Will Disney ever stop pulling that stale old “Oh, a central character is dead! Let’s all mourn for 30 seconds… Aaaaaand okay, they’re back, everything’s fine” bullshit? At this point, the studio has ended so many films with a fake fatality that TV Tropes just calls this routine the Disney Death. It seems awfully bleak for children at this point, but awfully rote for viewers over the age of 13.
That aside, two notes on Frozen’s ending: The moment where Anna forestalls anyone else from punching out Hans, and does it herself, certainly feels like a Disney self-corrective, a conscious nod to decades of complaints about heroines who lose all sign of self-confidence and agency when the final villain confrontation looms. At the same time, the film treats the moment casually, undercutting the drama and making it light and fun: Not a big important statement of purpose, just a well-deserved moment between people.
But on the other hand, Hans’ face-heel turn is more new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss. For a few minutes in the middle of the film, I admit I actually didn’t see his big reveal coming, and thought we might actually be looking at a story where the protagonists who face adversity together don’t fall for each other, and are free just to be friends. I still long for that ending just a little bit, as something new and different. And Hans makes for an awfully stupid villain, walking away from the one person who can expose him and telling everyone she’s dead without bothering to check first. (Why would he assume she’d instantly die and not linger for days in that room? Does he have a lot of experience with frozen-heart magic?) Frozen does an awful lot of things well, and it’s hard to get too much on its case over its adherence to tropes. But with films like Wreck-It Ralph in its recent history, Disney has proved it doesn’t have to hit every familiar trope in its idea box in order to connect with audiences. It’s time to let a couple of these formulas go, guys.