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A Trailer That Remembers the Face of Its Father

Which would be like…  a teaser?  The poster?  A synopsis?  I’m not entirely sure how parentage of a movie trailer works.  Anyway, I’m talking of course about the much anticipated – for me at least – Dark Tower trailer:

I’ll just say this now so you can either click away or tell me I’m wrong right away instead of getting to the bottom:  I. Loved. It.

Idris’ imposing charisma and gravitas as Roland, McConaughey’s sleazy and menacing presence as Walter/Randall/Man in Black, and just the amazing visuals of Midworld or the connection to the rest of King’s works all shining through in this short trailer.  It definitely delivers on everything I would want from a film adaptation of the Dark Tower series.

And I think that’s where there’s some debate going on about the trailer.  People aren’t happy that this seriously deviates from the source material so much.  People have had issues with the film focusing more on Jake, the movie toning down some of the more western concepts, or them being racists.  You know, pick your poison.  Overall, I wasn’t expecting a transfer of the books story to the big screen.  Because that would be terrible.  The story of the Dark Tower books barely fit into anything resembling a traditional narrative structure and more closely resemble a traditional saga where the characters go on a meandering journey to ultimate destination and have various adventures along the way (also see: The Hobbit.)  There is no easy way to break The Dark Tower into a simple beginning/middle/end.  Heck, one whole book is like 90% flashback.  Even the first novel, ‘The Gunslinger’ would work as a straight story namely because it ISN’T one.  The Gunslinger is five short stories that take place in a chronological order, but while each of the shorts have a roughly complete arc unto themselves, the whole of the narrative doesn’t.  Heck it doesn’t even really have an ending.  Not one that resolves any of the conflicts brought forth in the story at least.

And that’s the Dark Tower in the nutshell.  It lacks the structure that a film demands.  So to expect any of it to make it to the big screen without some level of heavy adaptation taking place is naive of how media adaptation is supposed to work.  That and I assume you’re a big fan of The Last Airbender.  That was pretty much just copying plot point for plot point of the entire first season of Avatar to the big screen.  (Full disclosure: I loved the Last Airbender.  I have never laughed so hard at a movie.  It wasn’t because it was good though.)

The other idea put forth about the movie that solves a lot of these conflicts would only make sense to those who have read the entire book series so this next point may have some SPOILERZ in it for those who are interested in reading the books.  The idea being introduced and seemingly confirmed by both King and the filmmakers is that this story is another one of Roland’s cycles.  Referring to the idea that entire series has been repeated an unknown amount of times until Roland gets it right by bringing the fabled Horn of Eld to the steps of the Dark Tower.  When we last see Roland at the end of the last book, his journey has begun once again but this time he actually has the Horn in hand.  While the Horn of Eld isn’t seen in the trailer (photos on the set show a horn like object in Roland’s satchel however), it doesn’t mean that this theory is bust.  After all, it wouldn’t be the first cycle where Roland lost the Horn.  But even Stephen King has hinted on his twitter that this is the next cycle after the books and that this time we’ll see Roland blow that horn and face down the Crimson King.

The one point I like about this theory is that it doesn’t tie the film makers to the events of the books.  Mid-World is still there, the old familiar faces may come and go, but those are this cycle’s versions of those people.  In the same way that Roland remembers Cuthbert fondly instead of bitterly at the end of the last book, we can’t simply assume that the events before or during the course of Roland’s last journey to the Tower will play the same.  That means the film makers have full access to the names and ideas presented in the books, but don’t have to use them or even use them the same way in the film version.

Combine all that with the fact that you can tell from the trailer that the behind-the-camera team has a lot of love for the property, and this could spell a great time for King fans and non-King fans alike.

One final aside that I’ve been pondering on with the trailer:  In one shot we see Jake wandering through an over-grown forest in the remnants of an amusement park with a giant broken down sign that reads “PENNYWISE” and a dilapidated statue of a clown holding balloons.  Of course, this is easily a reference to Stephen King’s IT that is slated for its own theatrical movie here soon.  But something struck me as odd – Is this where the clown came from?  It takes many forms in the course of the novel – a werewolf, a mummy, Bev’s Dad – all conjured from the children’s frightened minds and of course Its final physical form of some Lovecraftian horror that could only be described as “Giant Spider-like creature”.  But none of the kids were afraid of clowns.  Heck, even little Georgie wasn’t scared of Pennywise when they first met.  So where did that form come from?  We know that It comes from the Macroverse, a place described in very similar terms as Todash Space in the Dark Tower, and Its natural enemy is the Turtle, which is a reoccurring guardian deity in All-World.  So perhaps this right here is a hint to where the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown comes from original.  Maybe this isn’t a reference to IT as much as IT is a reference to this.  Who knows.  Maybe we’ll find out in August.

