03 December 2019

Frozen 2

Note first off:  S P O I L E R S !  It's not possible to discuss the points that interest me without them.  So if you haven't seen the movie yet, be aware.  (To skip over this post without having to scroll through it, click here.)  Some of this won't make sense unless you've seen it, anyway.

This isn't really a comprehensive review; I want to focus on a few themes that especially interested me.  I do strongly recommend it, though.  If you liked the original for its visual beauty and spectacle, you'll love this.  The characters have all developed substantially since the first film, while remaining true to themselves.  There's plenty of humor, largely from Olaf, the na├»ve snowman turned storyteller and amateur philosopher.  As to the songs, there's no second "Let It Go", but several of them are excellent.

On the whole I'd say it's as good as the original.  It seems on track to be at least equally popular ($739 million in 12 days).  The showing I went to was at 10:30 AM and there were well over 100 people there, mostly families with small kids, and there was widespread applause at the end.  As I've discussed before, pop culture is important because it reaches millions of people who ignore or actively avoid politics and political media; its messages influence those whom conventional discourse cannot.

The storyline concerns a mysterious threat to Arendelle.  To learn about this menace and defeat it, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven travel to a remote forest which has been cut off from the world for decades.  There they find the Northuldra -- the forest's indigenous people -- plus a group of Arendellian soldiers who have long been trapped there.  After much struggle, conflict, disturbing revelations about the past, and encounters with supernatural monsters, they come to understand the threat and what to do about it.  The points I find particularly interesting are:

The villain.  There isn't one.  This is unusual because drama requires conflict, and the easiest way of generating conflict is to have an active antagonist trying to thwart the heroes.  Even the first movie had Hans, whose slimy machinations drove a lot of the story.  Here, the main obstacle the heroes face is ignorance -- they don't know the underlying reason for the threat to their country, and need to discover the truth in order to save the day.

This doesn't fit the usual pattern of storytelling, but it does reflect how problems and solutions most often work in the real world.  Eliminating smallpox wasn't a matter of defeating an evil villain any more than getting rid of that suspicious noise from your car engine is.  Such problems are solved by understanding what's causing them so you can devise an appropriate countermeasure.

As in real life, the ultimate horror is death itself, an impersonal force.  And as in the first movie, even death wins only temporarily, with life being restored by the power of doing the right thing.

Human mastery of nature.  A recurring theme that appeals to me is how human intelligence and determination achieve dominance over "spirits" (and the natural forces they embody), however frightening and powerful the latter appear at first.

In the most obvious example, late in the movie, Elsa tries to reach Ahtohallan by running across a stormy ocean, which despite her powers does not go well.  She is attacked by the Nokk, a water spirit in the form of a horse.  She fights back and manages to mount the Nokk, staying on despite its efforts to throw her, until it is "broken" like a real horse.  For the rest of the film the Nokk is her obedient servant, which she rides wherever she wishes to go.

After entering the forest, Elsa's party is bedeviled by the mischievous wind spirit "Gale" which eventually sweeps them all up into a tornado.  After overcoming initial panic, Elsa freezes the tornado, ending the danger to herself and her friends.  By the end of movie, Gale has been tamed and is helpfully carrying written messages back and forth between the two sisters in their separate realms.

Soon after meeting the Northuldra, our heroes are attacked by a terrifying, sentient outbreak of fire which leaps from tree to tree, scatters all humans in the vicinity, and threatens to incinerate the Northuldra village.  Rather than flee in terror, Elsa fights back with blasts of ice, beating down the flames (especially when they threaten Anna), saving the village, and eventually reducing the fire to a tiny pocket of combustion which then reveals its true form as a small salamander-like creature which befriends her and never again threatens humans.

Finally, the immense rock giants appear terrifying, but in the end they are easily manipulated by Anna into using their vast strength to serve the purpose she sets for them.

The lesbianism thing.  In the first movie, the epic song "Let It Go" was widely interpreted as a coded paean to gay self-discovery and liberation, while Elsa's lack of any romantic interest in males (in marked contrast to Anna) left the door open to reading the character as lesbian, with the repression and fear directed at her ice powers paralleling society's reactions to homosexuality.  Much of the blogosphere hoped that the sequel would make this explicit, with a "hashtag" #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in support.  The movement attracted enough attention to trigger religious prigs to start a petition against it.  So Disney was certainly aware of the campaign and knew that at least some of the audience would be looking for clues along these lines.

