How a snowman gave me new hope for Star Wars (FROZEN SPOILERS WITHIN)

AKA a pseudo review of Frozen (with SPOILERS) that lead me to writing this rant about the up and coming Star Wars films.

It took me a while to get out and see Frozen, and I admit it took some prompting before I gave it a chance. With the occasional exception, there have been some serious misses in the recent Disney playlist for me. I was raised in the Disney revival of the late 80’s and early 90’s where even after we had lost Walt himself, the touch of his “child in all of us” attitude was rekindled to a massive and impressive scale. Walt knew how to tell a story, and he knew how to find and encourage those like minded creators as well. He built an empire on it. And now, that empire owns another empire, Star Wars.

So where am I going with this? Right, FROZEN. So my friend Jimmy Burns, a fellow 501st member AND ‘Disneyphile’ posted his own review encouraging others to see the film:

I was really worried about Frozen going in. The Olaf character was just not hitting me well, seemed too JarJar for my taste. However, I’m ready to eat crow now, because the movie was very enjoyable and even Olaf was done really well.

I hadn’t even seen the movie, and yet I felt like I knew exactly what he was talking about. One of the biggest letdowns as a maturing person waiting for the continuing saga of Star Wars… was a Gungan. Although played by an extremely wonderful person, who is a joy to speak with and a fellow total fan if I might add, the character is almost painful to watch. When turning to Uncle George for an explanation, all we got was footage of him watching clips of Buster Keaton silently prat-falling into pseudo-disaster scenarios.

Jar-Jar-Binks

George Lucas wrote in detail the description of a sweeping war saga that was only hinted at before this, and put at the front line a bumbling buffoon. How does that have a place in Star Wars? In the originals, R2-D2 is cute but NOT dumb, and C3P0 is a great source for verbal comic relief but almost equally so to Han Solo’s quips and jabs. Why would he feel the need to include a character like this in the prequel?

Disney as a studio as done the same thing in their own storytelling on occasion. Animals that talk in inappropriate scenes, scripts with the potential to transport us to another world we’ve been waiting to see, and tearing us into reality because we’re watching something so absurd we can’t let go. But probably nothing as bad as HIM.

Which brings me back to Frozen (here be the spoilers). In trailers we have no context of the deep significance Olaf represents in the final film. Actually there’s an even deeper layer that’s not even acknowledged by the characters in the film, but your brain knew it was there. It hit me like a ton of bricks when he walked into frame. Olaf is literally the HEART of this film.

The royal sisters Elsa and Anna are story centric, but neither of them get to the final conclusion on their own. Both are guided by an unseen force, LOVE. And who describes that force in bittersweet and completely innocent agenda? Olaf!

olaf-frozen

Olaf is a thinking, BREATHING (carrot sneezes?), self sacrificing character that was conceived by the sisters when they were at their happiest, and then brought to life completely unknowingly by the Snow Queen Elsa when she embraces her powers. Actually he’s the first thing she creates! It’s so quick, but it’s there, she creates life when she embraces her own freedom. That is an incredible revelation in terms of character development. But when she realizes she has this power, when she’s scared and wants to be alone, she creates an ‘ice monster’ who fiercely protects her. The woman is practically a God who can create life itself, and NO ONE ACKNOWLEDGES IT except those who are scared of her and call her a monster. (By the way, that ‘ice monster’ has an equally deep revealing development in a delightful after credits scene, which breaks a few taboo barriers in my opinion, but I’ll leave that one to discover for yourselves.)

Just as a side track, I’d like to acknowledge the Hollywood process. These days, a good script gets treated over and over by so many writers, producers, directors, and anyone else who thinks they understand the imagination, that it’s truly a rare thing when the final product makes ‘perfect’ sense. I’m a jaded reviewer, it takes a LOT of good storytelling and production value for me to give something 5 stars. Actually I probably wouldn’t even give Frozen 5 stars. It doesn’t even slightly resemble the inspirational source material. It had some faults in terms utilizing the potential this story had, but the final product was in fact extremely heartfelt and entertaining.

So the creators of this final version of the Disney project really outdid themselves when they didn’t make a character that had the power to create life absolutely evil for what would have most likely been explained as ‘story purposes’. The Snow Queen is in fact just lonely, and finds companionship in her sister, and the very people she thought she was protecting by hiding her gifts. She could have created her own winterborn subjects and let the people possibly die. I could go on and on about the significance of the choices this script took, but ultimately that’s not my point.

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My point is this: I was terrified when Disney bought Star Wars. An entire trilogy of Jarjar Binks filled my mind. Will we ever get a sweeping epic space opera again? The announcement of JJ Abrahms to the project didn’t really quell that for me either, even when it gave fans of the new Star Trek reboot hope. Star Wars doesn’t need a reboot, it needs love and life. We as fans never went away, we’re still warming ourselves by the fire of classic storytelling the original trilogy presented. We learned to embrace the prequels in many ways because they are in fact the product of a great creator, BUT… there’s that but again mentioned so many times in relation to this subject. But with all of the canon mapped out so well in the expanded universe, how do we go on from here with Disney at the helm instead?

