I Can’t Let it Go: Why Frozen is Just Okay

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Alright, alright! My ears have been assailed by the pop explosion that is “Let It Go” every which way I turn, sung religiously by those indelible Frozen fans (What do we call them? Frozenettes? Frozies? Should there be a name for a fandom that has erupted from a single movie, and is this an ominous augury of a sequel or, gulp, a sub-par TV series?). Yes, I get it. Frozen is momentously popular. Just within the last couple of months, I attended two conventions and amid all the Team Rocket grunts and Homestuck trolls, there was always a blond-headed girl donning a sparkly blue dress, no doubt fresh from bursting into a rousing chorus of “Let it Go”. God forbid there were any children nearby, because the moment a seven-year-old girl spotted this snowflake-bedecked Elsa, she would nearly piss her pants in excitement and scream “FROZEN!”, as though she were repeating my own internal scream of dismal recognition. Come to think of it, grown men and women would act about the same as their kids. Photos and smiles were had by all.

But here, I want to share a bit of personal information with you.

In my modest and closely-held opinion, Frozen was just okay.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Put that machete away, little Susie. I’m not just going to say I only partially enjoyed Frozen and then accept my fate as an obvious sociopath. I’m going to tell you why I thought Frozen was just okay. But first, as a peace offering, I’ll tell you all the reasons I didn’t loathe it entirely.

One! Yes, the animation was very pretty. Elsa running through a snowstorm filled with glowing ice fractals as she battles her inner demons was beautiful to see. Oh yeah, and that scene with all the little ice droplets on that willow tree. That was gorgeous. Really, all the ice and the blue colors and Elsa’s little snowflake hair was aesthetically pleasing, which is one aspect of a movie I never discount.

Two! Elsa was a very cool character. True, I think she could have been expanded on and tweaked a bit (I’ll explain why later), but the whole “ice-powers-and-anxiety-issues-and-sudden-metamorphosis-into-a-sexy-snow-goddess” thing was kind of awesome. I completely understand why cosplayers and little girls and grown-ass women all want to be her. Hell, I would be her if the concept of cosplaying her wasn’t already taken. A million times. By everyone. Ever.

Three! You know what? I liked Olaf. He was cute. I thought I would hate him into oblivion, but “Oh look, I’ve been impaled!” ceases to NOT make me chuckle. As much as I usually despise the comic relief in children’s movies (the worst types of comic relief, really), I actually found Olaf funny and I kind of wanted to give him a warm hug.

Are you all satisfied? I’ve given three generous reasons to like Frozen. Maybe they’re not all the reasons why you like it, but hey, it’s commercial story-telling at its finest. Now, without further ado, I will sit down with my nice plate of bangers and mash by the fireside and tell you all why I think Frozen needs a few little nips and tucks.

 

Number One. Anna was just kind of “bleh”. Don’t shoot me in the eyes, boys and girls. Yes, Anna. She is the adorkably lovable girl-next-door type with cute little freckles and a sunny personality. Quirky and good-humored, she’s just about the polar opposite of her cold and serious sister, Elsa. But here’s where I think she falls flat. Her personality was overshadowed by Elsa’s. Now, this is bad news for a girl who’s supposed to be the main character–I mean, she’s supposed to be the catalyst for this story’s development. Shouldn’t she possess at least SOME of her sister’s badassery? What, badassery isn’t hereditary? Oh well. Anyway, the main character of any story should be flawed, have internal struggles, and prove to be complex while still relatable. Anna’s only real flaw is that she’s naive: She doesn’t see Hans’ treachery or her sister’s capacity to be dangerous, but in all honesty, no one was meant to know Hans’ treachery and her sister turned out to not be so dangerous (aside from her panic attacks, but she wasn’t malicious). As for internal struggles, Anna doesn’t seem to possess any throughout the movie. Of course, her parents’ deaths was hard on her, but the subject isn’t really brought up again for the duration of the movie. Anna’s main concern is to get out of the castle, meet a dude, and get married. Simple as that. That’s right, kids, none of this “I don’t need no man” business with Anna. And for the first hour or so of the movie, Anna believes that Hans is her prince charming. So with that in mind, Anna spends the majority of the movie with a lighthearted, “whatever” attitude: “Oh, my sister’s not dangerous! I just have to talk to her is all [cue adorkable smile]”. Meanwhile, Elsa is pacing around her ice kingdom, anxiety mounting inside of her as she struggles with whether or not her decision was good or not, plus evading capture and trying desperately not to become the monster everyone thinks she is. Nope, not with Anna. “Oh, I’m going to marry Hans! My sister will listen to me, she’s harmless!” We see the character development in Elsa, but not in Anna. I mean, she’s the main character, right? It shouldn’t be this hard to determine who the main character is. I always thought Elsa was going to embody winter while Anna embodied summer, or some crap like that. Maybe that was symbolically hinted at, but it would’ve been cool if it were more obvious. They should’ve done something like that. Anything. Please.

