Struck by a Cinematic Ice Storm

“Struck by a Cinematic Ice Storm”

Movie Review by Benjamin Owen  |  TNmemoirs.com

As the modernized Disney logo appears, the audience is settling down for a presentation longer than most church services.  We first hear “the choir” chanting an intriguing chorus that sounds rather ethnic or even tribal; “which reminds me of….”  I stopped myself; “Wait, the title is not up yet. Don’t jump to conclusions.”  So I waited with the captivated audience to see how Disney would begin this story.

When the title enters, the audience has been whisked into a dazzling, frozen world.  Cue the classic Disney musical scene!  Many things are accomplished within the first scene, but before we get into that, let me pause to comment on the animation.

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The animation in “Frozen” is probably the best I’ve seen from Disney in years.  They took the time to make this world very realistic (momentarily ignoring the talking snowmen, personable animals, etc., by the way) unlike the overly simplified animated movies that are common today.  I liked seeing Disney go back to their roots in the artwork.  The snowflakes alone were very detailed.  When I first watched “Frozen,” I called the movie “a beautiful derivative work” — meaning a beautiful mimicking of God’s snowflake (see Job 38:22 and 37:6; Psm. 148:8; Isa. 1:18 and 55:10; Dan. 7:9; Mark 9:3; Rev. 1:14). And the animators clearly spent time studying what we see in creation, giving attention to the motion, as well as, the appearance.

It’s interesting to see how color is used to accent emotion.  When Anna confronts Elsa, the ice around them inexplicably changes color, reflecting the emotion of Elsa.  I’m not sure why her ability to control ice/snow would alter colors, but this background element serves the story well.  And if Elsa can bring snowmen to life, why not colors, too?

Now, back to the opening scene.  It seems strange to me that they would start with a subtle chant, then launch into a fast paced sequence like that, but I know many movies follow the same pattern. Movies often open slow and then leap into a more epic sequence.  I suppose it gives the audience time to “buy into” the fantasy world before you actually introduce any characters.  The opening scene of “Frozen” introduces key characters, the environment, theme and thesis of the movie.  I’m sure you noticed the “ice trade” connection to the theme, as the filmmakers introduce us to the environment.  We are told right away that ice is an important part of this world.  And nobody missed the introduction to Kristoff and his pet.  Something less noticeable, however, was the clear presentation of the theme and message of the entire story.  They tell you where the story is going within the first five minutes!

“Beware the frozen heart” is the last phrase in the opening song and everything that follows in the movie will backup that opening phrase.  Everything in this story will work together (like a preacher’s message) to teach the theme of “Frozen.”  That theme is “love, love, love” — what is love, how is a “cold heart” overcome, and yes, even how can evil be defeated?  All of the enemies and problems in “Frozen” originate from the lack of love; either because they are afraid (to love others) or because they are too selfish (love themselves more than others). I will comment on specific examples as we go, but I should warn you “Frozen” fans; there are some problems ahead.

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Anna is injured by Elsa’s magic and their parents are faced with an emergency.  Emergencies are always exciting in movies, because the main character usually knows “where we must go” and we like that they are smart. Elsa’s father references a book that tells of, what I assume, is meant to be an ancient source of wisdom.  We then race to meet the most unnecessary characters of the movie – trolls.  The “elder troll” (note the tribal community here) magically heals Anna by changing her memories…. “removing all magic” he says.  The standard “hide away” decision is made and we fast-forward to see how tension increases in the castle.

We now know the source of wisdom, guidance and virtue for this movie — the trolls who practice some form of pagan mysticism (note the crystals, etc.).  Somehow, the trolls have obtained a morality and wisdom beyond the human characters (and human kingdoms, which will be introduced later).  This presents a huge problem as we continue, because all of the “human kingdoms” seem to reflect a Christian influence, like those in western history.  In “Frozen,” we are presented with the wise, pagan trolls and the foolish, selfish humans.  As Elsa’s magic is revealed, we’re essentially witnessing a transition in the kingdom.  That transition is, in the big picture, one of beliefs.

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Elsa is locked away from the world to hide her powers.  This is a great setup for a musical sequence, because most people can probably relate to either Anna or Elsa amid the comical performance by Anna.  The musical scenes here are also carefully planned, featuring various creative transitions.  We’re told that (for whatever reason) Anna feels starved for love and when the song ends, she is released from the castle in a whirlwind.  All leading up to the clash between the sisters’ very opposite fears and Elsa’s ice power is revealed to everyone at the castle that night.