We go up! (No, not Pixar/Disney’s UP!) If the powers that be at Disney can produce a piece of work about a lonely girl who becomes a God, then becomes a Queen, with a walking talking snowman to guide her there, then perhaps I can learn to accept that some things are meant to change, and some things, however unlikely, should be given a chance, so that they can give us hope.

Why do we love Star Wars? Because a man named George wanted to show us an exciting story that would transport us to a galaxy of a scale greater than our own. Why do we love Disney? Because a man named Walt wanted to show us the exciting and beautiful worlds we are capable of conceiving.

I have hope for George again, thanks Walt.

starwarslucas

Adapting to Prometheus

Alien is one of the most important franchises in my long list of fandoms, mostly because of a love for HR Giger’s designs, and partly because of the long running canon that is so incredibly immersive. A simple yet unstoppable life cycle with a simple objective: adapt.

So when it was announced the Alien Prequel was going to happen, I was ecstatic! Ridley Scott coming back to the world he helped to create? I was so ready.

And then I saw the film, and I was in a bit of shock. I wanted to like it, I DID like it, but there was so much “missing” or different from what I was expecting, it was hard to put it into words.

Well enough time has passed, so I’d like to share some of my (and other people’s) thoughts on the subject.

I actually filmed myself crying at 2 am after coming home from this film’s midnight release. I won’t be posting it because it’s absolutely terrifying. I’m delirious and upset in it, barely comprehensible. I’ve had a chance to re-watch it and will try and translate my rambling. Basically there was so much I really REALLY wanted to like, but it wasn’t the prequel I felt we deserved. Number one as a Giger fan, and number two as a Xenomorph fan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing film and a great ancient aliens themed story, but it’s NOT a suitable Alien prequel in my opinion. There is so much I wish would have been done differently, so much more I was expecting. And bottom line for me, it didn’t bring the Giger elements to life with the epic visuals and visceral realism they deserved. The biomechanical wasn’t alive, it was just limp and squishy. Sorry, but that’s what I got out of it.

I do have to say, the ancient alien theories, space jesus, and replicant/android stories were all great parts of the film for me. The film itself has a epic and grand scale WITH a comprehensible and intelligent script that is rare to see come out of Hollywood these days. BUT… there’s the but… it all falls short for me when trying to apply it to the Alien canon. Even if you never have the Queen life cycle, it still doesn’t fit. The space jockeys are humanoids in space suits? NO no no no! The jockey is fused to the chair, like he was grown into it. It’s not an unexplored idea (Farscape anyone?), and wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to elaborate on.
Aliens-kidsjockey

And the primordial black goo? Sure, it creates life from life. In terms of the Engineers, it takes the basics of them to create us, and the Xenomorph is the amplification of our truest nature and base instinct, to kill and multiply. To survive. It all works for me up to that point.

But then it takes a turn for the worse imo, when the timeline shifts, it’s a different ship, and different planet, and a different type of technology than I’ve always pictured Giger’s art working as.

As you can tell I’m ultimately conflicted. It is an absolutely amazing final product, but you have to understand I have dreams of how Giger’s imagery moves and works, and this film did not represent that. Lets go back. Ridley Scott captured this right away in the first film, and so simply too I might add. The egg feels alive with fiberglass and shadows of rubber gloves, the face hugger looks real with foam rubber and shellfish parts, the chest burster is puppeteers moving it’s arms and beating it’s heart as if it’s alive, and the Alien is an awkward and terrifying new life that wants to simply kill and create new life, played by an awkward and alien looking young man who was cast simply because of his presence (love you Bolaji Badejo, wherever you are). It brought to life Giger’s art in it’s most visceral form.
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This movie is beautiful to look at, and completely immerses you in the story. And there’s all the concepts there to make it a great and direct Alien prequel. But then at some point in the process, like he’s done before with Blade Runner (if you haven’t watched the making of documentary on the most recent dvd set, you should), and rightly so since he’s the chosen director, he picked up the pieces and made something he thought would be better.

I can still be in love with production and creature design. The amazing sculptor Dayton Allen over at Sith_fire30 Creations found this gem, a montage of early concept designs by artist Carlos Huante from the early days of preproduction. It’s worth watching just to see what COULD have been.

Also, there’s plenty of resources out there to explain the making of this film, but this is one of my favorites. comicbookgirl19 is really great at explaining things in her vlog, it’s really worth watching;


In short, although this film isn’t what I wanted it to be, it still has me thinking about it as an epic cinematic event in my life. I’ll just keep over analyzing it while enjoying the scenery in my Giger themed bathroom.
self portrait at 19 yo
(self portrait of me at 19 with Giger art)