 

Number Two. There was no villain! Okay, okay, I know what angrily popped into your head just now: It’s Hans, you blithering inbred! Well, you could say it was Hans. And I know exactly where they were coming from when the good folks at Disney had Hans be the “surprise” evil guy. You know, at the moment he says those memorable words, “Oh, Anna…if only there was someone who loved you”, the whole theater gasped and I think I groaned pretty audibly. Oh, no, I thought grimly. They did the thing. I just saw it as laziness. Sure, you had a melange of red herrings all throughout the movie–that Weselton guy, Elsa, various townspeople and soldiers. Any one of them could have been potential baddies. But suddenly, at the end–oh no! It’s the guy we all loved, the guy we were shipping with Anna the moment they claimed to finish each others’ sandwiches! How dare that blatant asshole! I know, I know, that’s exactly the reaction Disney wanted us to have. And yes, it was definitely unexpected and surprising–but for the wrong reasons. Hans, all throughout the movie, showed no sign of being evil. None. And if his motive was truly to overthrow the kingdom and become its ruler, there were PLENTY of opportunities for him to do so. He was alone with Elsa more than once, and he could have killed her then. He was in charge of everything when Anna was away, a circumstance he could have used to his benefit by creating an uprising or stirring up the townspeople or some shit like that. Why did he have to choose the moment when nearly all the characters were within sight to slowly pull out his sword and attempt to kill Elsa? No, Hans just wasn’t a good enough villain. His announcement of his true intentions inspired within me the thought of tens of writers and animators, scattering around a big sign that foretold the days until Christmas, shouting “Quick! Time’s almost up! We need a villain!” I know, a lot of people were impressed by Hans’ tricky schemes and plans to toy with Anna’s heart. But it was too sloppy and rushed to constitute a real villain in my book. The Duke of Weselton, who was always set up to look like a villain, was in reality just a sad little man wanting to make some cash. That’s not a good enough villain either. Maybe in a trifling story about mundane things, but the villain of a story must always be equal either in motive or in power to the hero. Let’s say the story is about who gets the last sandwich. If the hero is weak and ordinary, the villain must be strong and extraordinary. But we want the hero to get the sandwich, so we learn that it takes courage, friendship (you know the drill), to get what you want. In the end, the villain is thwarted not by sheer force, but by kindness (or some shit). Now let’s go back to Frozen. Elsa is a freaking ice queen. She FROZE the entire kingdom. That is one powerful lady. The only acceptable villain would be one who could outdo her in terms of power. The Duke certainly wasn’t going to overpower her, nor were the soldiers who Elsa squashed like bugs. Hans, even though he was a prince, was pretty much just an ordinary guy. He had a sword. Elsa had ice powers. It wasn’t going to work out so well. But Elsa’s downfall was her crippling anxiety and guilt. Now, had there been a villain who had taken advantage of THAT, her greatest weakness, the story would have been more compelling. But instead of targeting Elsa, who in hindsight could have probably been the main character, Hans messes with Anna’s emotions even though, in the long run, it doesn’t do him any good. He could have killed Elsa, made it look like an accident, and kept up the act when he married Anna and took over the kingdom. But nope. Instead, we’re left with a handful of half-assed would-be villains who are all nipped in the bud pretty quickly. I honestly would have been a lot happier if there had been a more ominous, insidious villain who targeted Elsa and exploited her for her powers, making Elsa further distance herself from Anna and placing Anna in more danger. But hey, I guess Hans worked in a pinch. I guess that big snow monster guy was a villain too.

 

Number Three. The movie’s defining moment happened too soon. “Huh?” you may wonder. Hear me out. In all movies, there is one magical moment in which the main character achieves moment of “self realization” or “grace” after countless moments of hardship, doubt, struggle, and weakness. In The Lion King, Simba’s moment is right after he finishes off his uncle Scar and walks slowly, victoriously, up Pride Rock amid bleary stares from his friends. At that moment, he realizes who he is, what he will do, and what his place in the world is. In Sweeney Todd, Mr. Todd has his moment during the rightly-named “Epiphany” song, in which he comes to the realization that everyone deserves to die and he will exact revenge on every person he meets. From here on out, Mr. Todd is the raging killer that defines him throughout the movie, and his killing spree only ends when he is momentarily weakened by the realization of his wife’s death at his hands, and is then killed by little Toby. You get the gist. All movies have this moment, this “Epiphany” song, if you will, in which the character comes to full realization of himself. Usually, this moment occurs at the end of the movie; it’s what the entire movie has been leading up to. Not in Frozen. We all know what’s coming. It’s about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes into the movie, Elsa has just revealed her ice powers in a panic, and is now fleeing into the mountains. She halts momentarily and, as if enlightened, realizes that away from everyone, she can–dare I say it?–Let it go. Which she does. In song and dance, actually. And, get this, the song is even called “Let it Go”. Which is a powerful and moving song, because Elsa finally lets her hair down (literally) and creates for herself a sexy ice dress to match her sexy new ice castle, of which she is the sexy, confident new queen. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a cool scene. But here’s the bad part. It was THE cool scene. And I’m not just making ice puns, either. Elsa had her moment of “grace” or whatever you’d like to call it fifteen minutes into the movie. For such little time, she was this poor, modest, serious, reclusive, anxious wreck. And then BAM! Sex goddess! Ice kingdom! The cold never bothered me anyway! Aw yeah, great scene, man that was good…but wait. There’s still an hour left? What the hell is going to happen in the next hour?

