Friday, February 21, 2014

"Frozen" obsession! (*spoilers for the movie*)

So lately, this... ...has become my most-watched short video, overtaking the "Night of the Doctor" Doctor Who minisode (the one with Paul McGann from last fall). Yes. I am one with the masses now! I love a Disney movie? Oh noes! (I haven't in awhile, even though as a child I was totally into Disney... had a songbook, records, etc. etc.) All right, so "Frozen" has plenty of plot holes and pacing problems and so on, but the parts I like, I really really really like. (This is often the case with me. I prefer imperfection and brilliance to something that's too polished.)

So, that was unexpected. Totally made up for the disappointment of the Hobbit movies.

From the title and the trailer I saw, I thought it would be some horrible comedy with a snowman and a caribou/reindeer. It was in that computer-generated animation style, too, while I generally prefer hand-drawn animation. (Sure, I've liked some Pixar movies, but I miss the classic painted look.) I didn't want to watch it at all, and probably never would have if my kids hadn't wanted to see it. Thank heaven for having kids!

First impressions: this is a bloody musical!? I was reminded of "Les Miserables" right away with the opening work song, and that impression has persisted. Sadly, the music in Les Mis is much stronger (and the songs more singable), so in my memory the "Frozen" songs got replaced by mental equivalents from Les Mis (doesn't help that I've listened to my Les Mis soundtrack soooo many times). And then it suddenly switched into being a "regular" movie late into the second half... I felt it was missing a song in the end. Hans should have had a solo villain song! Because otherwise his turn seemed too abrupt. Or if not that, then some kind of song binding the final climactic confrontations together. (And then dead silence when Anna freezes, sure.)

I loved the sisters. Anna as a child climbing on top of her sister who is trying to sleep! That is exactly how my kids were. (And I'd hear them off playing in the house, but ignore them until it all inevitably ended in tears! Well, except none of my kids ever accidentally killed the other...) Pushy Anna, retreating Elsa, it's a very realistic kind of interaction. Anna knows on some level what she is doing, but can't help herself. Elsa knows it too, but she won't stand her ground (despite the "here I stand" in her song, she still keeps backing away from everyone), and keeps on fleeing until there's nowhere to go and she finally snaps. And their regret afterwards was touching and realistic, too. "She didn't mean it! She was scared!" "You don't have to apologize... I know you mean well..." Elsa can't help but say the things that set Anna off ("The party's over!" which seemed directly pointed at Anna) despite feeling bad about it. In the moment, she can't manage to be more diplomatic. After all, Elsa could make some excuse and leave while letting everyone else enjoy the party. She could try to talk to Anna later instead of scoffing in her face about her "true love". Hans might have turned out to be a good match... no reason not to say "give it some time, and we'll see how everyone feels then". But people are imperfect... misunderstandings abound. I liked having the fear and misunderstanding be the conflict rather than some hammy external villain!

So sad for Elsa. Afraid to even touch anyone or be touched... until the worst happens and that's the moment when she finally allows herself to embrace her sister only because there's nothing more she could do to harm her. People say they wish there was more of Elsa, but I felt the glimpses we saw were all the more intense for being brief. (And this isn't a Snow Queen 40 episode TV series, after all!)

Computer animation... makes awesome snow! Wow. Just wow. A combination of a powerful, sophisticated physics simulation and art. It looked amazing. The characters, the ice, the snow, the wind... I especially loved the scene with Elsa's dash across the fjord, ice forming under her feet. And then the whole fjord freezing over. And every other scene with the ice and snow! And kudos to the sound design team. The ice sound effects were superb. Made the ice really feel like ICE.

Olaf! I expected to hate Olaf: annoying comedy sidekick. Who sings. But I ended up adoring Olaf. It's a combination of what he represents, and how the film-makers clearly know how much people can hate cute sidekicks but disarm the audience by impaling him themselves (a fate one wishes on other annoying sidekicks!) but have Olaf say "oh look, I've been impaled" *giggle* in such a goofy way that I can't help but love him. The first Olaf we see (the one that Elsa has to speak and animate by hand!) collapses and crumbles after the accident: the end of childhood innocence. The second time, Olaf is still innocent, but the shadow is on him... longing for summer even though it can kill him. Olaf seems to embody how Elsa subconsciously thinks of Anna: exuberant, loving, but longing for a closeness to something deadly. Maybe Elsa is trying to explain it to Anna (if Olaf is actually part of Elsa, then so is Olaf's song!) but Anna, as usual, has a hard time listening. She never does until that last time by the fireplace with Olaf.