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Review: Empire of Corpses

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Oh.  Oh sweet merciful fal’Cie.  What the hell did I watch?  My fiance and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the Funimation Films presentation of ‘Empire of Corpses’.  A title that sounded quite promising.  In fact, the whole idea was quite promising.  A world where Victor Frankenstein’s experiment gave rise to an entire society built on and around essentially zombie slaves powered by steampunk-style “NecroWare” that program the reanimated corpses for a variety of tasks from simple clerical jobs, to military deployment.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  Doesn’t that seem like there are a ton of cool stories to tell in a world like that?  I bet you’ve already thought of some.  And I also bet that they are WAY more interesting than anything this movie does with the premise. /sigh

The film comes to us from the works of the late Project Itoh (real name Satoshi Itoh) whose death in 2009 inspired the creation of a trilogy of animated films based on his science-fiction novels.  The last of which, published posthumously, was Empire of Corpses in 2012.  The trilogy of films will also feature “Harmony”, based on the novel of the same name that was given a special citation by the Phillip K Dick Award and will be shown state-side in late May, and “Genocide Organ” which currently stands as yet to be completed.  But surely with a stack of awards including a special citation from the Phillip K Dick Awards (a special citation being code for ‘throwing you a bone without actually winning’), surely the story will be an immensely riveting tale? Won’t it?  Well, how should I begin?

The Characters

The film begins with medical student John Watson (Yes, THAT John Watson) resurrecting his dead best friend as a living corpse that he names Friday (Not that Friday, but close) who he trains to be his servant, bodyguard, and to write down everything he sees and hears in a journal.  He is recruited by ‘M‘ the head of British secret intelligence who has a secretary named Moneypenny and teamed with a famed British soldier named Burnaby to go to Afghanistan (under the fake cover of being a field surgeon) to find a rogue Russian scientist Alexei Karamazov who is supposedly in possession of Victor Frankenstein’s notes on how to create a living corpse that has a soul like he did with “The One”.  Along the way Watson meets up with other characters like former president Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and Hadaly Lilith (who later renames herself Irene Adler).

If you haven’t gathered from the copious amounts of links in that last paragraph, there isn’t a single character that is based on, inspired by, or flat out IS, some sort of fictional or real historic person. The only person who possibly escapes this fate is Friday whose name draws inspiration from Robinson Crusoe but that where the similarities end.  This is mostly because we are told next to nothing about who Friday was in life beyond being John Watson’s best friend and potential lover (never confirmed, but there’s more than enough evidence to have that interpretation of their relationship) and that Friday was exceptional interested in Corpse Reanimation that he built an illegal lab to conduct NecroWare experiments in and then bequethed it Watson under the explicit details to ‘desecrate his grave’ and to bring him back to life.

Beyond that the characterization is all over the map.  Burnaby is fiercely devoted to bringing back the notes of Victor Frankenstein because that’s the mission for queen and country and all that, until the veteran soldier sees another spy that he had grown close to (via minute long montage) die and be ressurected that he immediately makes it his life goal to see the notes completely destroyed.  Almost every character in a cast of a dozen is given at least one big plot twist/betrayal/reveal through the course of the movie, to the point where you almost need a chart to keep it all straight.

The Story (Spoilers Ahead!)