“Sorcery!” is tossed out in a jokingly way, and from the Duke of Weselton who already been setup as both a foolish (old) comic and the stereotype of business owners (greedy, destructive people who will exploit anything for material gain).  Once again, business owners are presented as evil, which is a socialist message continually raised up against liberty and prosperity, but I’ll save that topic for other articles.  The Bible tells us not to deal in sorcery (Deut. 18:10; Lev. 20:6; 2 Kings 23:24 for example).  Yet, the term is stated in this movie specifically to diffuse that point by making it come from a foolish character.  “Frozen” not only defines Elsa’s power as sorcery and witchcraft, but it is also presented as a neutral power.  The trolls explained to Elsa that her power can be used for either good or evil.  The Bible, however, makes it clear that all witchcraft is to be avoided.  Because all magic has it’s root in a desire to be like God (see Genesis 3).  Here, I think will be a good place to look at the song.

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That song that has captured memory space in minds all around the world; “Let It Go” is a great example of the worldview driving this movie.  We have watched Elsa growing up, trying to control her power. She knows that she will be queen one day and takes that responsibility seriously.  When Elsa fails to control her powers, however, she runs away.  Through the performance of “Let It Go” Elsa casts away all responsibility, all restraint and humility.  Now, I’m going to try and unravel what I think is being communicated within this song.  Regardless of the specific messages, however, this song is at minimum in opposition to God’s word.

First, Elsa turns her back on all responsibility and puts “the past in the past” (can we say ‘Lion King’ here?)  She does not care what happens to the kingdom.  After all; it’s not her fault. She was driven away by those stuck in outdated beliefs, who are afraid of new things, who don’t understand magic, or love.  Elsa leaves them to take care of themselves.  She also “let’s go” of all restraint, tossing her glove into the wind.  We’ve seen an “undertone” of moral restraint and humility when Elsa was standing in the castle as queen.  Now, however, with her secret out, she leaves all of that (her parents instruction) behind.  Elsa has escaped the former dominion and now is “free” to be herself (follow her own rules and do anything she wants).  The movie presents this as truly liberating.  Elsa discovers her “true power” when she rebels.  She forms what could be called a perfect ice castle for herself, while singing “that perfect girl is gone” (which is rather contradictory I think).

That’s not all; when you really get into the lyrics here, the problems keep coming.  “I don’t care what they’re going to say” reflects the kind of self-righteousness that engulfs our culture.  Does that line mean Elsa does not care what others say is right or wrong because she lives by her own standard?  Maybe, you could argue, that means “not seeking to impress others” or some character lesson that’s more “on the surface.”  But I would argue that this entire song (supported by visual cues and talented singing) is a message on morality and standards.  The lyrics include references to things like being “the good girl you always have to be” which suggests that she does not have to be good.  “Well now they know” presents an idea that once people know, or accept, that you are not that “good girl” there is, shall we say, “license” to “be yourself.”

Do you see where this song goes with ideas – with worldview?  Elsa also sings “no more rules” and that “fear no longer controls” and I would say of course not! She just ran away from her fears!  The problem is; the past does not truly stay in the past.  The consequences from past events remain. Elsa can not be “free” like she thought.  She has to face right and wrong.  Elsa ends the song with one last defiant phrase and we fade to her sister, who happens to actually be taking responsibility.

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Anna’s journey to reach her sister is comical, and relatable for many, keeping the story moving.  Kristoff, who is likely the actual hero in this story, re-enters.  He’s instantly liked because of his common sense style and simple, honest personality.  And Kristoff is who sets the record straight on the whole marriage conflict.  While I’m sure many liked the advice given (ungracefully) by Elsa regarding Anna’s marriage to Hans, the movie does not backup either side as being true at the time.  It’s made clear that Elsa says what she does out of her “indoctrination” to close others out.

Kristoff supports Elsa’s advice, with more certainty and confronts Anna once again on her definition of love.  One problem: Kristoff learned this from the trolls! 

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Kristoff was presumably an orphan raised by the rock trolls.  He was poor and did not have the “proper upbringing” and education that Elsa, Anna, Hans and all of the other royalty had.  Remember how those kingdoms are reflecting the Christian influence.  Therefore; it seems to present a message of “poor, pagan trolls who practice sorcery and mysticism were able to give Kristoff (with no help from human parents) a stable, balanced and sensible mind set.”  On the other hand; all of the other human characters, who were raised by parents and given the education proper for royalty, are those who have more character flaws.  Some are selfish and greedy, others are proud, cruel, etc.

