Took myself on a movie date yesterday to see Frozen, and it got me thinking on a couple of narrative topics, so I thought I’d write a short post on it – not a review, just my writing takeaways. I’ll try not to get distracted talking about the movie in general beyond that, but suffice to say that – although sure, it was imperfect, and although I’m as disappointed as others that they chose Typical Standard White European/Tangled Part 2 for their design and setting – I absolutely loved it, and thought it was a fantastic story and film overall!
Spoilers below, in case you’ve not seen it and want to (do, it’s great!)
There were some writing-related threads this got me thinking on:
Thematic Focus – This film had such clarity in its focus on the relationship between the two sisters. That that should stand out so much to me makes me think it’s far less common than it should be. Even all of the subplots and side relationships look at related themes and shore up the main focus. It strengthened the effect and message, the unity of the film, the overall feeling of right-ness. Something I’ll definitely be keeping in mind, and to me absolutely what made the film.
Non-Bloodless-ness – I love that they didn’t pull punches with Elsa’s powers (okay, there weren’t any corpses of frozen civilians and so on, but this is a Disney movie). Her powers do just about kill her sister twice, and come close to killing a couple of soldiers, and I appreciated that.
Earning It – For me personally, I had a minor moment of disappointment at how easy it was for Elsa to thaw an entire land at the end once she had her (cheesy, but appropriate) epiphany about love. As a criticism of the film, it’s a very minor one – it was only a moment. But it did get me thinking about effort and characters earning things in a more general sense. Thinking to myself that that simple wave of a hand felt like it wasn’t really earned made me think further – because, given the amount the character goes through, why would it not feel earned? I kind of came to the conclusion that ‘earning it’ needs to come in the moment of action as well as in the run-up to it – that it’s not simply like karmic or skill-based credits built up over the course of a story. It took the whole story for Elsa to get to that point of figuring it out – but she’s never done it before, and it’s an entire land covered, an enormous task. It would have increased the running time by only a minute or so to have her straining physically with the task – to have her find it difficult, even though she now understands how – a bit of strain, a bit of push to get over the finish line, exhausted but peaceful, and it would have felt absolutely right – as well as giving her the chance to do something with Anna’s support/presence helping, tying in to her rejection of that support earlier in the movie. The importance of a character pushing through and taking a last final step even though it takes a lot out of them.
Seeding – Actually, another minor misstep to me was Hans; although I kind of think they missed an opportunity to make a villain-less movie, and show the more complex idea that just because someone is nice doesn’t make them right for you (rather than ‘this guy’s the one for you, the other one is evil’), I don’t have a problem with their choice – given the focus on the sisters, he’s of lesser importance, and it does add a nice ‘unreliability of superficial first impressions’ thing. But I did think it was a bit of a shame that it wasn’t at all seeded in the first half of the film. It’s not that it was big shock or surprise – although they carried on the nice-ness long enough that I did pretty much think they weren’t going that way by then. it’s more about the ‘fit’ of things, and making them feel right in the story – a hand in a well-fitted glove. That he wasn’t Anna’s true love and that, whatever the case, there wouldn’t be a true love’s kiss that cured here there, was thoroughly seeded throughout the film. Is there a choice to be made between a shock twist, and something fitting in and not seeming abrupt? I’m not sure – I have a feeling you can have both, foreshadowing that slots into place after a reveal – though I imagine it’s a challenge. If it is a choice, then personally I would choose making things fit and feel right any day, even if it does slightly give the game away.
Just a few things it got me thinking about in terms of writing in general – and certainly not to be taken as indicative that I didn’t love the film, because I totally did. I may need to see it again…