The first half of the movie is an entirely different beast than the second half.  The first half is the pursuit of Victor Frankenstein’s notes.  It tackles a lot of questions that you’ve probably already seen done and done better in things like Fullmetal Alchemist.  Is knowledge for the sake of knowledge an end that justifies any mean?  Where is the moral line when it comes to science and knowledge (Especially in a world where reanimating the dead to become waiters, butlers, soldiers, etc to do the bidding of the living is standard practice). The pursuit has Watson, Friday, Burnaby, and the Russian Spy Nikolai Krasotkin pursuing Karamazov in the high hills of… somewhere?  They start in Afghanistan and end up in what looks like Tibet.  On foot.  Anyway, Karamazov has perfected a new form of living corpse that has problem solving skills, faster reaction time, and near living intellect (Watson tortures one into almost speaking at one point – because Watson’s leading theory is that language is only possible with a soul.  Also that a soul weights 23 grams that vanishes from your body when you die.)  They find Karamazov in a scene that is eerily familiar to Apocalypse Now when they first find the encampment of Colonel Kurtz, and have a nice meal with him where they discuss philosophy and whatnot.  Then they find out the secret of Karamazov’s new zombies: He isn’t resurrecting the dead. He’s killing the living.  By putting a living person in a trance with music and opium then ripping into their spinal cord and programming them with NecroWare, you create a far more capable undead.  Karamazov says Frakenstein’s notes are in Japan, Burnaby is horrified, Watson wonders why Karamazov is such a wussy that he didn’t keep experimenting on the subjects to find the truth of the soul (He’s apparently done this murder procedure to an entire village at this point). Then to… uh… prove a point I guess? Karamazov turns himself into a zombie.  Awkward.  You honestly could have made this the whole movie in a big send up to Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness.  The isolated village of the dead, stretch out the mystery of the secret of how to make the new zombies, big reveal at the end with a realization that some costs are too high. The end.  Good flick.  But no, it keeps going.  Clearly we’re building up to something big.  Oh well, off to Japan.

The Japan ‘chapter’ is fairly short.  They meet another historical figure, they find out what lab the notes are being kept in, and they break in.  Inside they find engineered zombies that can carry diseases like cholera as biological weapons.  This matches something earlier in the movie where there are exploding zombies that are engineered to break down their own body fat into glycerin so they explode.  Again, another neat idea. Zombie arms race.  Would explain the need for the notes.  But no, that’s not where this is going either.  Watson finds the notes, but instead of destroying them he has Friday analyze them (Because Zombies are also computers that can break electronic locks and crap) Because at the end of the Japan chapter, we get zombies going on a rampage, the lab in flames, Watson almost dead and the notes being stolen by none other than “The One” aka Frankenstein’s Monster.

This is where the plot completely goes off the rails, so let me bottom line some of the weirdness that transpires for the next 45 minutes.  The One is making zombies go insane using massive analytical computers built out of human brains in various cities while ‘looking for something’ before he is captured by ‘M’ so that M who is now a bad guy for some reason can create his perfect utopia of everyone being a zombie so there will be no war.  Watson does more experiments on Friday, Friday goes insane and tries to kill Watson but doesn’t, Friday might have a soul but nothing comes of it.  Burnaby gets drunk, and hits Watson for not destroying the notes.  Hadaly is a robot that is identical to a human but with no emotions (ie no soul) and wants a soul.  No, we’re never really going to go into that. Or how a robot got made.  Or why we’re relying on zombies when robot technology is available.  Zombies apparently can turn other people into zombies by biting them, but only sometimes when the plot necessitates it for M’s utopia idea.  Before that? No turning people to zombies via biting.

So after all that mess of confusing plot lines that go mostly nowhere, how do we end this?  What is the grand idea that so many other ideas were set aside or discarded for?  Well, the heroes rush from San Francisco to London in a few hours using the super-hyper powerful USS Nautilus (YES. THAT NAUTILUS.) that has been retrofitted by Hadaly’s father… Thomas Edison (Just go with it, movies almost over).  There they stop M’s evil plan of turning everyone into a zombie, while Burnaby tries to shut off the power to the whole evil lab by… battling the Universal Movies’ Frankenstein Monster who is guarded the power station for some reason.

Once M has been defeated, now it’s time for the REAL villain to show up and enact his REAL villainous plot: The One breaks out his chains, and uses Victor Frankenstein’s notes and brain (that M had for some reason) to…  ugh… /sigh…  suck the souls out of everyone on the planet so he can uses them as a massive… um… thing to resurrect his bride’s soul that was somehow trapped in Victor’s brain into Hadaly’s body, then transfer himself into Friday’s body.

No. I’m not joking.  One hour and forty minutes of story was actually all about just getting Frankenstein’s monster laid.  That’s the groundbreaking idea that this movie had for this premise.