This is one of the big problems with “Frozen” – the exaltation of pagan beliefs over Biblical truth, which is admittedly a given in Disney movies.  However, that view is not even consistently applied.  On the one hand, Disney would say “Let It Go” and live out who you are, (by the way, the Bible has a lot to say about who we are) but on the other, they say; “live morally” as the “wise” trolls exemplify.  That conflict in message is because they must borrow things from the Bible if the movie is going to work.  People simply do not want to watch a movie that has no standard for right and wrong.  People want to see evil defeated.  In this case, love is made the standard.  “Wrong” is when people do something “unloving” and “right” is when people act out of love.  This works well because most can agree on love.  They even define love in the movie as; “putting others needs before yourself” and the climax is when Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa from Prince Hans.

For a moment, their example of sacrificial love runs kind of parallel to the Gospel, but not for long.  Love is lifted up as the all powerful god of “Frozen” as Elsa learns to love; love not only thaws the winter, but also brings spring (wow!).  In the end, Elsa has learned to love and therefore, can control her powers (which are now safe and used for “good”).  The “unloving and judgmental” people are cast out of the land.  The kingdom is now safe to just live and love, where social gatherings seem to be the source of happiness.

Let me just close with this thought….  Why should we use a pagan fantasy of sorcery and rebellious behavior to communicate the meaning of sacrificial love?  The true and ultimate example of sacrificial love is seen in Christ Jesus (see Romans 6:18 and 8:35; John 3:16).  What if we memorized a hymn like “Alone, Yet Not Alone,” instead of memorizing the worldly hymn of “Let It Go”??   What if we seek to know the Bible’s definition of love (and marriage, and parents, etc.) instead of learning the definition “distorted by sheets of ice.”??  The past can only be in the past if we accept the forgiveness offered by Christ.  We cannot just “be ourselves” if “ourselves” means a sinner in need of salvation.


READER COMMENT:

“For me, I just think ‘Frozen’ is an adorable movie (seriously, Olaf is my favorite movie character ever). The song ‘Let It Go,’ for instance, can be a powerful song. I see your concerns with it, and I don’t disagree, but I’ll give an example:

The song says; ‘I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on; the cold never bothered me anyway.’ You specifically address those lyrics, and I do see where you’re coming from. I believe that our culture is ruled by self-righteousness and selfishness and it’s basically all about ourselves and no one else.

That being said, I think a positive spin can be placed on it… For children (since that’s the target audience) who are in a situation where unkind things are being spoken to them (whether by another child, a teacher, or a parent), it’s a powerful realization that they don’t have to accept what those people say. They can just ignore those people, ignore the storm, and, well, ya know, let it go.

That may seem like a bit of a stretch, but as a teacher, I see students who need to learn to not be the victim, and this song actually helps. It’s not 100% perfect, but if it’s gonna help a child, then I can’t justifiably rule it out.”

BENJAMIN’S REPLY:

Thank you for reading the review and commenting. I’m just going to expand on these concepts, having only briefly talked about them in the review. And I’ll try not to get too deep into “movie talk.”

First, I’ve talked mostly about the negatives because people don’t need help seeing the fun stuff. And while there are good elements in most movies (usually borrowed from Christian morals), we must be careful in approving of an entire film based on a couple of good things. I’m not looking for perfection in movies, but rather, at the direction in movies. Is a presentation moving in an anti-Christian direction or, on a whole, in a Christian direction?

Regarding your example of a positive spin with “Let It Go” — sure, we can put a positive spin on things in ‘Frozen.’ But I would point out that the same positive statements could be made from the Bible (with more authority) and that “Frozen” is not needed. It may also be worth noting here (because it parallels your example case) that the “stop bullying” kind of message has been high-jacked by the homosexual groups as a means of disguised propaganda. So we should be careful there.

Secondly; children are really good at copying what they see in movies, and the funny things will be mimicked first (by both kids and adults). I do not expect people to stop watching movies like “Frozen,” but because of that; parents need to be prepared to address attitudes and ideals that come from “kids” movies like “Frozen.” I could give examples of parents who exclaim; “I don’t know where they get this stuff” and never consider what their children are watching (often a heavy intake of television programming like Disney channel; which ignores the 5th commandment).

Christians are good at being thrilled when a small scene illustrates a “redemptive” message, while overlooking a larger majority of elements to the contrary — usually that even undermine that one “redemptive” scene. I think it would be beneficial to shift our reference point for “positive lessons” away from movies, and back to the authority of God’s word. Which is a concept I’ve been trying to practice more, because when making a point; it’s just my word until I reference God’s word. The problem is; our theology today is coming more from movies than the Bible, and our doctrine more from music than God’s word.

In way of overview: If someone is a fan of “Frozen”, that could indeed provide a starting point to explain a concept to them – such as not worrying about what other people say. My review focuses on the messages and themes viewers should be prepared to address (Biblically). But let’s not justify something based on positive elements within a larger picture that’s giving a negative direction. We should try to keep media in a proper perspective. Parental guidance is key, as with anything.


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