Monday, 20 January 2014

Remembering 2013: Frozen: Film of the Year, because why not?

Now you might remember for the closing of 2012 we had an award ceremony for all the good films that came out that year. Well, you know what, 2013 wasn't a good year for films (Sans the Oscar-bait which because of living in Britain we largely don't get until 2014 anyway) and so I don't think it deserves a list. The Hobbit 2 failed to inspire the same delight as the first. Literally only two people I know bothered seeing Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine so for all its charm and grace then I literally cannot place it in a spectrum because no-one has mentioned it. I had to watch Gravity not-at-Cinemas so I feel the amazing experience everyone else witnessed I missed out on.

My Prediction (Fuck Bono)

Man of Steel, World War Z, Elysium, The Wolverine, Monsters University, Iron Man 3, Great Gatsby, Die Hard 5, Lone Ranger, Riddick and After Earth were all either disappointing, horrifically disappointing or as terrible as expected. Even Pacific Rim had major, major issues. Then you had works like Now You See Me, the 2nd Hunger Games and The Worlds End which seemed okay to begin with but fell apart rapidly in your mind the more you thought about them (Man of Steel has the dubious honour of fitting into both categories, as you'll see next article).

And don't get me started on this pile of absolute drivel. 

I genuinely thought I hadn't seen that many films this year when I started writing this, but as I went over my notes I realised I had...and they were mostly completely forgettable.

Which brings me to the hardest point I've had to make in my journalistic (Hah) career so far.

When I look over 2013, excluding work like 12 Years a Slave, Mandela and Wolf of Wall-Street that weren't out at Years end (and barely out in the US) by far the best experience I had in the Cinema this year was almost definitely Frozen...A Disney Princess movie. I think that in itself communicates to me that I am probably going to start dividing up the years from now on into "Oscar Years" from roughly February/March to February/March, but for now I'm going to fully embrace my ability to say that barring few exceptions, Disney won this round.

So now I've lengthily prefaced everything to make myself still popular in the critic circles. Lets talk about: A) Why you should go see Frozen without spoilers and B: how Frozen was the most pleasantly surprising movie of the year...with obvious spoilers.

Non-Spoilered Version.

So Frozen at it's very core is an adaptation of the excellent though completely unrelated Snow Queen by visionary Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Aside from a nice subtle reference where the main characters names (Hans Kristoff Anna and Elsa) kinda sound like Hans Christian Andersen when said either drunk or Australian and there being a Queen who also has magical snow creating powers then you won't find much resembling the original material here. It is done in a similar style to Tangled, and if you thought that was one of Disney's finest (as me and Simon do) then there is little doubt Frozen will win you over.

Welcome to Arendelle.

The Disney film itself focuses primarily on two sisters, the happy, clumsy, adventurous, naive and headstrong Anna, and Elsa, a sad, elegant, shut-in who is very cautious of strangers and the outside world at large. The first act is literally full of incredible musical numbers that deal and help establish the two sisters. The main parts of their characters being respectively that Anna, having been isolated from the outside world and mysteriously rejected by her sister, yearns for outside interaction of any kind and was raised on a diet of chivalry tales and love stories; whereas Elsa, having accidentally nearly killed Anna in their youth with her magical Frost powers, becomes scared of the outside and even interaction with her sister.

No that isn't a spoiler. It's in the damn trailers (The good trailers they put out once they realised this was making bucket loads of cash)

For some reason all the promotion art features Elsa in ice-queen confident mode, which is rather unfitting given her arc.

So yes, a Disney film with two female leads? I hear you cry. Well that sounds fantastic Aaron but is that really film of the year material. Well why that aspect alone is a pretty significant departure for Disney, the two male characters who I will post pictures of below filling comparatively minor roles to the emotional journeys of the two sisters, that is but the...ICING on the cake. (That was painful)

Despite having less than two hours on screen, Kristoff and Hans manage to be significantly better characters than the two fuck nuggets who spawned the whole team thing. 

Yeah okay, so perhaps it is telling that everyone in this is beautiful and white, but hey, this is Scandinavia, anything other than that would be gravely insulting to them. Hans and Kristoff on first glance seem perfectly matched for Anna and Elsa respectively. Hans is the 13th in-line to his throne, frequently abused and ignored at his home on "The Southern Isles" (Read: Denmark) and Kristoff on the other hand is a Cynical loner, equally mocking of true love and other humans at large, also, has a thing for ice.

Safe to say the themes that run through this film are a sort of Dualism largely based around isolation as a positive and negative, with impressively nearly every aspect of the plot falling somewhere along the line of this optimism and hope versus fear and seclusion. I think I'm going to round this up, because I really suck at not spoiling stuff. The plot starts in earnest from setup once Elsa and Anna are forced to leave their comfort (or lack of) zone with the coming of a celebration which many royal kingdoms are invited to.

Safe to say it really pulls something out of the bag impressive if I'm sat here risking any scrap of respect I might have built up telling you it is great. So yeah, if you aren't sold, might as well read the spoilers, if you are, good luck. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, as of 3 days ago it was still showing in my cinema 7 times a day, so I assume it'll keep going.

End this on a trailer:

Even in this trailer they are still trying to over-market the Snowman. 

Juicy-Juicy Spoiler Time

Okay, so you either aren't convinced or you just want to keep on reading irrespective of seeing the film, I can respect that.