Of course, the power of ‘not wanting to lose Friday’ causes Watson to defeat The One, who may or may not have died in the tower falling down (We see him get up from the ground as the tower falls apart around him), there’s an almost kiss with Hadaly and Watson before Burnaby who repeats his superpower of somehow never dying or getting hurt no matter what happens to him shows up to interrupt.  The movie ends proper with a repeat of the initial experiment that ressurected Friday at the start, only with opium and music as Watson does the ‘turn the living into a zombie’ thing Karamazov showed him so he can hopefully understand Friday better.  The End.

Only not really, because there’s another scene after the credits that fans of this trainwreck call ‘The Real Ending’ which is honestly just Watson and Sherlock Holmes running around, Watson has no memory of anything that happened, Friday stalks him like a scorned lover but apparently now has a soul, Hadaly has changed her name to Irene Adler, and Burnaby is still an ass.  The “REAL” end.

The Animation

Despite everything, the film is really pretty.  Supposedly the studio that worked a lot on things like Attack on Titan worked on this film (if the advertising is to be believed) and the polish really shows.  The detail to all the little steampunk gadgets really helps sell the setting and the look of the world.  The zombies seem to vary in detail depending on how many are in the scene but they do a good job animating the dead to look like they are just puppets and that helps a bunch when it comes to visually seeing why things like the newer zombies or Friday are different or special just in the way they move or stand.

Character designs are a little less inspirational.  You have your standard bishie protagonists, Hadaly has torpedo boobs to such an nth degree I was half expecting a joke about that being where her power cells are stowed or something, the villains look completely stock, and the only one who looks out of place in Burnaby who honestly from his face to his build to his animation just feels like he belongs more so in a Studio Ghibli flick than this.

The Voice Acting

We did get to see the Funimation dub of the film at our screening which was a welcome surprise since the Alamo Drafthouse’s website did not list any of the English cast.  It might just be me but there didn’t seem to be any sort of stand out performances for this movie.  My fiance however enjoyed J. Michael Tatum’s performance as Burnaby, but also stated that she couldn’t help continuously thinking of a certain Butler the entire time despite the completely different and fairly thick accent Tatum put on the film.  On a whole, the acting was good.  Nothing great to me, but also no where I could point and say “WTF is that?”  Except maybe with the Russian accents.  Those seemed to be a bit… Hetalia meets James Bond villain.  But hey, that’s only for the first third of the movie.

Final Impressions

I said it as soon as the house lights went up in the theater. This film is a hot mess.  Plot twists come out of nowhere and are legion in number.  The film can’t decide what it wants to be about.  Is it a monster movie?  Is there some kind of message it wants to convey?  What message?  What is the primary conflict?  The One, despite being mentioned a few times, doesn’t enter the film until the halfway point.  His character is never explored nor are we ever treated to any motivation or character for him beyond exposition dumps from other characters that have no way of actually knowing the info they’re spitting out which is only glossed over by crap like “My theory is” or “They say that”.  Yet by the end, apparently The One trying to resurrect his dead bride (who is shown once at the start of the film, and never mentioned as The One’s bride until 15 minutes from the end) is the central goal of the villain that our heroes are trying the thwart?  Heck, before that we had little to no motivation for our heroes to oppose ‘The One’ until after M becomes the villain for 20 minutes before being unceremoniously killed off so The One can take center stage.  M would have made sense as a villain because we see him throughout the film making vague mentions of scheming and plotting and how it’s his job to ‘predict the future’ and what not.

Then there’s the whole Watson and Friday thing that is given no resolution, is never really explored beyond using Friday to find out if there’s a soul, and in the moment where that seems like a possibility it’s treated as a huge shocking moment and then immediately forgotten about for the rest of the film. Heck, it can even be interpreted that Watson flat out kills Friday’s regained soul immediately afterward to create a better puppet/tool for fighting M/The One.

In the end, the film and the story feels very much like it wants took inspiration from several early science fiction writers without taking or even understanding why those ideas worked.  Like a filmmaker who sees a cool shot and decides to use it over and over regardless of whether it works or not because it was cool but they didn’t understand WHY it was cool.  So the film ends up completely falling apart after the half way point as it tries to throw more and more into the film without any understanding of how to use the elements it adds.  It could have been something great.  There were a lot of amazing ideas to be explored in this film.  What it needed to do was just pick one and stick with it.

