This article/rant was originally written for Uproar Comics.
I know it’s been a long time since Frozen came out, but I still hear about it almost every damn day.
First of all, I want to be clear: I did not hate Frozen. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s decent. But that’s about all it is. The reason it annoyed me so much has more to do with the hype around it and garbage claims, such as it being a new classic and the best Disney film since The Lion King, than the film itself being bad. I went into it thinking it was going to be pretty damn good, at least. I then spent the entire film thinking ‘When does it get good?’ until the credits started to roll.
I enjoy a good, clean, innocent animated film about as much as I enjoy a good Die Hard or Superman or Batman Begins, so it’s annoying when they overreach and don’t quite make it. Now that I’ve reached my weekly quota of ‘annoyed’s, here are the main things that got to me. Remember, I could also point out things that were good about the film, but this is about the things that contribute to it not being nearly as amazing as a surprisingly large number of people seem to think…in my ever so humble opinion…
Spoilers ahead (obviously)!
First of all is the spark of the film’s conflict. Elsa, a little girl imbued with some kind of ice magic, accidentally shoots her little sister, Anna, in the head with said magic. This results in…brain freeze? The parents, after bursting in with ‘What the shit have you done this time?’ already on their tongues, take Anna and Elsa to a family of rock trolls. The old man of the family is the typical wise character who is the only person who can help.
His solution is to take away Anna’s memories. She won’t even remember that Elsa has this ability. Apparently this is ‘for the best’, because although Elsa has the power to create ice and snow from nothing, the power to say ‘No I won’t perform magic for you, Anna’ is beyond her grasp.
This is where my expectations of the film were challenged by the reality. The supposedly loving father proposes that, in order to prevent the danger that the troll tells them about, they’ll lock up the palace, fire most of the staff, and not let Elsa engage with anyone ever again. Not even her sister. This is a fantastic message to children, I think. If someone is different, shun them and lock them up. The final nail in the scene’s coffin was the supposedly ‘wise’ little troll saying absolutely nothing about this ludicrous idea.
Then, of course, after stating multiple times that she needs to learn to control the ability, they proceed to…do nothing at all to help her learn to control the ability. They even come up with a ‘cute’ rhyme about concealing and ignoring her powers! And it’s not even as though all this is portrayed as stupid/foolish/irresponsible/bad parenting!
The entirety of the problems in the film could have been avoided with some half-decent parenting and common sense. The whole premise of the intro scenes is that both children are completely and utterly isolated, even from each other, and again it isn’t shown as being wrong in any way, just a bit of a shame. Poor things.
And why does Anna keep trying to engage with Elsa? I’d have given up a long time ago on the moping older sister who seems to want nothing to do with me and just keeps telling me to go away.
Then the parents die. And who cares? Seriously? Does anyone actually care? They aren’t in it enough to care, and they do nothing worthwhile with the screen time they have, so who cares?
And there are too many songs, damn it! It must have been about one song every ten minutes. Considering each of those is a couple of minutes long, that’s a lot of singing, even for a musical animated film. Granted, I’m more used to non-musical Pixar films, but it seemed excessive.
And now we come to the ‘modern day’ and we’re reintroduced to the boy and his reindeer who somewhat pointlessly kicked off the film. And I kind of wish we aren’t. Kristoff talks to his reindeer, Sven, and then proceeds to talk back to himself on behalf of Sven, in a different voice. This is…horrifying. It’s not funny. It’s not endearing. It’s cringe-worthy, it’s weird and frankly, it’s creepy.
In fact, I’d go so far to say that the only amusing characters in the film are the Duke of Weselton, Olaf the snowman, and the shopkeeper near the start. Note how I say ‘amusing’, not ‘funny’.
Now, it’s coronation day, as Elsa has come of age. It’s not entirely clear what age this actually makes her, but since everyone in this kingdom is apparently American (except for the duke, who we’re meant to dislike, so naturally he’s English), we’ll say she must be 21. This makes Anna 18 years old. Anna bursts into yet another song. This time it’s about how she might meet ‘the one’ at the coronation. This is fifteen minutes into a film that has been lauded all over the internet and by critics everywhere as a big step for feminism. It’s a film where the princess (or queen) doesn’t require, or indeed have, a prince or knight in shining armour to rescue her. Yet it takes only fifteen minutes for one of the two lead characters to have a song dedicated to desperately hoping to fall in love.
And of course, she does indeed fall in love. She meets a prince, naturally, and falls in love there and then, and they get engaged the same night. Hans is, according to the Disney wiki, about 23. The film has no qualms with outright stating that he is a man. Not a boy or teenager. A man. Engaged to an 18 year old. There are worse things, of course, but it’s quite an age difference for a Disney film to have no problem with. Kristoff is 21 (remember that weird voice he puts on? …at 21 years of age…). He and Anna later fall in love. Better, but it still just has a slight hint of inappropriateness. Of course, if coming of age makes Elsa 18, then…well, let’s hope not.
