As a kid I had grown up on a staple diet of Disney films and it was this love for their films which made me watch each of their new releases even when I grew up to be an adult. However, post The Lion King (1994) Walt Disney studios failed to re-create their magic, with each film either suffering from mediocre writing, irritating sidekicks or half-baked characters and of course bad music. The films which came close to being brilliant were Tangled and Brave, but even they too lacked something which made them nothing more than missed opportunities.
Thus when I watched the first teaser trailer of Frozen it left me cold and unimpressed. I was quick to ignore it as yet another Disney debacle which I was sure would disappoint and hence I had no intention of wasting my money on this one. But boy was I not wrong! I happened to watch the film last week on Blu-ray and since then I have watched it thrice.
I was never quite fond of the Disney Princesses sub-genre. I always found them to be unfulfilling and dumb if not peadophilic. They were patriarchal and misogynistic. According to these films apparently it was every young girls dream and life’s motto to find her true eternal love and all they ever wanted was a “true love’s kiss”.
This true love usually arrived riding on a horse and the moment their eyes met, the girl and the boy would sing duets of how they have always waited for one another. Apparently it was every girl’s duty to get themselves a man and get married off for a “happily ever after”.
The princess and her kingdom and her people and its animals were always in the need to be saved by the hero. And the big antagonist was usually a wicked cunning woman, who was probably the only character who wouldn’t subscribe to the rules set up by the filmic society and this was probably the only reason why she was the villain.
At the very centre of the Frozen are two very strong female leads Elsa and Anna voiced beautifully/brilliantly by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell. Elsa is the troubled child born with a power she fully doesn’t understand and can’t control and a childhood accident with her younger sister Anna leads her to go into an involuntary exile lasting decades. This leaves Anna lonely and she makes constant attempts to rekindle her bond with her older sister, but Elsa never budges. Anna is thus full of questions and frustrations and this forces her finally to confront her sister Elsa during her first public appearance in years. The outcome of this event takes the story forward.
The film is monumental in its achievements. One of the biggest strength of the film is its attention to detail and the amount of research work which the team has undertaken to create its geographical setting. The film as its very base has the Nordic world and is deeply rooted in its culture, this is evident in the architectural style of the Castle, the dressing style of the people and of course their accent.
The film is captivating from the first second with a Nordic mix of folk/church choir music Vuelie welcoming, rather enveloping you into its world, even before the images appear on screen, thus beautifully setting the stage for action. This is followed by a goosebumpy song Frozen Heart, which brilliantly foreshadows the events of film. It has other brilliant original songs like For the First Time in Forever, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, In Summer and the Oscar winning song Let It Go (which is my new favorite).
The film also has a brilliant orchestral soundtrack which heightens the tension and drama in every frame leading to a spectacular finish. Good music is so difficult to come these days and this film surprisingly has it.
Another winner for this film is its characters, which are very well rounded and layered. The female leads are spectacular and complex. While Anna is fiercely optimistic if not vain Elsa is strong willed, mature and realistic. Kristoff the second male lead voiced by Jonathan Groff is far less stereotypical than any other men in the Disney series, at one point he sentimentally points out that he might cry and Anna encouragingly says that she won’t judge him. Hans, Anna’s love has an abused childhood.
The sidekicks Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman unlike other Disney sidekicks in their recent films (who are nothing but irritating) are simply adorable and surprisingly deep.
The film has a strong storyline, which might seem predictable for a moment or two but it is only in the end that you realise how wrong you were. You would also be surprised by the way they use the age old Disney clichés. They are employed in the film as meta-cinematic elements commenting on the whole Princess genre thus making the film often self-reflexive.
The start of the film is traditionally Disney with Anna getting engaged to Hans, the man she has just met that very day and she is convinced that he is one; she has always been waiting for. Yes the ‘true love’s kiss’ is also a part of the tale, but it is used not exactly the way you are used to seeing it portrayed in the so called classic Disney Princess Fairytales.
The film also has breathtaking visuals (which nowadays every film boasts of), but the way Frozen team uses it to their benefit and makes it an integral part of the story- telling makes all the difference. The strongest point of the film is in fact the absence of any villains or vamps.
There are no solid black and white characters. The world is inhabited by grey characters, whose flaws are also their strengths, thus making them some of the most memorable characters in the Disney franchise who linger in your mind long after the film is over.
The film doesn’t over dramatise things, everything essential stays onscreen for the right amount of time, with not an ounce of excess in the musical notes or exaggeration in the plotline and visuals. It is one of those rare Disney films which have subtlety as its strength. This making it Disney’s most mature, profound and no doubt a dark take on a fairytale ever.
Frozen is also one of Disney’s greatest films and musicals in a long, long time and probably it’s the first since The Lion King. It is sad that it took Disney two long decades to get things right. After several misfired attempts at portraying the modern woman, Disney of the 21st century has finally arrived.
Frozen is fresh, intelligent, witty and most importantly it has a warm heart as its core. And the best thing about the film is that this is probably Disney’s first ever feministic film. And that’s surely absolutely worth celebrating!