Frozen–A Plot Critique

If you’ve not watched Frozen and you intend to, then read no further. Bookmark this page and come back after you’ve seen it. Spoilers follow, so consider yourself warned.

Copyright Disney 2013 All rights reserved

If you’re interested in finding out more about the movie, including such things as who wrote it, who the voice actors are, and who directed it, check out Disney at http://movies.disney.com/frozen/

This blog approaches the movie from a plot perspective, so I’m not going to get into the glowing animation, the funny scenes. All in all, the movie is visually stunning, and there were parts that I truly enjoyed. But I had a few issues with the end result.

Personally, I feel like Disney doesn’t know what it wants to be any longer. They have a long tradition of passive female heroines, and they have received quite a bit of criticism in the past few years for the passive princesses. Even if the princess movies were based on fairy tales from old, their modern versions have the women remaining just as passive. Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty all focus on the princess waiting for her prince. So I will give them points for trying to do better.  They are just not there yet.

To me, Frozen is a movie that started on one path and wound up on another, and the leap it took to get there left me hanging in thin air. So let’s deconstruct the plot elements and see what we have.

The movie starts with two sisters (Anna and Elsa) who are growing up together as princesses in a kingdom. They have fun playing together as princesses do. But the oldest, Elsa, has a secret power that allows her to freeze things, or to create ice out of nothing. When Anna is injured in play, her parents separate the two girls and force Elsa to go into hiding with her powers. So the theme, of conceal, don’t reveal, begins here. Two sisters grow up separately in a palace, each very alone. Other than a five minute scene where they played together, I didn’t see the writers develop that relationship much.

Then, as they do in most Disney films, the parents died. So the loving hands that would have guided them in an uncertain future are gone. The princesses basically raise themselves until Elsa comes of age, when they open up the castle to have a large ball. You never see servants, or older relatives or anyone. you just see two children growing up, each alone, in a castle. Again, I wasn’t sold on the relationship, but I get they are sisters.

Big ball. fabulous party. Elsa ignores her sister (as she always has since the accident), and Ana goes out and falls in love with a young prince from a neighboring kingdom, Hans. He proposes, and when they ask Elsa for her blessing, Elsa refuses, saying that they haven’t known each other long enough. In a nutshell, Elsa rushes out over the fjord, accidentally freezing the lake with her powers. Ana goes after her, leaving Hans in charge.

So I guess in a fairytale land you would leave someone you just met in charge of the kingdom. Okay, buying that, he seems to do a good job, working at keeping the townspeople warm by ordering blankets, warm beverages, etc.  Cue the Disney trumpets: this is the love interest. He’s cute, has a kingdom, and he appears to be a good guy. He does nothing in front of the camera to show that he is anything but a good-hearted prince trying to do the right thing.

So far we have a  conflict between sisters, and we have a love interest.

Ana goes after Elsa, and we meet Olaf, a snowman, and Kristoff, a goofy ice salesman who appears to slot into the best friend role. But the longer the movie goes, the more uncomfortable the viewer is in placing him in that role. Kristoff is developing a crush on Ana. Now we are torn between Hans, who is the good guy keeping things going at the castle, and Kristoff, who is the cool best friend helping Ana during her journey.

Now what? Now we have a conflict between sisters, a love interest, and a story of unrequited love. But who is the villain?

The bad guy is a minister from another land who is trying to steal the riches of the Elsa’s country by having Elsa killed and developing unfair trades, whatever that means. He’s pretty obviously the bad guy. Hans goes against him in trying to care for the people. The complexity keeps going.

Yada yada yada fast forward through ice and snow escapades. Elsa injures Ana a second time and she is almost dying. Elsa is imprisoned for hurting Ana by Hans, who it turns out is not a good guy after all.  Ana is dying, and she will allegedly be saved by true love’s kiss, but Hans tells her he doesn’t love her.  Swerve!

What is that all about? Sigh. My daughter, 11, was confused. She didn’t know who to root for.  I was irritated. Good music and animation can’t make up for a storyline that fails to deliver.

If the story is supposed to be about two sisters, then develop the relationship.  Why would Ana defending Elsa save her when they didn’t even have a relationship? How is that true love?

If the story is supposed to be a happy ever after, then give it a happy ever after. Kristoff goes back to being an ice salesman and Hans goes to jail. The sisters are living together again, but we still don’t see them interact except for a brief moment at the end when Ana makes it snow.

I enjoyed the animation and the music. I even liked the underlying theme that emotions held in can’t be good for anyone. But at the end, the kingdom still felt all frozen to me, and I didn’t see any real relationship warmth.

That’s my two cents. What do you think? Did the movie sell Hans as a villain?  Do you think anyone ended up happy?