Monday, January 13, 2014

Reviewcap: 'Frozen'

After begging my kids for over a month can we please please please see 'Frozen' (yes, the irony of this statement is not lost on me), we finally had a family movie date to see it. And it was worth waiting for. Once again Disney has crafted a beautiful story of love and acceptance but took a 90 degree turn from the usual.

While on the surface it's a story of love between two sisters, the meaning is much deeper than that. Born with the power to make ice and snow, Princess Elsa accidentally gravely injures her younger sister Princess Anna while playing on day. Taken to the mountain trolls, Anna is healed by the removal of the memory of Elsa's magic but never forgets the fun. Elsa in that moment is taught that her powers are secret and shameful and that she must be isolated so she doesn't hurt anyone again. This isolation freezes the relationship between the sisters with Anna not understanding why Elsa doesn't want to play with her anymore. To protect Elsa's secret, the castle gates are locked leaving the girls prisoners: Anna by the gates and Elsa by her fear and shame.

When their parents are lost at sea, Elsa assumes the throne, alone in her fear and uncertainty over her growing powers. Anna is reveling in her new-found freedom, if only for a day. While Elsa worries alone how she will get through the coronation, Anna finds first love with a handsome prince named Hans, the youngest of 13 brothers whose parents clearly subscribed to the old adage of 'an heir, a spare and a football team'. After a whirlwind romance of a couple of hours they decide to get married and spring this on Elsa during the coronation ball. Unsurprisingly, Elsa vetoes the idea and an argument between Elsa and Anna reveals Elsa's secret, leading her to flee in shame. The depth of the feeling behind the power Elsa unleashed causes an apocalyptic winter to settle over Arendelle in the summer, stranding the visiting dignitaries .

Free for the first time from the prison of her mind and fear, Elsa revels in being able to experiment and create with her powers a stunning ice castle with a wild new fashion look. She can't hurt anyone anymore but doesn't know what is happening to Arendelle - and  for the moment, doesn't care. She's finally as happy as she knows how to be.

Anna has never given up on her sister no matter for how many years Elsa shut her out and sets out to find her, enlisting on her way the assistance of an ice merchant named Kristoff and his life partner Sven the reindeer and leaving Hans in charge as she has a long history of making really excellent decisions. In classic fashion, they bicker, share and finally, begin working together. The closer they get to where Elsa has made her new home, the more beauty they see in winter. The strength of Elsa's magic has brought a snowman named Olaf to life - he begins to revive Anna's memories of the accident but with a child's trust and innocence, Anna knows that it wasn't on purpose. She just wants to find her sister, bring her home and fix the mess in Arendelle. Oh yeah, and marry Hans.

Elsa is less than pleased to see that Anna has tracked her down and orders her to go away, she doesn't want to hurt anyone and is better off alone. Anna pushes the issue as Elsa hasn't let her describe the conditions in Arendelle but this only serves to heighten Elsa's anxiety causing her powers to gain strength and she shoots ice at Anna which hits her in the heart. Little sisters, amirite? Elsa literally throws them out of the castle thanks to a giant snow monster which, when you think about it, is really her patronus. So that went smashingly well and still no answer to Arendelle's problem. Meanwhile, Hans is really stepping up with keeping the people of Arendelle comfortable with blankets and food and is growing into a leader role while trying to ignore the blustering of the Duke of Weaselton (that's WESelton!) who wants to hunt Elsa down and make her pay for trapping him there. Weaselton is the main trading partner of Arendelle and for years, the Duke has been trying to find out anything he can about the mysterious country.

Kristoff and Anna begin to head for home when Anna collapses. She's freezing and her hair is turning white. Kristoff takes her to see his adopted family and begins talking to a pile of rocks. Anna and Olaf question his sanity when the rocks are revealed to be mountain trolls. They completely misunderstand the situation and think that Kristoff has brought a girl to them to be introduced but hello! Have they met Sven? Kristoff and Anna are just about ready to say their vows when Kristoff is finally able to get through to them that they aren't getting married but she is sick and can Grandpoppy please help? Up rolls Grandpoppy and it's the same troll who healed Anna years ago but this time it's much more difficult - only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. This means they need to get Anna back to Hans and Arendelle right away.

