I have Doctor Who’s The Time of the Doctor downloaded, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it. Instead, after Christmas, Erin and I took advantage of having grandparents and great aunts and uncles present to sneak off for a dinner and a movie. We’d wanted to see the second Hunger Games instalment, Catching Fire, but it was sold out (apparently, movies are very popular around Christmas time), so instead we took in Disney’s Frozen.
Frozen has received little in the way of advertising. That it has succeeded thus far is largely through word of mouth. This tells me a few things: one, Disney isn’t quite sure how to market this story. Two, that this movie is thriving without the help of Disney’s marketing machine means that it’s quite good. Having seen the movie, I would say that point two is absolutely correct.
Frozen has a number of the Disney tropes. There’s not one but two wacky sidekicks. There’s the promise of true love (did I say that right? Or should I say “twue wuv?”). And, of course, the animation is gorgeous. It’s also a musical, with the characters breaking into song at the drop of a hat, and being a Disney musical, the music doesn’t exactly fit the atmosphere or the setting, but who cares.
But Frozen departs the Disney norm in a number of ways. This is a movie about true love — of sisterhood. The story, based very loosely on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, follows Princess Elsa and Princess Anna as they grow up in the nordic kingdom of Arendelle. Princess Elsa has been born with a gift (or curse) of being able to work magic with cold. She and her younger sister Anna are happy to play with this ability until Elsa’s abilities get out of control and Anna is hurt. After receiving help from the king of the trolls, Elsa is warned that her power will do great harm if she can’t control it, and her parents decide to help her control it by pulling her away from everybody she could conceivably hurt (the townsfolk, the servants and especially Anna), telling her again and again that she must control, and suppress, her feelings that bring the ice to the surface.
Of course, this doesn’t go well. The girls grow up lonely, and when Anna and Elsa’s parents die in a storm, Elsa is forced to become queen of Arendelle, in spite of the fact that she barely controls her abilities, and very few people know that she has them. When Anna, shut in the castle for so long that she’s rather starved for human company, falls head over heels over Prince Hans (visiting for the coronation) and asks Elsa to bless their upcoming wedding, the argument that follows brings Elsa’s powers to light and wintry hell breaks loose. The rest of the movie is a mad scramble to try and put things back together.
Frozen embraces certain expectations, twists some, and defies others. The scenes where Anna falls in love with Hans strike one as hokey Disney, until you realize the darker side of things, that Anna is acting impetuously, and that this becomes a matter of plot. There are also two plot twists here (neither of which I’ll spoil for you), one which literally had members of the movie audience gasping in shock and the other one which, when revealed, you will kick yourself for not having seen coming from miles away.
But, most of all, Frozen is a movie that refuses to sit in the comfortable Disney princess box. The Evil Queen is not evil. The princess is far from helpless. And the prince won’t be the one who saves the day. Outside of Pixar’s offerings, this makes Frozen one of my favourite Disney movies, and one which I recommend that all of you — especially those of you with sisters — go and see.