Olaf was a brilliant solution to Elsa's need to bridge the chasm that had grown between the two sisters. The other bridge was more literal, but just as important. (Over the chasm to find herself and a place where she could be herself at last!)

No one got married! Elsa didn't even have a romance! Woo hoo! I was pleasantly surprised that the main relationship in this movie was between the sisters.

I like it better than the original Hans Christian Andersen "Snow Queen" fairy tale. (The sexism bothers me. Hypocritical of me to say so when I go on about how the racism is part of the charm of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, but there you go. I was glad they changed the Litte Mermaid story for the Disney movie, too!) And then there's a third version of the "Snow Queen" in my head. When I was little, I had a fairy tale picture book that included the "Snow Queen"... but it was in French. And I can't read French (then or now), so I made up the story from looking at the pictures. "Frozen" is definitely better than that version as well. :) There's a fourth version of the "Snow Queen"... the novel by Joan D. Vinge. THAT one I do love. No songs or videos, though!

Oh yeah. Songs. We're going to go see "Frozen" again tonight, but NOT NOT NOT the sing-along version. I had enough of that with my younger daughter belting out "Let it go" at the top of her voice to the video linked above... repeatedly... on my desktop computer...

...and missing most of the notes. The song really is difficult! I mean, more than normal! I personally find it hard to even keep it in my head. Usually I remember it wrong. (I tried to hack it out on a violin... but it's in a viola range, damn it! and all those flats... damn vocalists!) But that just shows how much talent Idina Menzel (Elsa) has! And the awesomeness of the animation! Anything less and the song would be blah. (For example, the Demi Lovato version of it just doesn't do it for me. And it's not that she's a bad singer... I dunno.)

The "Do you wanna build a snowman" song is actually probably the most singable. It's the one that stuck in my head after seeing the movie!

Plot holes, WTFs, and my headcanon

It's only when I like something that I start making up wild theories to explainify everything...

  • Anna has minor snow powers herself. How else can she slide around in the snow in her pajamas and build a snowman and so on for so long without once complaining about the cold? And she falls in icy water and trudges along without dying from hypothermia. It probably runs in the family, so they think it's normal!
  • Arendelle is a kingdom? It looks like it's just the one town and the fjord and the surrounding area. How do they have such a big fancy castle? So my theory is that a few generations back (maybe Elsa's great-grandparent), there was another king/queen with the ice sorcery. They became an ice tyrant who led Arendelle to conquer all the surrounding lands. They were popular in Arendelle but hated and feared everywhere else. This includes Wesselton (which is a Dukedom! implying it was once part of some larger kingdom), where people still have stories about the bad old days. Hence why the Duke is so immediately horrified and disgusted at the idea of sorcery and shouts "Monster!" the loudest.

    Perhaps the tyrant went too far, causing one of his/her own children to rebel. The rebels made an alliance with the trolls and ended up overthrowing the tyrant. Afterwards, the trolls and the other conquered areas gained their independence. There was some kind of secret treaty between the new king and the trolls. The official history books in Arendelle covered up the whole thing. However, the trolls have long memories and still don't trust this ice magic...

    Being afraid of the rise of another ice tyrant, the Grand Pabbie implants fear in the child and doesn't ever teach her to control her magic. The mob attacking the sorcerer really did happen... to Elsa's ancestor. Maybe they were hoping Elsa would end up exiling herself (best peaceful solution all around, from their point of view). They try to get their adopted child married into the royal family. Maybe they hoped through song to generate some true love between Kristoff and Anna! Did they mess with Sven to make him force Kristoff to return to Arendelle for Anna there at the end? Would a kiss from Kristoff have worked? Who knows...

