Saturday, February 8, 2014

Movie Review: Frozen

So I finally saw FROZEN and I freaking loved it. Just spectacular.

Now, I know there are plenty of people that go hot and cold with the Disney Princesses, but as I know I've said before, my daughter adores them, so for no other reason that will make me love them.

FROZEN is the best Disney movie in a long, long time, probably since THE LION KING. (I'm not including the Pixar movies for this review.) Now I loved TANGLED and think that movie is vastly underrated not just as a "Disney" movie but as a fantasy adventure, but it's not even close to this movie. They had a chance to do something really good with BRAVE but that was mediocre with a few shiny spots along the way. I think they really return to form with FROZEN in a big way. So, on with the review, I'm going with my original format on this, so here we go:

What I Liked:
In all honest, just about everything, but let me address a few things:

  1. Grimdark Junior: Grimdark. That ambiguous term that is all the rage in fantasy right now. Martin. Abercrombie. Lawrence. Weeks. Brett. Morgan. FROZEN is the closest thing that we'll see to a grimdark musical. No, I mean it. A good, functional definition that I found for grimdark, for those not in the know is (according to Sam Sykes) when a story’s setting, mood or theme is one of relentless violence, despair and grit, usually to a degree that some would find excessive to the point of absurdity. FROZEN doesn't quite reach that point, but damn it's close. (That's why I used Junior.) I think the writers definitely knew what they were doing and it hooked me right away. Sure, most of this will go over most little kids heads, but older kids and adults will clearly see it. The tone and the twists and turns in this are Westerosi in level (the duke of Weselton sending assassins to kill Elsa, Prince Hans' schemes, etc.).
  2. Two Strong Female Leads: Now, I know that this immediately discounts the movie from being considered for a Hugo Long Form award....cause, y'know, girls are icky. And we know how the entertainment industry feels about female leads. I loved the two female leads in this for various reasons, especially the voice actresses. Was there anyone else that could have played Elsa other than Idina Menzel? (I'm going to get to the song in a minute.) Surprisingly, Kristen Bell more than holds her own when she shares scenes with her. I thought it was great how they flipped the normal roles in a story like this. Elsa was far more complex than most antagonists are (I refuse to call her a villian...and I'll get to that in a minute as well) and it directed the conflict of the story. Ana is spunky, adventurous and more than a little naive, which she needs to be for the story but do not mistake this for not being a strong female lead. She's brave, resourceful and a little bit reckless, which she, again, needs to be for the story. 
  3. The Song: Alright, let's address the elephant in the room a little bit. FROZEN is just WICKED Lite (I mean that as a compliment), it deals with a lot of the same themes and is really written more as a Broadway musical and that really helps the movie work. "Let It Go" joins the Disney canon very high. It's the closest to "Defying Gravity" that we'll ever get on the big screen and it owns the screen. 
  4. World Building: I write big, huge epic fantasies, so when world building is in a movie like this, I jump on it. If I had the time or gumption, I'd love to do a giant world book on the Disney canon. Now, the world of FROZEN alone is complicated: Arendelle, Weselton, the Southern Isles, etc. I imagine Disney canon turning into some kind of second world, fantasy version of our Earth (kind of like any number we've seen out there: Mark Lawrence, Jaqueline Carey, Scott Westerfield) where technology levels vary (more on that in a minute). FROZEN not only reveals the world around Arendelle but gives us tastes of the wider world: there's a Spanish analogue and a Germanic one as well plus we see Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel show up to the coronation, so there's the unnamed kingdom from TANGLED as well. It's just stellar....I'd love to have seen some other peoples represented as well and if they were really smart they could have rolled in some of their stuff from SOFIA THE FIRST into it to really tie the canons together. See Disney, you need to hire me to work on your world book.
  5. Anachronism Stew: Fantasy fans often have a problem with this one. If you aren't sure what I mean, here's a link to TV Tropes to give you a little help. Go read it. I'll wait. Let me editorialize for a minute. I love this trope and it is one that I use constantly. Is there no reason why a civilization has to follow the same path that ours did? Is there no reason that ships of the Age of Sail couldn't have happened earlier in a fantasy world where there are large seas? What about some steampunk elements in a fantasy setting? Dwarves and orcs are industrial, right....what if they kicked off an early Industrial Revolution of sorts. If you can have it make sense with some intelligent world building, why not. Now, the folks at Disney have said that FROZEN takes place in the equivalent of the 1840s, but there's a mix of stuff from the 1900s to the 1500s in it. And why not? There's magic in this world and trolls and magic. The repeater/easy to load crossbows are genius (used in this and TANGLED). Why couldn't they exist? Maybe they were troll created and can be mass produced? Who knows? I really like that the Disney movies (and TV shows) are taking this approach because it makes for a better story. We don't get bogged down in the idea that something can't exist because in our world it wasn't that way. 
  6. Intelligent Animals: Another aspect of fantasy that seems to chafe some people. I love that some of the animals in the Disneyverse are semi-sentient and can communicate with humans on a similar level as a dog. Max in TANGLED and Sven in FROZEN are cut from the same cloth and it works for me.
  7. Alan Tudyk: I really love that Alan Tudyk has become something of a Disney/Pixar darling. I mean this is the guy that was so awesome as Wat in A KNIGHT'S TALE that people in England were shocked to find out that he's from Texas. That NEVER HAPPENS! The only thing it does is make me sad that Wash is dead.
 What I Didn't Like:
There was very little I didn't like, but there were a few things I wasn't sure about:
  1. Olaf's Sacrifice: I thought he was going to be the annoying Jar Jar Binks, but he wasn't at all. He was masterfully done actually, but I have to ask: why wasn't the fact that he was willing to melt to keep Ana an act of true love? It's a minor quibble that has been refuted by others, but that's still the way that I see it but then the movie wouldn't have been as exciting, I guess.
  2. Trade-able Goods: What exactly were the goods that Weselton wanted? It's an interesting plot point that could've been explored more. Maybe in the extended edition.
  3. Trolls: I feel like the trolls were underutilized though I'm not sure how else you could have used them. 
What Can I Take Away As A Writer?
Anachronism stew is doable and when it's done right, it works really well like it did in FROZEN. Also, world building is important. It needs to be consistent and work for your story not have the story work for it.  Now, if I can figure out a way to get a show stopping musical number into my book, then I'd be set.