That’s what I wanted to know. Elsa is actually doing just fine, but she happened to have accidentally frozen (hehe) the entire kingdom. Anna, her sunny sister, not-so-begrudgingly goes on a journey to “talk” her sister into making things go back to normal again. Now I know, Anna is technically the main character. But in terms of character development and roundness, humor me as I claim that Elsa is, inadvertently, the main character while Anna happens to be the go-to girl. Anna never has a defining moment. She never has her “Epiphany” song. Anna’s goals are the same for the entire movie, as are her mannerisms and her outlook on the situation. Anna is concerned with getting a guy and reconciling with her sister, and she never doubts either of those things,and then ultimately gets both of those things. Yay. The problem is, the movie already set Elsa up to be the main character, whether it meant to or not. And because Elsa was given her “defining moment” so soon, it made the rest of the movie fall flat. Honestly, ask yourself: Was there any other scene in the movie as cool as “Let it Go?” Besides the Hans thing, don’t bring that up to me again.

 

Here’s how I think Frozen should have gone: Keep the whole two estranged sisters thing. Elsa has ice powers, Anna doesn’t know it. You can keep all that. Let’s fast forward to the moment where Elsa reveals her ice powers at the coronation. Now, Elsa is running away into the mountains, still panicking. Let’s say she’s cut short by some ominous person–someone she and Anna would have known, perhaps a friend of their parents, a knight, a distant relative they’ve only met once or twice. This ominous character could have been introduced early on, maybe taking care of Elsa and Anna as children, then jealously watching as Elsa is crowned queen. Kind of like Scar! Let’s call this ominous man Golbez (we’re borrowing Final Fantasy names for now). Now, Golbez knows that Elsa is both mentally unsound and extremely powerful. He knew her from birth, so he knows how to get into her head. He stops her in the mountains and comments on her outburst at the coronation. Elsa says she’s guilty, she’s a monster, she can’t be around them. Golbez agrees, but he thinks that her powers should be used to exact revenge. How dare they lock her up and treat her like an animal? Does she really deserve that? Elsa becomes angry and reluctantly agrees with him. Golbez intends to somehow use Elsa and her powers to gain control of the kingdom. Commence brainwashing.

Meanwhile, Anna is going to find her sister. She’s already met Hans, already wants to marry him, is bummed that Elsa didn’t approve. She meets Kristoff, and the two of them set off. During this time, Hans gathers up soldiers to go find Elsa as well. The Duke of Weselton dispatches a couple soldiers of his own, telling them to kill Elsa. The soldiers and Hans come upon Elsa’s ice castle and are greeted by monster snowmen. The two soldiers dispatched by the Duke are able to avoid them and break into the castle, cornering Elsa. Golbez watches from the shadows of some unseen spot. Elsa, defending herself, is on the brink of killing the soldiers when Hans arrives, trying to stop her. “Don’t become the monster they think you are!” he tells her, pleading. Elsa begins to falter, but then, in a fluke accident, one of the ice shards mistakenly hits Hans, killing him. Elsa is horrified and lets the other soldiers go, and they flee. Golbez returns. “I guess you really are a monster,” he says (or some variation). Elsa is petrified and breaks down in tears. Golbez is happy that Hans is out of the way; without him, Anna is powerless. She can’t control a kingdom on her own. By the time Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf arrive, Golbez is again hidden in the shadows. Anna tries to talk to Elsa, explaining that she froze the kingdom. Elsa already knows this, she says. “Why?” asks Anna. Elsa explains that Golbez told her. “Golbez?” asks Anna, surprised. “When did you see him?” Elsa is reluctant to reply. She then, hesitantly, says that she killed Hans and breaks down in tears. Anna is shocked. Here she believed that her sister was harmless, and yet she killed someone…not just anyone, but her Hans. Anna is furious. She exclaims that Elsa never did like Hans, and maybe she is a monster. Elsa starts getting panicky and in a fit, accidentally hits Anna with ice. Distraught, Anna rushes out, leaving Elsa alone. Golbez emerges again to guilt Elsa some more, but Elsa rounds on him and blows up. “I can’t do this anymore! I can’t hurt people and ruin everyone’s lives like this!” Golbez pauses. “Maybe your powers really are too much for you,” he says. “Maybe it is better for you to keep them inside.” Elsa ponders this tearfully, and then decides that it really must be best. Suddenly, two monster snowmen take hold of her roughly. “You won’t mind being alone a bit longer then, will you? I know you must be used to it by now.” Elsa protests, but the snowmen take her into the ice dungeons below the castle. Golbez doesn’t need her powers now. He has enough snowmen and an ice army to overthrow the kingdom. He just needs to make sure Elsa stays put in the prison while he executes his plans. And then he can destroy her.