Okay, so loosely, I've spent enough time setting the scene, Hans proposes to Anna after literally one song about true love, she accepts, seeing a chance to "Change her lonely world", and go run off to tell a recently crowned Elsa (Yes her Parents die in the opening Act because this is Disney, Papa Aren looks fucking swag though). Elsa says no because they met literally a song and a half ago, Anna gets mad at Elsa, Elsa gets mad back, Elsa's powers get unleashed, Elsa has to run away, facing fear and confusion from both the visiting dignitaries and Arendellians.  

Above: "The Fake Villain and his Goons": Duke of Weselton and Weselbiggs/WeselWedge
Below: Mama and Papa Arendelle. Good Parents: Debatable. 

So after years of repressing her powers, Elsa suddenly using them to escape and to belt out the song that should probably win song Oscar, irrespective of Mandela dying (Controversial) causes the Fjord to freeze over and an eternal winter to spark off in the middle of Summer, as well as building an incredibly complicated ice palace. Anna goes to find her, meets Kristoff, her and Kristoff start getting along very well, despite his skepticism of her marrying a stranger she just met and they head towards Elsa so they can talk her back down the mountain.

Except everything goes wrong and Disney play their incredibly devious hand. Kristoff never even talks to Elsa, Anna fails to talk Elsa back down off the mountain and Elsa actually ends up frost bolting her in the heart accidentally, and the scheming old Duke complete with Goons isn't the bad guy...You know who is?

Handsome Prince Hans.

I've seen in the cinema twice now, and both times the reaction has been audible in the cinema. The second time two girls actively shouted in disbelief, which was more funny than annoying. I hadn't even cottoned onto it by the time the twist appeared, though I had questioned maybe 10 minutes earlier both A) how they were going to solve the love triangle that was emerging and B) that the Duke of Weselton, short of sending the two goons to kill Elsa hadn't really done much.

So yeah, Disney basically says "Fuck you" to the one character who believes in True Love and nearly kills them for it. It also teaches children a valuable lesson about good looking =/= good. It also turns the films earlier song: "Love is an open door" into what I perceive (though others disagree) to be a fairly clever villain song as opposed to a montage of two people falling in love. 

Hans: Holy shit I'm going to be king of this joint before Christmas.

And it doesn't end there, the reason Hans is able to leave Anna to die is because after her heart was Frozen (He said the thing!), she needed "an act of true love" to thaw the heart. So after Hans goes to kiss her and then breaks into evil monologue, prompting gasps from everyone, it is up to heroic peasant Kristoff to get remorse about leaving her and dash back towards the kingdom to give said kiss.

But he never does, Anna saves herself in what might be the ultimate fuck you to tradition in this movie, and in glorious style. 

Hans' approach to combat is to lie his opponent into despair then cleave their head in. 
One of the more to the point Disney Villains.

Her sacrifice is the true love needed. Yeah, it is kinda soppy but it is worth it for a rescue that involves neither of the males; and so true love between two women saves the day...No, not in that way, yeesh.

But plot aside, Frozen is good at nearly every level, the animation is perfect, little expressions in how Hans, Kristoff, Elsa and Anna act define their characters immeasurably. Despite criticisms of Anna and Elsa looking generic then the two of them in motion look completely different and Elsa's change from shy to confident to unsure brings with it each time a fresh set of walks, expressions and actions. 

Arendelle itself looks varied and interesting, probably not as detailed or varied as Tangled's Corona but as someone who has sailed down Fjords I can tell you they capture their magnificence effortlessly. 

Even the Snowman "mascot" Olaf is made bearable by the vocal work of the amazing Josh Gad who now more than ever I want to see in the Book of Mormon. Speaking of, the music is written by Robert Lopez of BoM fame, and it shows. 

Lets conclude promptly.

I always knew a review of Frozen would have to tread a fine line between my own personal enjoyment of the film and its relative merits. Frozen in my opinion is a turning point for Disney, having not only a handsome prince be the bad guy, but having a Princess who will look out of place on the pink aisle and never gets matched with a Prince means that Disney have subverted enough of their tropes while keeping the magic very much alive.

Frozen, at least temporarily, melted the Cynic within me (So I lied about the Pun thing)

Join me next time if you want where I'll be ripping Man of Steel apart with a rusty hatchet and talk about why Superman Vs Batman is looking to be such an appalling mess it'll make Green Lantern look structured and well thought out. 


  1. A fine critique, good man. Have never actually been gutted at not seeing a Disney film before.

    1. Thank you kindly, It'll probably be the first Disney DVD I'll buy

  2. It hasn't been a good year film wise, but already there are a few films of interest coming out for 2014.

    I don't think Disney ever fails, does it?

    1. I think it had a period somewhere between Chicken Little and the Rescuers 2 that could count as failing. But yeah, generally solid family films

  3. The pink aisle was my only hope of meeting a princess. Damn.

    1. Sadly that is also the closest thing I have to a life plan

  4. Good review of a great film. The audience gasp seems to be compulsory.

    1. Yeah, it was quite funny to see the group I was with the 2nd time do it...As I think I did the first.

  5. I'm glad you decided to let it go.

    Great article

    1. Oh you, if it doesn't win an Oscar, expect an angry rant about how people dying is unfair Oscar-bait

  6. Frozen is easily the most memorable movie for 2013. I am still searching for and reading about it 7 months later. Iron Man 3, just something between IM2 and IM4, whereas Frozen is a Disney Classic that will be enjoyed for generations to come.