Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another One Destined for Broadway

I only recently saw the movie Frozen. You can either stop reading now or finish your thought about why I watched it, or why I took so long.

(There will be spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen Frozen, skip this post.)

Moving along. The movie as a whole wasn't bad. But it is definitely not for everyone. It was structured more like a Broadway musical than any other animated movie I have seen. I don’t know if it was written this way intentionally. The writer, Jennifer Lee, previously wrote Wreck-It-Ralph, which I also enjoyed (but for different reasons.)

I felt like this was written specifically to be adapted as a musical for Broadway, which seems to be a trend. More than exposition was delivered through song; a lot of dialogue was as well. In addition, every scene seemed overly “staged.” I could almost see the scenery changes designed for a live production and the emphasis on all action being clear from the singular vantage point of a live audience. There seemed to be very little use of camera angle changes to drive the visuals; it was all very dependent on the music and the character’s postures. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, it just may put some people off.

I only had two problems with the movie: Olaf’s appearance and Elsa’s resolution scene.

Olaf (the talking snowman) is, of course, a large part of the comic relief. He is very charming and dim-witted in the right places, and he has a terrific musical number about looking forward to enjoying the summer heat (remember, he is a snowman.) My complaint, a minor one, is his face. He is just a little too goofy-looking. In fact, he reminded me very much of Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace. Now, I understand he needed to look unlike a generic snowman. He would not have worked if he looked like the typical, round-headed snowman. But there is a line between distinct features and “fade into the background” and I think they could have drawn him much better.

Elsa, the ice queen, had a terrific coming out scene, when she exercised her true power without restraint and created a frozen castle for herself. Her battle scenes and magic-use looked like something in an X-Men movie (very enjoyable and exciting.)

Her denouement act, however, was handled much too quickly: it seemed too simple and neat. After years of holding back, and then letting loose with raw emotion, the realization that “love will thaw” should have taken a bit more time. I don’t mean a lot of time, but a false start or two and maybe Anna encouraging, “You can do it, Elsa! I love you!” With--at most--one to two minutes of screen time, the return of summer through magic would have had dramatic, emotional impact. This was the moment that almost ruined my suspension of disbelief.

Imagine watching Tony Stark fly in the Iron Man suit if we had not seen his failed attempts first. “Yeah, I can fly.” Would seem like a much more cocky line. (As is, I feel that “YES!” moment right along with him; otherwise (without the sense of accomplishment,) I would be asking, “and?”)

On the plus side,two of the best characters were the male lead, Kristoff, and his companion: a reindeer named Sven. One of the best moments involved Kristoff singing a “duet”,as both himself and the reindeer (exaggeratedly imitating the reindeer’s voice while Sven supplied appropriate facial expressions. It was a good visual of the depth of their relationship, and very funny. I liked Kristoff and Sven much more as sweet, comic characters than Olaf.

The revealing moment of the villain, Hans was also handled well; no sinister looks, creepy music, or even a musical number illuminating his motivations until the moment we found out he was the bad guy. Finding out he was not the simple, sweet guy he seemed was not necessarily a shock, but it was a great plot point. Much more rewarding, dramatically, than the Elsa point above.

If you can get past the obsessive internet fandom, and equally obsessive detractors, around this film, and just watch it for fun, it is worth it. If you like stage plays, definitely check this one out.