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What If a Disney Princess (and Queen) Were an X-Man?
on February 3, 2015
***This review may contain spoilers.***
Most unexpectedly, Disney’s “Frozen” (hereafter “D’s Frozen”) subtly reconfigures and directs the seemingly tiresome tropes and conventions of their romantic “princess movies” into uncharted “Marvel comic” territory and themes. The main protagonist (AND apparently antagonist) Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) is far more than your run-of-the-mill glamorous elder princess, then (Snow) Queen of the kingdom of Arondelle. She possesses nearly unlimited, almost magical power to control and shape ice and snow.
In a Marvel comic, she’d be considered a mutant with the combined powers of Ice-Man and Storm. Unfortunately and tragically, she lives in medieval times and does not have the guidance of a Charles Xavier-like mentor to help her harness the power for mankind’s benefit. Well, there IS a (literally) stone troll king, Grand Pabbie (voice of Ciaran Hinds) who is aware of the extent of Elsa’s powers. However, all he can recommend to Elsa’s father (voice of Maurice LaMarche) and mother (voice of Jennifer Lee), King and Queen of Arendelle, is cruel, complete isolation from all humanity until she is mature enough to ascend the Arondelle throne.
Part of the reason Elsa is held in quarantine is because in childhood, while using her powers to create a winter playground for herself and younger sister Princess Anna (adult voice of Kristen Bell), she accidentally injured her head. Although non-superpowered and “normal”, Anna heals with the Troll King’s help. Having no memory of the incident, Anna is distraught and perplexed as to why Elsa cannot come out to play. Still, the coronation day comes, and Elsa seems to be in emotional control of herself and her abilities. Not for long. Elsa gets upset when beautiful but impulsive Anna immediately intends to get hitched to comely Southern Isles prince Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), a guy she met only minutes before in a boating “mishap”. Already tense and anxious, Elsa unleashes an ice age on Arondelle and flees the shocked citizenry for the lonely refuge of the mountains.
Anna may be a mere mortal, and a bit clumsy, but she is unswervingly determined to locate and reconcile with her sister and convince her to thaw out the kingdom. This sounds like a straight-arrow objective, but many complications come into play. One, Elsa finally finds peace and the freedom to be herself in the mountains, which is celebrated in the ubiquitous, destined-to-be ageless ballad “Let It Go”, and literally carves out an ice palace for herself. Two, although Anna teams up with loner ice-delivery man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his faithful, dog-like reindeer Sven, and a wacky snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), they at first don’t seem to be much help. Kristoff, like Elsa, just wants to be left alone, and Olaf keeps falling apart and foolishly wishing he could move to the tropics. But, with Sven’s urging, Anna’s tenacity and persistence bring this odd duo around. Third, some in the coronation party, like the Duke of Weselton (‘Weaselton”) voice of Alan Tudyk) and others, consider Elsa a monster and want to eliminate her. Fourth, Elsa accidentally causes Anna to suffer a “heart freeze” that could prove fatal. Can Anna achieve this miracle and save both Elsa and herself? According to the Troll King, true love is the key. But what is this true love?
“D’s Frozen” continues the Mouse House’s rise above older cartoon sentiments and happily-ever-after resolutions and marriages (mostly) and explores more advanced, modern emotions and themes. In Marvel Comics “X-men”, mutants deal with adolescent anxiety and confusion about their powers, their fear of losing control of their powers and causing death and destruction, and the prejudicial hostility of a society that can’t and won’t understand them. Elsa faces these same dilemmas. “D’s Frozen” moves beyond superficial, helpless romantic puppy love (like that of Anna and Hans) into more substantial love and friendship like the one within a family and between sisters. It also moves beyond conventional villains (although there are a few, and at least one unanticipated one) to show that our own worst enemies are our inhibitions and fears. “D’s Frozen” also continues the relatively recent Disney movement to create independent, self-assured women who do not automatically need men to face and overcome danger and obstacles. And naturally, most importantly, “D’s Frozen” helps us figure out what that true love is, with, amazingly, the help of that “wise fool” Olaf. True love is captured in the phrase that begins, “No greater love hath a man [person] for another than to….”.
Best of all, “D’s Frozen” achieves the weighty themes mentioned above with excellent visually artistry, suspenseful and sometimes heart-thumping action, naturally funny slapstick and verbal humor, dazzling musical numbers, satisfying character development, and happiness that is not deus ex machina, but hard-won. Not bad for this Disney/Marvel collaboration. Not bad at all.
P.S.: If you have the patience to wade through the end credits, you’ll find a funny disclaimer addressing Kristoff’s opinion about men and their noses, and the final fate of the abominable snowman Elsa creates to protect herself from attack.