  • How did Elsa get to the mountain so fast? Well, if she were a character in my old Armageddon roleplaying game, I'd put "Element 4 (Ice)" and "Element 3 (Air)" on her sheet. (Along with some kind of Alchemy or Conjury perhaps to explain the twigs on Olaf and how she can make sentient life. And the skates.) Level 4 of the power allows teleportation! So she generated a blizzard while fleeing the palace, then jumped from one storm to another on top of the naturally snowcapped mountains without realizing it. She also had a high Spirit level, which resulted in unconscious manifestations of her powers leaking everywhere, worsened by her mental state (fear of herself). If I still had the game... I can just imagine the players coming on and wanting to play these characters. The Powergamers would want to be Elsa, the Real RolePlayers would want to be Anna or the Duke. I'd end up making Olaf as my NPC... agh. (I'd be a powergamer on someone else's game, but in my own games I always ended up playing low-level humans and silly sidekicks.)
  • What's the deal with reindeer boy? Why does Kristoff have a name like "Kristoff" and where did Sven come from? Did the trolls kidnap him and alter his memories? Sven is the only reindeer to be seen in the movie! My theory is that Kristoff is the child of a nomad (one of the reindeer herding people of that world) who had a fling with one of the ice cutters. The mother named the kid after his father. But then she died, so another member of the tribe brought infant Kristoff and Sven to Kristoff's father, who died soon after that. So at the beginning of the movie, he is an orphan boy tagging along after the ice cutters. They feed him and let him hang around, but don't really care for him. This is why he's wandering off by himself at night and sees the King and Queen ride past with Elsa and Anna.
  • What's the deal with Hans? Did they really have to make him such a sociopath? It was so sudden. He was acting nice in front of his horse? His horse was also acting!? I would have expected someone like that to have slipped up in small ways in front of people who "don't matter". I thought it would be more "well, I'm number 13, I'll be lucky to marry well... hey, this girl is cute, next in line to a throne, and she's infatuated! Better make the most of it!" and that he at least found her pleasant even if he didn't love her. And then he would be frustrated and angry that Elsa refused to lift the winter, and that she had killed Anna (without Anna, Hans' claim to Arendelle would be much weakened). His killing Elsa would partly be motivated by revenge, partly spite, and partly in hopes of actually lifting the winter with her death (he was already thinking of Arendelle as "his" kingdom).

    I've also read the theory that Hans is the Mirror. (The mirror in the original was a major part of the story, but it doesn't explicitly appear in "Frozen"). It's plausible...but I think if it was the intent, it needed to be spelled out more. That's why a song would have helped!

    In any case, what we saw... was "Ha ha ha, I'm so ebul. Fooled ya! LOL!" and he didn't wait until Anna actually died before rushing off with his Evil Plans. Come on, he had patience before. Why not now?

  • They can get legally married in Arendelle with no witnesses? Maybe for commoners, but for royalty!? They had the big deal with the coronation. You'd think a marriage would be just as formal. Maybe they were just in a state of panic and letting it slide until the crisis was over. But who is "they"?
  • Is there no government in Arendelle? As far as I can tell, there are no ministers, legislators, judges, magistrates, clerks, secretaries, etc. etc. The visiting dignitaries are ruling Arendelle in Elsa's absence?! WTF? Elsa didn't have any subordinates working for her? We only ever see the household staff.
  • The household staff must have known about Elsa's powers. Who else would be cleaning up all the snowmelt from the castle floors from her childhood days? And afterwards, Elsa had such trouble containing her powers that the servants much have seen manifestations now and then. But I expect they were being polite and proper and pretending not to notice.
  • Why didn't anyone ask the trolls "what if Elsa had hit Anna in the heart? what do we do then?" The trolls are the ones who bring it up in the first place! ("The head can be persuaded, but the heart...") Grand Pabbie tells Elsa she has to learn to control her powers, but never gives a hint about how! When Elsa was struggling and clearly getting worse, why didn't her parents ever go back to the trolls? Couldn't they tutor Elsa in magic? Sorcery exists in their world... if not the trolls, why no other magic teacher? No "sorcery summer camp"? Or at least let her go off somewhere safe and practice. Granted, it might not have worked, but it doesn't seem like anyone tried.

So... *sings* "Do you wanna make a sequel?"

I may even watch it...