Box Trolls: Not the Internet Kind

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As regular readers know, I’m a grown ass man who loves him some animation.  There’s no shame in that.  I also like the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels.  There is some shame in that.  That’s off topic though. I wanted to talk a bit about a wonderful little film I saw that I’m worried might pass by unnoticed by most (there were only like 8 of us in the theater and the movie has only been out for 4 days) called ‘The Box Trolls’.

The movie is about a boy named ‘Eggs’ who has grown up in the care of the Box Trolls.  The reason for this we are told is because they stole him when he was a baby.  Eggs has a good life living with his pseudo parental figure Fish and his friend Shoe as the Box Trolls spend each night going up to the streets and taking pretty much anything metal or mechanical that isn’t bolted down to take home and make wacky inventions with.  Meanwhile, in the town above, the legend of the Box Trolls stealing children has taken on epic levels landing a group of exterminators to try to eliminate them in order to earn a place in privileged upper crust society.  Eggs meets the daughter of the Lord of the town, and learns what the upper world thinks of the Box Trolls and sets off on a mission to save all the box trolls that have been taken by the exterminators and prove that they are not monsters.

The Box Trolls is the latest film from Laika, the people behind the extremely enjoyable films ParaNorman and Coraline.  The film is a bit more a fairy tale than its predecessors though in such that it lacks the biting cynicism of modern day society.  That being said it does share the critique of family dynamics that were both in ParaNorman and Coraline – the problem of parents ignoring their children to some extent.  However this one takes the notion to the ridiculous when the Lord of the town pretty much flat out doesn’t even acknowledge what his daughter is saying most of the item.  Not dismissing it, not hand waving it away, but full on “Did you say something? Guess not.” level of ignore.

Like other Laika productions, Box Trolls is also not afraid to “go there”.  And despite having significantly less frightening images than ParaNorman or Coraline, it does not shy away from darker subjects such as death and the monstrous fables about Box Trolls routinely make mention of things like ‘rivers of blood’ and ‘mountains of bones’ (it turns out to be more of a river of insects and mountains of scrap junk).  The little girl Winnie is pretty much obsessed with the grotesque aspects of the legends and routinely fantasizes about being ripped apart and devoured by monsters.  She is weird.  But truth be told if you’re worried about kids getting scared at this film, the worse it gets visually is a silhouette of a man being beaten with a wrench and one hideously extreme allergic reaction.  So definitely less frightening than ParaNorman or Coraline, but still a bit dark.  It’s not my place to say if your kid can handle that, so I’ll just leave it to you with knowledge to decide.

The casting and script is absolutely phenomenal with pretty much everyone turning in a fun performance.  The story has honest moments that tug at your heart strings, have some great moments of suspense, and will have you laughing your head off – ESPECIALLY if you like puns.  Yes, lots of puns.  Mostly cheese puns.  The upper crust of this town have an obsession with fancy cheeses and the puns just fly out whenever the topic comes out.  Once to the point of having an in-universe rim shot.

I do recommend this film, especially if you liked films like Coraline or ParaNorman but wanted something a tad bit less frightening for the family.  Even if you’re not worried about frights, it’s still a solid enjoyable family film that has something for everyone and doesn’t treat its audience – even the little ones – like morons.  Heck, the first 10 minutes barely has English spoken on screen.  Just troll gibberish.  Still you don’t get lost with it and it’s told well visually.  The film runs about 90 minutes, and uses it all well.  It never feels  slow or rushed.  So go ahead and go check it out!  This film needs some love because it honestly looks like it’s going to be booted out of theaters soon for not having the big audience it deserves.

Okay, before I end this post I do need to address the elephant in the room. People who don’t want to hear about potential real issues, you have been warned.  From this point on, it’s real talk about real issues.  And also spoilers.

There’s been a lot of talk in various online circles about the Box Trolls since it hit early previews that the film should be avoided and even boycotted due to it being transphobic or transmisogynistic and that it makes fun of trans women.  The problem really with that statement is that as a completely cis-het white male, I’m not in any sort of position of telling people how they should FEEL about something in the movie.  But what I can do is offer my observations on the events of the film because from what I saw it didn’t seem exactly that transphobic.

