Topic: Eight "Frozen" Fixes (spoilers)
I don't hate this film, but I did have some big problems with the story. There are two big things and then a few little things, so I'll break it into sections.
I thought they made a major mistake with the relationship between Anna and Elsa. Their relationship, as shown on-screen, goes like this:
Elsa has magic ice powers that she can't control. When she's little she accidentally hurts Anna, so their parents have the stone trolls (ugh) erase Elsa's powers from Anna's memory. After that, Anna never sees Elsa again. Oh, sure, the film wants us to assume that they had some contact in the following decade-plus, but it doesn't show it. Elsa stays inside her room and tries to learn how to control her powers, with little success. Anna constantly tries to reach out, and is always rejected. Here's where I started to have problems.
During the ballroom scene after Elsa's coronation, they have a conversation, and they talk as though they're total strangers. Anna is awkward and isn't sure how to address Elsa, but she clearly wants to make a connection. However, that action implies that they don't already have a connection. One of the themes of Frozen is "Family is super important and you should always stick by them and stuff," and that's great, but as a story the film fails to justify Anna's actions after Elsa flees. Their sisterly bond is totally arbitrary. Based on what the film shows us, Anna has no real reason to believe that Elsa is redeemable. She knows nothing about Elsa, because they haven't had any contact in years. A single scene of Elsa doing something kind for Anna (without coming out of hiding) would have gone a long way towards fixing this.
So here's my fix: Don't erase Anna's memory. Honestly, that's what it all comes down to. Cut the trolls entirely and have Anna know about Elsa's powers the entire time.
What does this solve? Well, kind of a lot. Anna's pleas to Elsa to open up to her are much more meaningful if Anna knows why Elsa keeps her distance. She knows that she can be hurt, but she doesn't care. She loves her sister anyway. The film as it stands gives us this, but it's not set up in a completely believable way. In the "Do You Want To Build a Snowman" number, young Anna is confused when Elsa all of a sudden abandons her. So whenever she goes to Elsa's door and asks her to come out, for all she knows Elsa is just being a jerk.
Anna's steadfast belief that Elsa can be a good person is also more meaningful if they have a longer history, so we can't have more than ten years without any interaction between them. Like I mentioned, they really should have had just one scene of Elsa doing something nice for Anna. In a montage like that, we only need the one. Anna is a fundamentally hopeful character, but it's better if the audience knows that her hope is justified.
Apparently, the decision to make Anna and Elsa sisters came fairly late in the game, and that doesn't surprise me at all. Their relationship is supposed to be the core of the film, but it feels so forced.
So, let's talk about Let It Go, and why it doesn't make any sense. I don't hate the song itself, and removed from the context of the film it's a great empowerment anthem. That said, it doesn't fit into the film whatsoever. The filmmakers clearly struggled with understanding who Elsa is, and there's no better example than this song. They animate her in a few different ways, and none of them are consistent with the way she acts in the rest of the film. Her sassy smirks at the end and when she undoes her cape are from a completely different character. Same goes for her gleeful, childlike run to the gorge where she builds the staircase. Neither of those character traits are present in the rest of the film. We see her being afraid and meek, and we see her briefly being aggressive and violent. Was she supposed to be an outright villain at some point? Maybe Let It Go was meant to soften her. I dunno.
At first, her emotional breakdown at the castle unleashes a massive blizzard which covers the entire land in a ton of snow. She runs off to a mountain, and realizes that she has no reason to hide her powers anymore because everyone knows about them now. She takes off her gloves, starts experimenting with what she can do, and builds a massive, intricate ice fortress on the side of the mountain.
So, right off the bat we have some big issues. We're supposed to believe that Elsa can barely control her powers, but that staircase and that castle look stunningly perfect. And she makes both of them without a second thought. When did she learn to do this? It's probably just instinctual. But even so, her creations should be roughshod and kinda crappy at first. Unless she was secretly practicing ice architecture...during the years that she completely failed to control her abilities. (Hey, maybe a quick scene where she makes Anna a mini ice castle for Anna's birthday or something? Would have made a major difference.) Also, I guess these magic powers to control ice and snow also extend to changing the color of her dress and creating a new cape? Not to mention the fact that she can create fully-intelligent sentient beings. The lack of limitations to Elsa's powers is pretty sloppy writing.
Anyway, Let It Go is such a bizarre addition to the film, because it loudly announces a character change that doesn't actually happen. Elsa doesn't let anything go. She's still the exact same person. She shuts herself away in a castle and is obsessed with making sure that no one gets near her. She lets it go at the very end of the film, that's for sure. She lets go of her fear and anxiety. That's the metaphor the song was going for that the film didn't follow through on.
If she's gonna "Let It Go," she should have done so. Elsa should have been a character who had been keeping all her emotions (and magic powers) bottled up inside her for her entire life, such that when she lets them out she does a total 180. Elsa should have been more openly villainous, and then her redemption would have meant something. And I don't mean that she should have been evil. I just mean that she should have given in to her hedonistic, repressed urges and loved doing it. Her argument then becomes, "Look, I can't control it no matter how hard I try, so there's no point in trying. It's better to let it all out." Remember, Elsa's had close to zero contact with other people her entire life. Make her super misanthropic! And because of that, she doesn't immediately comprehend the damage that she's causing to innocent people. Then her arc becomes about learning the value of balance instead of just learning the value of love. And you can do all of this without making it too emotionally complex for a kid's movie!
Recast Idina Menzel.
I know this is heresy, and she's obviously a fantastic singer. But her performance as Elsa is totally flat. Now, does the script give her much to work with? Not really. But she stays firmly at that level, and she doesn't make the character her own. It's a standout disappointment in an otherwise great cast.
Yeesh, those character models. The character animation in general is weird.
Anna and Elsa are basically Rapunzel. It's all in those big eyes, but even the way they move is reminiscent of her. It really feels like they took a stock character model and stuck new hair and clothes on it. As for the animation itself, it sort of feels like they spent a lot more time on the snow effects than on the characters. I'm not an animator, so I can't articulate it well, but there's something off about it. I dunno. Maybe I'm crazy. But I stand by the design point.
Cut the trolls. There's no purpose to them beyond healing Anna, but since "love thaws" there's not much reason to have them there. I was so confused when they popped up. "Wait, there's fantasy creatures in this too?" If you're reading this and you've seen the film, I bet you forgot all about them until you got to this part. I certainly don't think of them when I think of Frozen. And since I saw the film months after it came out and I didn't know they were in there, I doubt many other people do either. I like Kristoff's eccentricity, though. Just have his family be quirky mountain men. Same deal, but you don't have an out-of-place second magic bean.
"I don't know if I'm elated or gassy/But I'm somewhere in that zone."
You cannot be serious with that lyric.
Cut the Duke of Weselton. Sorry Alan Tudyk, but this character serves very little purpose. He could have been a great red herring, and I think that was the intent, but they don't play him up enough as a villain to make that really work.
This one is totally petty, but...is this a musical or what? Because if you imagine a stage version of Frozen with an act-one break, there's only one song in act two. It's like they used all their musical numbers to introduce characters and then just ran out.
That's it. There's a lot about this film that I absolutely love, especially in how it subverts classic Disney tropes. And I think that's the main reason that people have gone so crazy for it. But it's the great things about it that make its flaws seem even worse. It's too bad. Frozen had the potential to be the greatest Disney movie in a very long time. It's not, though, despite its fantastic themes and messages, and that's what really hurts.
Last edited by Doctor Submarine (2014-01-25 03:41:45)