Meanwhile, Anna is still distraught over Hans. She is doubting her sister now, something she has never done, and feels drained and hopeless. Kristoff attempts to make her feel better, and eventually, their feelings for each other grow. While Anna really liked Hans, it becomes apparent that she really didn’t know him well enough to love him the way she thought she did. She finds herself falling for Kristoff. But their realization is cut short when they see, far in the distance, the ice soldiers. They panic and think it’s Elsa. Anna knows now that she has to be stopped, and so they head back to the ice palace.

Meanwhile, Elsa is sitting in her dungeon, guilty and forlorn. She can’t believe all the awful things she’s done, and has once again gone back to the “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show” thing. But she begins to question whether or not she’s a monster, Wasn’t Golbez the monster? He was the one telling her to do these things. But then again, she was the one who did them. At any rate, she remembers when she was little, all the times she played with Anna with her ice powers. That one time Anna was hurt by them, she was made to hide her powers for good. But was that the answer? She had hurt Anna in the first place because she’d been inattentive, too anxious, too unsure of herself. Maybe her powers weren’t bad, after all. Maybe she just needed to accept herself. And here, folks…insert “Let It Go”! Here it is, the defining “Epiphany” moment for Elsa that originally happened too early, and is now happening at the appropriate time! Elsa gets her sexy dress, blasts out of the dungeon, and reduces all the snow monsters to piles of slush! Once Elsa realizes that her powers aren’t evil and she just needs to “let it go” and accept who she is, she realizes that she needs to use her powers to stop Golbez.

Anna and pals arrive at the palace and break in, expecting to see Elsa commanding soldiers. Instead, Elsa saves them from a snow monster and rushes to explain the truth. Anna is unbelieving at first, but then she realizes that Elsa is telling the truth and gives her a hug. The group, riding on a snow bear or what have you that Elsa created, rushes back to the kingdom to stop Golbez and his army.

When they get there, Anna’s frozen heart is making her very sick. They insist she stay hidden in safety while Elsa and the others go to stop Golbez. When Kristoff and Olaf are separated from Elsa by ice soldiers, Elsa is momentarily helpless. Golbez suddenly appears behind her and handcuffs her, prohibiting her from using her powers. Panicked, Elsa turns around. Golbez raises his sword to strike her, but Anna, who has struggled to stay alive to help, suddenly runs in front of Elsa and blocks the blow, turning to ice. Elsa is shocked. Behind her, Kristoff has broken free and breaks Elsa’s handcuffs. She immediately whips around and freezes Golbez in place. Having apprehended him, Elsa hugs Anna and cries. The whole “true love” thing kicks in and Anna’s heart is defrosted, which melts all the ice: The kingdom’s eternal winter, the ice army, and Anna. Everything is restored. Golbez is captured and imprisoned, and the kingdom is back to normal. Anna kisses Kristoff and gives him his new sleigh, Elsa makes a big skating rink, and that’s that. Same ending as before. Yay.

 

In this version…There’s a definite villain with a solid purpose, whose power over Elsa is purely psychological (which is appropriate, since she’s physically strong but mentally weak). Anna’s character is strengthened by her doubting Elsa, her losing Hans, and her regaining her faith in her love for her sister. She is more three-dimensional now. And that one moment everyone loves so much, that “Let It Go” thing, happened near the end, where it belonged. Which, considering all that had happened beforehand, would have generated more feels and more magic. This way, the movie has both funny and sad, lighthearted and dark moments that balance each other out, making for a fuller, more fulfilling movie. And honestly, with all the fluff they added, it would have been the same length.

 

So thanks for bearing with me for this ungodly long time. I know I’ve been listening to “Adios Felicidad” on the Latin Jazz channel and looking up pictures of sushi for the past three hours now and my brain is about fried. My own rendition of Frozen may not be ideal, but I think it’s got some cool touches. That and I’m a sucker for good villains. But either way, I think I’ve picked apart Frozen as much as I wanted to for tonight. Thanks again, and if you feel the need, go debate among yourselves.

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