Review: Disney's Frozen
(This would have been up weeks ago had my computer not decided to freeze up [unintentional pun] and delete the draft. Luckily I was able to see the movie again, so the refresh has enabled me to actually write the review at last. Be aware, I have no spoiler filter, so read this at your discretion if you haven’t seen the film.) Update: Sorry for forgetting to include the actual hyperlink for the music. I just added it, so go listen!
Disney’s Frozen is far and away the best animated film I’ve seen for a long time, and certainly the best thing to come out of Disney in years. Frankly, I’m not sure how this movie managed to make it through Hollywood in the first place, but it has appropriately become extremely popular. Frozen fixes the many problems of Tangled for an end product filled with beauty, enchantment, and a true understanding of love.
Very quickly, I’ll outline my few quibbles with the movie. Disney, do we really have to kill off the parents all the time? Can we please have a functioning family in a Disney princess movie??? You do know that you can have a decent coming-of-age story that includes parental influence, right? There were also a few plot holes, but they were things that—while I’d love to have explore the facets—were not essential to the story. It would have been great to explain how the country was ruled after the parents died, since Princess Elsa had not come of age; if there was a regent or some governing body, then why would Hans be put in charge of the country, with the other visiting dignitaries consulting with him? The other minor hole was just that Kristoff apparently didn’t put the pieces together between the beginning scene with the trolls and his later knowledge of Anna and Elsa. Let us move on now—I’ve no intention of getting bogged down on tiny details, since there’s always something that could be better!
The beauty in this movie is tangible in every sensible aspect. The viewer is immediately struck by the skill of the artists just in the snowflakes in the opening sequence, and throughout the whole movie in the snow and ice. I had several moments of wanting to just pause the movie so I could take in all the vivid details of the ice palace or the snowflake-filled bedroom. Even more, the costumes, scenery, and buildings were strikingly beautiful; the Scandinavian setting opened whole vistas of possibility that were well-explored. I loved the rich, warm textures and colors of the clothing (from warm wool to soft velvet to sheer silk) and the styles of the costumes just made you want to dress up. The little details from the painting on Elsa’s bedroom door to the wood-carving on Kristoff’s sled, and even the runes on the gravestones kept the enchanting Scandinavian feel through the whole movie. Beauty is so important in books and films; there is so much ugliness throughout the world, that a dose of beauty through art is essential.
And the music... Not only were the lyrics about ten levels up from Disney’s usual borderline banality, but the whole soundtrack was lovely. I could listen to the Norwegian chant “Vuelie”, from the opening scenes, over and over. This piece, I found out, was originally written with the hymn “O God of Loveliness/Fairest Lord Jesus” woven throughout. Listen to the song here by the Norwegian choir that recorded the music for the movie. The same goes for most of the other songs. I can’t say more on this except to advise you to go listen to the soundtrack!
The characters within Frozen are spectacularly well-developed and appealing. Kristoff, especially, is given numerous tiny moments of facial expression or reaction that help to create a believable character. Elsa and Anna have a realistic sisterly relationship, as well. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Hans develop through the movie; they are each given a turning-point, and their actions leading to and following from that point make sense. Sometimes that’s a difficult thing to handle, especially in a cartoon. Olaf, the amusing sidekick snowman, is not only intelligent and engaging but also holds the clue to the entire movie. It’s his line to Anna, which I’ll discuss later, that provides the movie’s thesis.
Before we get to the crux of the movie, there was one other moment that struck me as being surprising to find in a Disney movie. Elsa is dressed for her coronation in a beautiful, modest gown, but when she transitions to her “Snow Queen” persona, she makes a decision to turn away from “the good girl [I] always have to be”. It’s at this point that she magically changes her gown to one of ice-blue, which is also nothing like her earlier dress. The Snow Queen dress has a slit that’s halfway up her thigh, and an off-the-shoulder, more low-cut and sheer bodice. I really wish Elsa’s dress had changed back in the final scene of the movie, but the original transition cemented its significance by adding the visual element.
The most wonderful part of the movie, though, is the fact that it actually understands the meaning of true love. The trolls propose that “true love brings out the best” in people, while understanding that you can’t change who someone is. Elsa and Kristoff both flip out when they hear that Anna got engaged to someone she just met that day...and Kristoff emphasizes that Anna doesn’t really know Hans. At all. Not even how he eats or his personal habits. Because, after all, love includes knowledge of each other, and you shouldn’t marry someone until you’ve had the chance to get to know him. How often does this come up in movies nowadays? Usually love at first sight has the magical power, doesn’t it? My favorite scene is when Anna finally admits “I don’t even know what love is.” Olaf gives her the answer: “Love is putting someone else’s needs before your own.” Love is sacrifice. Love is far more than the romance of an idealized first kiss. The final act of love in Frozen is an act of sacrifice – Anna saves her sister’s life, knowing that by doing so she sacrifices her own chance at life. Frozen reaches the deep reality of the meaning of love, a remarkable feat for an animated movie working against the usual sordid currents of Hollywood filmmaking.