When the magical powers of young Queen Elsa get out of control and freeze the kingdom, her sister Princess Anna tries to bring her back from her icy self-exile. Disney's winter's tale is a little romantic, a little funny, quite a bit sing-songy, but in the end dutifully entertaining.
When they are children, Princess Elsa can't completely control her cryokinetic powers and almost kills her younger sister Anna while playing. That is the reason the royal couple seals the two children off from each other and the outside world. Even after the death of their parents, Elsa stays away from her sister, because her fear grows at the same rate as her powers. At her coronation the castle gates are opened again after many years. Citizens, business partners and strangers flock to attend the coronation.
Despite her nervousness Elsa manages to get through the ceremony without an incident. But when Anna falls at first sight for Prince Hans, Elsa loses control over her abilities in a fight. Because she is feared and despised for her icy powers, Elsa flees into a lonely mountain exile. But an eternal winter lingers over the kingdom Arendelle and Anna sets out for bringing her sister and the summer back.
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"Frozen" is finally again a movie with a female lead and another important woman character. And yes, they speak not only (but also) about men, but also about their sororal relationship. In some other reviews, the film is already being hailed as being empowering to women.
Will Geena Davis and her Institute on Gender in media or other advocates of equal representation of female characters in film be pleased with "Frozen"? Studies by the actress' institute confirm what female filmmakers and women's film festivals around the world complain about: female characters are not only underrepresented, but in many cases mere decoration. Standard roles are the romantic love interest or the damsel in distress, who needs to be rescued. The three completely trivial and thus upsetting questions of the Bechdel test can be used to find out how seriously the filmmakers take their female characters:
1. Is there more than one woman in the movie (and do they have a name?
2. Do the women talk to each other?
3. Do they talk to each other about something else than men?
Disney had several films – but far below average – with female protagonists: Mulan probably being the strongest of those. Pocahontas and Tiana in "The Princess and the Frog" were also not entirely driven by romantic notions like Arielle. However, compared to the hordes of male characters, this is shockingly little and inadequate female representation. Pixar's Merida was also a pleasant female deviation, but in the same proportion: the successful animation studio didn't have a female agent before their 13th feature film.
+++ Caution: slight Spoiler ahead +++
But "Frozen" by helmer duo Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck has not only a female protagonist, it also banks (like "The Princess and the Frog") on once usual musical songs – something that Disney has dropped long ago for boys-oriented movies. Additionally, Elsa's ice palace is slightly Barbie plasticky and the snub noses of the two sisters are extremely prominent. At least Anna does not have to be rescued by a man in the end, even though it seems like that all the time until the denouement at the very end.
Intrinsically this new Disney film is a decent standard movie: not overly funny, but still entertaining; not really new, but pleasantly varied and reasonably diverting. Of course, Disney resorts to universally known ingredients: a little romance, a little adventure, a little music and singing (by which I was not particularly impressed) and the obligatory anthropomorphic secondary characters that provide some humor and drollery (here in the shape of snowman Olaf).
Finally, the production is solid, but certainly not too strong in empowering female characters (rather a calculated exception in order to go back again to male protagonists in a long series of upcoming movies?). And when the marketing gimmick is brought up that "Frozen" is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" refers, I just roll my eyes – because it's very loose as a source of inspiration.