I know, I know! “Vry you just said you were a Cis-Het White American Male! Why should we even listen to you!”  And that is fair.  You might not listen to me.  And by no means am I saying you must but allow me to present why I am saying that before my opinion is dismissed.  You see, without going into too many spoilers (there are some. You have been warned.) It’s revealed about halfway through the film (or a third of the way if you’re half smart and figure it out yourself) that the local star of stage Madam Frou Frou is in fact the villain, Mister Snatcher, dressed in women’s clothing.  He does this to perform a show that paints the box trolls as hideous monsters that need to be exterminated by – well – Snatcher, and he also uses the persona of Frou Frou to hobnob with the social elite that he longs to be a part of (They are called White Hats, where Snatcher and his crew are lowly bottom-of-the-city working class Red Hats).  Those are the only times we ever see Snatcher dress or act as a woman and in fact drops the Frou Frou voice and any pretense of not being a man as soon as the rich people are out of sight.  At no point in the film does he ever wish to identify as a woman, or become a woman, beyond putting on the show and milking the fame it comes with.  The fact that he dresses as a woman is used to comedic effect TWICE.  Once is when Eggs tries to expose him and as Frou Frou pretends that ‘she’ wears a wig and not that the identity is fake to maintain face among the rich, and when the rich people finally figure it out the Lord of the town makes a passing, completely ambiguous “I regret so many things now.”

So is this transphobic?  Well, it’s a difficult thing to put in a box actually (see what I did there?)  From my research (yes, I actually try to read up when I’m dealing with REAL issues) there are several ways the term transgendered can be used and in some ways it refers specifically to people who were born one gender but identify as another gender.  However, some broader definitions of the term include any activity where one gender takes on traits, dresses like, or presents oneself as another gender, in which this definitely fits.  See, Snatcher’s persona of Madam Frou Frou would technically be Drag – presenting yourself as another gender for the purpose of entertainment or performance.  He does not identify as a woman, wish he was born a woman, or desires to be a woman outside of his time performing or hobnobbing as a consequence of performing.  One is to promote his business, and the other is to temporarily live the life of his dreams.

However beyond the wig joke,  the Lord’s embarrassment at finding out his dream gal is actually the man he’s been so disgusted of he refuses to usually let him in the door of the house when they speak, and how atrociously bad his Madam Frou Frou outfit is (It’s a dress, wig, and make up. Nothing else.) The entire concept is never really treated as a joke.  At no point is he vilified for putting on a drag show after its revealed.  Heck, Snatcher is the one who lets it drop that he IS Madam Frou Frou to rub it into the Lord’s face that he was so easily duped.

Though again from what I’ve read there are real issues between drag performers and transgendered people.  Namely that there are trans folks out there who feel that drag is an insult that mocks the very real and difficult issues they have to deal with.  That drag gives a negative public image to people who then turn around and think all trans people are just “cross dressing weirdos” or something and this has created a very real rift between the two groups.  So for that reason,  I can’t just write off the complaints of transphobia as complaining for the sake of complaining.  If you are trans person who takes real offense to drag, then yes, you probably will find parts of this film offensive because those elements exist in it.  I can’t tell you not to be offended by that.  It’s not my place.

Frozen Treats

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So I finally got around to seeing Frozen.  Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor, I know it took me a while.  But I’m not a young spry chap with infinite free time that can see every animated film that comes out like I was back in college.  But those who know me know that I am a lover of all things animated, so I felt that writing a short review and sharing my thoughts on the film.  Why? Because it’s my blog.  And I have a whole category over there on the side clearly labeled “Cartoons & Anime”.  That’s why. Is that not enough?

The Premise

For those who aren’t familiar with the general plot of the story, it revolves around two sisters: Elsa and Anna. When Elsa was born she was gifted and/or cursed with magic over ice.  However, after an accident with Anna, her parents try to help her learn to control her powers. By locking her in their palace, and letting no one – not even Anna – interact with her until she has mastered her magic.  But the parents die, as they do in Disney films, and now Elsa is left as the Queen of their small but prosperous kingdom. However, during the coronation Elsa looses controls of her powers and is driven out by fear to the north mountains where she builds an ice palace in her own private idaho ice kingdom completely unaware that her actions have left the kingdom buried and frozen in a deep snow in the middle of summer. Now Anna has to try to convince her sister to thaw the kingdom.