And speaking of Prince Hans, I don’t like to be snobby or whatever, but teaching children that princes say things such as “‘cause, like…’ annoys me. And now I’ve surpassed my quota.
Next, due to a confrontation with Anna, Elsa decides that the way to deal with her problems and responsibilities is to run the f*** away. In the process, she freezes the entire city and the port. But it’s okay because, even though her worst nightmare has just come true, she’s suddenly happy. She’s all smiles and building snowmen. Snowmen that inexplicably come to life. ‘Cause it’s, like, totes believable (what? Princes talk like that, why can’t I?) that after more than a decade of trying to suppress the magic, one minute in the wilderness and she wants to test her limits. While singing.
And while I’m on that, I think the only reason the song that the film is known for (‘Let It Go’) is more than just decent only because (the quite amazing) Idina Menzel sings it. That said, it has grown on me a touch. A TOUCH!
Meanwhile, Anna decides that she has to go after her, frankly, complete b**** of a sister. Let’s remember that, at this point, Anna has spent more than ten years being told by her sister to ‘go away’. Isolated from her and because of her. She brings the news of her engagement to Elsa only to be told the marriage won’t happen. Not because of the age difference or the fact they’ve just met, though. Because of Elsa’s own issues. And now, Elsa has frozen the whole damn place and run away, leaving Anna to manage the entire kingdom and deal with the people who think the family is cursed or monsters. So I think the insult is fair.
But despite that, Anna goes after her, leaving Hans in charge. Yes, leaving a man she met just that day in charge of her entire kingdom. Smart. Then of, course, when Anna’s horse returns without her, Hans leaves too. Who the absolute hell is in charge then?!
What is Elsa meant to be here? It’s hard to feel sorry for her when she’s so busy feeling sorry for herself. She’s too selfish to care about her sister, though she happily uses the excuse of her running away being for Anna’s sake. She endangers who knows how many people in her running away. Hits Anna with her ice magic again, though accidentally. She even creates a snow monster to throw Anna and Kristoff out of her new ice palace, and the thing arguably tries to kill them.
It seems to me that she’s meant to be some variation of the typical evil witch/queen. Which is quite good, if it’s the case. To have one of the two main protagonists verging on becoming bad, even if there’s never any real chance of it happening.
There are a couple of places where the film tries to use…I’m not even sure what term to use. Young person…internet language? Kristoff is given just enough time in the midst of some action to say ‘well, that happened’. Okay… That’s, what…amusing? Was I supposed to find that funny? That meaningless statement?
Next, because Anna is visibly affected by Elsa’s unintentional attack, Kristoff takes her to the rock trolls. Apparently they took him in when he was little. He doesn’t seem to put two and two together, however, and work out that the two little girls he saw the trolls heal that time are the same two he’s helping now.
Naturally, their arrival sparks off another song. This time, the rock trolls are assuming that the two are in love and try to marry them. Since the big thing about Frozen is the whole empowered females and no man to the rescue stuff, why are there these other ridiculous tropes? Why is it okay that the trolls assume that Kristoff just happening to be in the company of a female means that they have to get married? Not to mention the usual tired crap where said female is perfect, while the male, simply due to being a male, needs no end of ‘fixing’.
I could keep picking out little things such as the treasonous act of imprisoning the queen, but I’ve covered the main irritants.
There are, of course, good things about the film too. The snow looks nice. I liked how Hans turned out to be a villain and not the stereotypical prince charming. I particularly liked the twist on the typical act of true love being the only thing that could save Anna. Not only was it not that kind of love, but the act was performed by Anna herself to save her sister’s life. And that scene was done pretty well, too.
Overall, I was fairly disappointed, and intended never to watch it again. Only being asked to write this made me watch it a second time. I did enjoy it a little more the second time round though.
I could have gone into the more potentially serious repercussions of making out that this film is such a big step for feminism, but there are plenty of better-written blogs already out there dealing with such things. Besides, as a man (yes, I’m sure you’re surprised that a man just ranted for 3 A4 pages about a Disney animated musical), I’m not in the best position to argue about these things.
I don’t normally do it, but I’ll give it a rating, since I have now ranted about it at length. It gains a point for the twist on the act of true love. It gains a point for Idina Menzel. It would gain another point for what appears to be a gay couple and their children, but there seems to be a lot of argument about whether this is really the case. The fact that Disney doesn’t have a great history of being quite so…open-minded does seem to make it less likely, but I’m fairly sure they did sneak in their first gay couple, even if the shot was only about a second long.
P.S. Tangled was much better!