Hans though, is off to rescue Anna and he and his men end up fighting Elsa who ultimately is knocked out and captured. She awakes in the castle dungeon with her hands encased in iron mittens. This understandably stresses her and her powers begin ramping up to full throttle. Unaware that Anna has been hurt, Elsa begins to struggle in a desperate attempt to free herself. Hans visits Elsa and attempts to comfort and soothe her; he's really quite kind and solicitous. He returns to the castle proper when Kristoff and Anna arrive, Anna practically comatose. They take her to a warm room and leave her with her true love Hans. Anna asks him to kiss her as only an act of true love can save her and of course that means true love's kiss. Hans makes with the kissy face then pulls back and taunts her that he never loved her and she was an idiot for buying into it. As the youngest of 13, he had no chance back home so would have to marry into a throne. His plan was to marry Anna, kill her then off her sister to get Arendelle but Anna freezing to death beforehand would do nicely. He extinguishes the candles and the fire and locks her in there to die. This is one of the only parts of the movie I have an issue with: there was no indication of any sort that Hans was playing a deeper game. No side glances, no questionable expressions, no suspicious utterances. I get that they were trying to come from left field and bravo and all that but for it to work, there has to be something to build on unless they were trying to imply that he was getting a taste for ruling when in charge of Arendelle then made up the whole plan? It's the weakest part of the story.

Hans sadly informs the Duke that Anna has died but not before saying their wedding vows in private where no one could see them. The Duke of course accepts this and since it was Elsa's fault Anna died, he sentences her to death for treason. Couple of things wrong here: Elsa is still queen, they aren't married and you always, always ALWAYS make sure the person is completely dead as a Miracle Max or Olaf the summer-loving snowman will thwart you. And he does. Olaf, that is. Olaf picks the lock on the door with his carrot (not a euphemism) and they now must find Kristoff as he's clearly her true love. Elsa's magic is getting stronger with killer ice spears erupting throughout the castle. Anna and Olaf escape by jumping out of the window but since the snow is about 30 feet deep right now, this isn't a major cause for concern. Elsa has blasted her way out of the dungeon and is taking off across then fjord again. Hans pursues to carry out the sentence, Anna is trying to find Kristoff and everyone is playing dodge the ships as the blizzard rages out of control. Hans catches up to Elsa and tells her that Anna is dead, she killed her with her magic. Elsa falls to her knees in tears and the blizzard stops. Anna sees Kristoff and stumbles to him but then notices Hans raising a sword above Elsa's head. With her last ounce of strength, she throws herself between her sister and the descending sword as she turns to ice. The sword shatters against her upraised hand and Elsa throws herself on her sister, sobbing. As the skies calm a strange thing happens; Anna begins to thaw. It was the selfless act of saving her sister, the sister she loved more than anything else in the world that did it. No magic kiss, no prince, none of that. She healed herself with an act of true love. Elsa is overcome with joy and in that moment, finally understands the key to her powers: you can only love when you are free from shame and secrets. With that heavy burden gone, she reverses the winter and summer returns to Arendelle.

Hans is sent home with his tail between his legs and the trade pact is severed between Arendelle and Weaselton. Happy and confident, Elsa orders that castle gates opened; never to be closed again and Anna and Kristoff get to know each other in a non-life threatening emergency way.

I loved that the key ended up not being romantic love but the fierce protective bond between two sisters. It also speaks to the damaging power secrets have over us. By keeping Elsa and her powers hidden, Elsa learned she was a freak and her abilities were something to be ashamed of and controlled at all costs. By trying to keep their daughters safe, the king and queen ended up making them prisoners and for Elsa, the complete absence of stress became her only survival tactic. But once her secret was out and she was free to love and laugh and be, her powers were no longer an issue and she could use them as she chose and not become a slave to them.

The music was fantastic and the dialogue witty and a bit snarky at times so naturally I love it. Anna reminded me of Mulan at times with her clumsiness and enthusiasm, of Rapunzel with the being locked up, and of Jasmine for saying exactly what was on her mind. No filter for that girl. This movie is good reminder to all that that what makes us who we are is never a thing for shame. Oh, and locking children away never leads to anything good so as batty as they drive us, just don't do it. But do go see 'Frozen' if you haven't already. You'll laugh, you'll cry...and you'll love.

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