of the characters though she is kind of minor, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows them to stand out more in their own right.
The character of Kristoff is in many ways the unlucky hero of the story. He plays the part of the one who happens to be the hero. This is Good Story Telling 101 as it allows the audience to connect and feel for the character. It is a system that has worked for many stories in the past and RPG (Role Playing Game) video games. The point of surprise for an ordinary person when he discovers he is to be the big hero of the adventure. This could be seen as a departure also for Disney as it is not the dashing prince who saves the day (nor the dashing prince who just wants to be normal) but instead someone who is more relatable to the audience as he is not a prince but someone with an ordinary day and upbringing……….for the most part. Anna is quite a cool character. Being the extremely caring sister to Elsa even after Elsa was locked away from her for all those years. Anna’s love for her sister is second to no-one else in the film and when she turns into ice it is quite a sad moment. Her relationship though with Kristoff and the little adventure/first date they go on is enjoyable throughout. She is though a little vulnerable too as she has no understanding of what is going on with her sister and the friendship they shared as children is taken from her and she ends up growing up in a world that she doesn’t understand. Her vulnerability of her misunderstanding of the situation though is why you care for her It’s not the case that she is the heroine and a plot point but rather a character you care for and want to survive. From start to finish she remains this rather cool and pleasant character but with deep emotions that makes her relatable.
I’m not all too bothered with the character of Olaf; I just don’t see a point to him. I could understand from a child’s point of view that he is funny and is a character for little kids to like, but for the most part, he isn’t actually needed and serves absolutely no point other than being an arbitrary comedy character and one important plot moment; that being rescuing Anna. Other than that though, there is no real need for him. That said though he does have some good comedy moments from impaling himself to counting 1 minute and some scenes with his carrot nose.
The film though does make some real stars out of its more secondary/teary characters and when it comes to that there are some real treats. I really do like the character of Oaken and think his scene is the best in the entire film. What starts out as a comedy moment gets funnier as he reveals his size and strength. His unwavering happiness in the situation no matter what is going on means he remains funny, and brilliant throughout. I do however think that it is a shame he doesn’t have any more screen time and could have been a secondary hero for the film overall appearing somewhere before the climax. The small trolls are a nice little treat and offer something more than constant shots of people in the snow. Their little song and dance routine as well as all the scenes they are in are all very enjoyable. The Snow Troll/Giant Snowman is a character I like a lot. Not much in the way of monsters in this film with the entire magic goings on. His general appearance is great (even though he bears similar resemblance to The Iron Giant) and when he grows his spines looks even grander. Add to that his terrific voice and dialogue scenes (and scene in the credits) and you have an overall terrific character.
The best character by far though in the entire film is that of Sven the reindeer. Something of a surprise that he is unable to talk in a Disney Film but is able to present what he thinks and the emotions he feels extraordinarily well. Sven looks very dopey but is in fact one of the strongest if not the strongest character in the whole film. His portrayal reminded me a lot of the bulldog in Sherlock Holmes in how he acts to the presented situation. Add to that how he is able to make friends quickly, grows very fond of Anna and can make people realise what they truly feel and you have one superb character. I enjoyed every scene he was in and wanted to see more of him (even though he has more in common with a moose than a reindeer due to his size, bulk and even facial look).
The film is beautifully produced. The area of Arendelle looks very much like a Fairytale setting. The castle in particular looks a lot like the castle of Neuschwanstein (which also happens to be the design of the castles at Walt Disney Theme Parks) with its pointy spires, a very Fairytale look about it. The snow and ice effects are brilliant and altogether produce a very winter wonderland style of setting. The German/Scandinavian theme as given the home of many fairytales has been mixed in the films’ context quite well with character names appropriately given. When including other animals and pictures of mountains, the effects of this film have been done quite well.
I suppose I can’t run from it for long, we now have to talk about the songs. Not being one for musicals, I found most of the songs rather dreary. My problem is that most of the characters can’t help but burst into song when given a subject to start one. I mean, I don’t do that (although at time of writing this I was constantly singing – in my head – the theme music from Red Dwarf). The film also contains a strange piece of background almost tribal piece of music during the open credits and when Summer returns which I feel doesn’t fit in with the movie’s setting. For the most part though in this instance I thought nothing much of it and there were some cases that were alright at best. The song Do You Want To Build A Snowman was actually quite sweet and took me back to memories of my childhood (it doesn’t snow much round here, and when it does it’s hardly enough to build a snow man). The love troll’s song was pretty good for the situation and Anna singing to Elsa in Elsa’s castle also had its moments. I also rather enjoyed the opening ice cutting song too. It’s a piece that really sets the scene for the rest of the film. Then it comes to Let It Go. You see the thing is, it’s alright, just nothing more than that. It had its moments were it felt strong in tone but it kept wavering a bit and I just don’t feel all that strongly for it. The context of the song though is a lot more interesting; the idea of singing about letting go but pretty much doing the exact opposite in the process. The general point of it being a piece of music does have its moments but I don’t feel all that strongly for it. The song’s lyrics though when looked into a little more depth reveals more however and Elsa does come out as a much stronger character for it, especially when you realise that while the title of the song is Let It Go, she isn’t letting anything go but hiding it and herself, the only thing she knows how to do after so many years of doing it (the piano opening also makes me think of the Malta entry to the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest).
Altogether, Frozen is actually quite an enjoyable film. While it may have not originally have been the kind of film I would have seen, and went to great lengths not to see, I am pleased about seeing it in the end. I find that the film is good but not necessarily great. I think there are far superior animated films out there to Frozen and would rather watch again than Frozen, but I wouldn’t at all be put off watching Frozen again, even though I doubt I’ll be rushing to do that again. Don’t be put off by that though as Frozen is generally a good film and well worth a watch. While it has its moments of annoyance, people bursting into song at the drop of a hat and characters that don’t seem necessary it also has for the most part very funny points, interesting pieces of music and genuinely good moments to make an overall enjoyable film. The ending though is a bit weird. I mean; why is it that the (all be it brief) eternal winter is over and summer has returned that everyone immediately wants to go Ice Skating?