First off, no, Frozen 2 does not explicitly or even implicitly make Elsa a lesbian.  But it does include certain details which the writers must have known would be read that way by those who were interested in doing so, while flying under the radar of viewers who weren't.

In the forest, Elsa meets a young Northuldra woman named Honeymaren.  Their on-screen interactions are limited to two brief episodes.  In the first, Honeymaren explains the symbols on a shawl Elsa is wearing; it's a "getting to know each other" moment.  In the second, after the film's main action is over, Honeymaren tells Elsa "you belong here" -- in the forest, not back home in Arendelle where she is queen.  These scenes suggest friendship, while not ruling out something closer for those who want to see it.  There's no other apparent reason for this character to even exist in the story.

But Elsa does then stay in the forest, abdicating as queen of Arendelle in favor of Anna, leaving not only her home country but the sister to whom she's been so devoted for most of two movies.  The script offers no logical reason why Elsa would do this.  It's not that her powers make her too dangerous.  Unlike in the first movie, when she ended up staying in Arendelle after almost destroying it, she's now just saved the kingdom from destruction by flood.  It's not that she's tired of the hard work of being queen, or at least, the early part of the film gives no hint of such feelings.  Yet it would take something fairly weighty to get her to leave her home and her sister permanently.  The script never explicitly suggests that it's to be near Honeymaren, but there's no other obvious explanation.

Some might be disappointed that the film is not more upfront, but this misreads the way movies work and the environment in which they deliver their message.  An explicit lesbian theme might well have gotten the movie banned in major markets like China and Russia (as it is, there was a bit of editing in some places), and would have triggered a storm of controversy from religious crazies in the US, barring it from millions of potential viewers and overshadowing its main mission of light entertainment.  Movies that throw a blatant message in the audience's face are usually clunky and arouse resistance, as the godawful "Christian movie" industry shows.  The first Frozen's subtle approach with Elsa's powers and "Let It Go" flew under the censors' radar and reached hundreds of millions of people in ways that an explicitly "gay" film could never have done.

In any case, fans seem to be falling for Honeymaren's briefly-displayed charms, with fanfic and fanart already appearing, and even a riff on a classic joke.  As for the now-inevitable third movie, you can take this for whatever you think it's worth.


Blogger Ami said...

I just watched Frozen for the first time about a week ago. I enjoyed it, it wasn't really what I expected. Not that I know what I actually expected, just not that. Ha.

I will wait for the DVD to see Frozen 2, I just can't do theaters anymore.
As for the spoilers you tossed out, I could have skipped past 'em, but I'm glad I didn't, now I'm really looking forward to seeing it!

03 December, 2019 05:55  
Blogger Lady M said...

Hmmm - the only things I know about Frozen are this blog and what the 5 year old daughter of a friend tells me.

03 December, 2019 06:07  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh yes, let the shipping begin!!!!

03 December, 2019 07:12  
Blogger jenny_o said...

Who are you and what have you done with the real Infidel753??

A review of a Frozen movie from you has shocked me to the core! lol

I'll come back and read it later, though, when I can give it the time it deserves :)

03 December, 2019 15:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ami: Glad to have helped tempt you. I know what you mean about theaters. Every time I go they have some new way of making things more annoying. With most movies I'd just wait for the DVD. Not this one.

Lady M: The 5-year-old may be a better-qualified reviewer -- hope I've provided a few insights, though.

Debra: The shipping is half the fun with these. :-)

Jenny_o: See my other reviews -- I'm pretty eclectic. Can't write a review entirely in verse, unfortunately.

03 December, 2019 17:13  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I haven't watched many animated movies in recent times but this sounds entertaining.

03 December, 2019 19:50  
Blogger RO said...

Ditto on pop culture. It's definitely important for sure. Your review is absolutely wonderful! I feel there's a job as a reviewer in my crystal ball. (lol) Hugs, RO

04 December, 2019 07:30  
Blogger jono said...

Hopefully I'll get to see it after the theater run.

04 December, 2019 15:02  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: It's one of the best. Of course, in the US we have to maintain the fiction that animation is just for kids.....

RO: Thanks! I'm something of an intermittent reviewer on this blog.

Jono: I think it's worth it. I don't blame you for avoiding theaters.

04 December, 2019 20:46  

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