It sounds REALLY simplistic, but actually it constantly messes with your expectations and rarely do things like this stay so simple.  Treason, treachery, trolls, and snowmen also make appearances and often not where you expect them.  I don’t want to go into much or else I’ll spoil some of the awesome of the film but the film does a great job of screwing with your typical “Ah of course it’s Disney” stereotypes and tropes.  All the way down to the ending and how the plot is resolved challenges the way you would think a film like this would play out.  Honestly, it feels more like a Dreamworks story but the classic Disney quality to it and next to zero pop culture references (Seriously, Dreamworks. Tone that **** down.)

The Visuals

Gorgeous.  That’s all I can say.  Starting back when Disney Animation put on Tangled, I think they really hit on something with the overall emphasis on using facial animation to depict emotion.  It added an energy to the characters’ expressions that you didn’t see in a lot of other CGI films.  Combining that with the enjoyably cartoony body movements and you honestly have some of the most delightful characters to watch on screen in a long time (in my opinion at least.)  That same energy is brought to bare in Frozen, emphasized on the emotional turmoil that Elsa goes through over the film and the manic pixie girl like tendencies of Anna.  It’s an animated film that’s fun to watch and re-watch just to look at all the little details that each character has in a scene.  Something I’ve missed since the later seasons of Jimmy Neutron on Nickelodeon when the animators started really having fun putting gags in the background or with characters that are not the center of focus for the audience.

Of course, I’d be called on it if I didn’t bring up the overly emphasized clipping errors that have been making the rounds on the internet.  Yes, Elsa’s hair clips through her arm at one point.  It’s not even a half second long and unless it’s been beaten into you by sites like Tumblr or wherever it’s being passed around you wouldn’t likely notice it. Honestly, I barely noticed it all even knowing it was there with all the other glorious visual being poured directly into my eye balls.  Like the ICE.

Oh geeze, if there was ever a reason to buy a Blu-Ray player, watching this movie in high definition just for the ICE is going to be worth it.  Even in theaters the fractals of ice just look gorgeous.

The Acting

Honestly, this is probably where I have the least to say.  I’ve never been a huge critic of actors.  Everyone did really well here.  That’s about all I can say.  If there were any shows stealers it would be Olaf the Snowman voiced by Josh Gad who turned in an amazingly happy over the top and blissfully innocent snowman.  Honestly, we were astonished about how darn loveable that performance was.  Kirstin Bell (Anna) and Johnathan Groff (Kristof) turn in performances with a great chemistry between the two with well timed oral jabs at each other.  Idina Menzel as Elsa was…  well that’s complicated the more I think of it.  She does the high drama moments incredibly well (Not surprising for a Broadway star) but in the less tense moments felt a tad… meh.  It may be partly because outside of the fervent emotional turmoil, Elsa doesn’t have a ton going on as a character, especially in comparison to Anna who deals with her repressed worldview, her is she/isn’t she evil relationship with her sister, and her spontaneous and insane love life.  Elsa is just a bit more of a one trick character.  But that one trick is rendered masterfully.

Other Things

You know the theory has been passed around that Elsa’s story in Frozen is very much akin to dealing with a mental illness, and more specifically depression.  As someone with a mental illness, I can say that yea. There IS a lot of that. It did strike a serious cord in parts with things I’ve experienced in my own life.  And it handles them well.  Repeated phrases like Don’t show, don’t let them know and the insistence of just trying to control it. After all how many times have someone heard “Have you tried just being happy and stop being depressed?”  The message continues with the idea that no matter how bad, or how awful, or how much damage you might unintentionally cause – there will always those who care about you. Be it family or friends.  It was a nice message that really made me feel warm fuzzies walking out of that theater and I won’t lie – I teared up more than once.  (Okay, fine I tear up at the drop of a hat. I was flat out bawling tears at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3.)

So would I recommend the film? Absolutely.  No matter how old or young you are there is something wonderful and powerful to be found in this film.  I have been beaming about it since we saw it and I don’t imagine my utter dumbfounded shock at how amazing it was will subside anytime soon.  So yes, go see Frozen. Do it.

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