Summary: When a queen with uncontrollable ice-creating powers runs away in fear and shame, her sister goes after her, hoping to bring her back to her kingdom where she belongs to end the eternal winter her powers have brought upon the kingdom.
Thoughts: There may be spoilers ahead.
I was not planning on seeing this film at first because the trailers made it look awful. The humor was cheesy and the characters came off as annoying.
But then I started hearing good things about it, and trailers have misrepresented films before. (I thought the trailers for Shrek looked awful, and I ended up loving that film. I confess that I even thought the trailers for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring looked unimpressive, and that film along with its sequels ended up blowing me away.)
I thought the film was great. The humor that seemed so awful in the trailers worked wonderfully when watched in context, and the characters made much more sense. The story was engaging, and I loved the fairy tale look and feel of everything.
The songs are clearly not from Alan Menken, but they’re very catchy and, at times, very emotionally powerful. I enjoyed how they continuously moved the story along; it really felt like a 2D Disney film from my childhood in the 90’s.
The film did have some weaknesses. “Oh, Sean, must you critique things so?” Yes. You should be happy that I thought the film was interesting enough to provide this much commentary.
I loved the beginning, how they established the strained relationship between the sisters with the catchy “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” song. But when Elsa becomes angry after her coronation and begins losing control of her powers, it feels a bit sudden and forced. “Well, that escalated quickly.” The story is then set in motion when Anna decides to go after her. But why? What are the stakes? It just feels rushed. Maybe if Elsa had accidentally frozen some of her kingdom’s citizens or something. And while Elsa building her ice palace while singing “Let It Go” is cinematically fantastic, I wonder what exactly her intentions are? To just stay there forever, walking around? What does she plan to do for food?
One line really bothered me. In the song “Fixer Upper” one of the trolls sings “People don’t really change”. Really? If that bleak hopeless statement were true, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of the song? And of the entire story? And of any story? That said, I think it’s true that one shouldn’t dive into a romantic relationship with the belief that she will somehow change her love interest to conform to her desires. That’s hardly fair to the love interest anyway. “I don’t have to change, but you do; you’re not quite good enough for me yet, but you will be after I work on you!” But changing in general? People change all the time. But you can only change yourself, and only by wanting to. It’s not always easy, but that’s what having Free Will is all about. And that’s what stories are all about; they’re about characters wanting change and making decisions to achieve it. I really didn’t understand the point of this song, or what it was trying to say, other than, “Hey, audience, in case you’re really stupid, we should tell you that Anna really loves Christoff.” (And not that prince with red hair, because remember: red-head men are always bullies or clowny side-kicks, not romantic interests.)
Come to think of it, Anna’s romantic sub-plots, though entertaining, don’t really add much thematically to the main conflict, which is about Anna’s relationship with her sister, and her sister’s control of her powers. Might’ve been an interesting film if they had forgotten the romantic sub-plots completely and focused only on the sibling relationship. Why does a Disney “princess movie” necessarily have to include romantic relationships at all? (I’ve heard debates about whether or not this film is “feminist”. I guess it depends on what “feminist” means to you. This film is just atypical because the main conflict does not depend on romantic relationships for solutions to problems. Well, in a way, it pretends like it does for a while near the end, and then it says, “Nope, we tricked you, haha!” If that makes a woman feel empowered, well, um, OK, whatever. But I don’t personally see how that makes it any more or less “feminist” than any other story featuring a female protagonist in a non-romantic-relationship story.)
Overall, even with these weaknesses, I thought the film was far above the other animated films I’ve seen this year. What the film does well, it does fantastically.
On a side note, the film is so unlike the Hans Christian Andersen tale it’s inspired by, The Snow Queen, I’m confident someone could still make a great film adaptation that holds more true to the original tale and not look like a Frozen rip-off.