The Infallible Fish Reviews: Monster House

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

Blog Monster House Review Title

Fish? Fish! Where are you? The reviews meant to have started. Fish? What are you doing under the bed?

Writer? Quick get under here before it notices you.

Notices me? What will notice me?

The house you idiot, it’s alive and it’s going to eat us! Now get under here!

But it can’t eat me, I’m just a disembodied voice in italics, I’m not actually here.

Oh, right. Well get lost before it notices me then.

Look, what’s put this silly notion in your head about the house being alive?

There was film, a terribly deceptive film, I thought it would be ok, it looked like your typical kids film. It started so nicely, with this wonderful bit of animation as we followed this leaf fluttering down an ordinary street. Everything appeared to be perfectly fine, with annoying little girls, cantankerous old men and kids spying on their neighbours (Ok, that was kind of creepy), but slowly the film revealed its true monstrous self. A film where old men have heart attacks, people get eaten left, right and centre, there’s nightmare inducing imagery, and, oh God, stereotypical comedy police officers, the horror!

Get a hold of yourself Fish! This is only the second film you’ve reviewed. You can’t be beaten so easily, I have so many horrific tortures planned for you, you can’t let them go to waste.

You’re not exactly selling me on this reviewing thing you know.

Let me put it this way, I know you can review this film, I believe in you Fish.

You do? You know no one’s ever said that to me before, I almost feel as if I could review this…

Besides if you don’t I’m going to write the most obnoxious comedy sidekick in existence to join you for all future reviews.

Let’s review Monster House!

Firstly, just let me say, I like this movie, I really do, but this is not a film for small children. Mature children should be able to handle it with the least amount of nightmares though. This film gets dark in parts (not Coraline levels of dark, but still) so just go in forewarned.

So, what’s this movie actually about? DJ lives across from Mr. Nebbercracker, a grouchy old man who hates having kids on his lawn, always confiscating or breaking anything that happens to land on his precious turf. But all is not as it appears, as DJ and his friends soon discover that Nebbercracker’s house is possessed. They have to find a way to defeat this ‘Monster House’, and quickly, as Halloween is fast approaching, which could quickly turn into an all-you-can-eat buffet for said house.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the animation in this movie. It’s really good, some parts are absolutely gorgeous, the opening scene with the leaf for example. Or the scene were the house’s shadow creeps into DJ’s room, turning the room red as the shadow transforms into a hand, getting ready to grab DJ (I said this wasn’t as dark as Coraline didn’t I? My mistake). The motion of the characters is great too, especially during the action sequences.

There is one odd thing about the animation though, it’s the hair. It’s stuck on, permanently rigid, like the hair of Lego men. There’s not an ounce of sway or bob of movement. I know hair can be a pain to animate, but it kind of sticks out when you just don’t animate it (well it does for me anyway).

The greatest part of this film animation though, is something that is often forgotten when it comes to animation, the cinematography. A lot of time in animation, most of the attention goes on the actual animation, making sure that the characters and surroundings move realistically, to make it as believable as possible. That’s good, that’s what should be done, but after all of that people tend to forget about the camera, and just end up plonking it into the scene without all that much thought. This film is shot like an actual flesh-and-blood film would be shot. The angles, the framing, even the motion of the camera, all of it works to make this world feel even more real, and not just a bunch of models on someone’s computer.

Then we have our cast, and these kids are great. DJ (‘cause actual names are uncool bro I just have initials now, that’s how cool I is), Chowder (because calling him Fat Kid felt a little too on the nose) and Jenny (‘cause Penny was already taken). I joke, but this film gives off a strange 80s/early 90s vibe for me. What with the dark elements, the excessive explosions and violence in the finale, the Home Alone style antics, and these kids feeling like every other kid trope from that time (from the exterior anyway). But, once you get to know these kids, you realise they’re not just tropes, they’re actual characters. They act like real kids, they get scared like real kids, and they’re smart like…some kids are. It also helps that they’re really funny. There are no catchphrases, or zany antics, it’s all done by rather subtle dialogue. From DJ’s breathless astonishment at being kissed by a girl (even though he’s currently risking his life to blow up a possessed house, well at least he can die happy I suppose), to Jenny’s negotiations with the babysitter, to Chowder’s…just Chowder. He’s both stupid and endearing all at the same time. I love that kid.

The rest of the cast is where things falter slightly, not much, just a step or two. Because you see, it’s the kids that get all of the depth in this film. The adults are all pretty much just stereotypes, a little more three-dimensional than cardboard cut-outs, but not by that much. They’re funny every now and again, but there’s no detail to the characters, nothing to make them stand out a great deal from their counterparts in other films. But, then they’re not the focus of this film, so I suppose that’s ok. The best characters of the adults are probably Bones, who feels like a genuine jackass, Zee the babysitter is smart (though girl I gotta hope you get past this Bones groupie phase real soon, he just ain’t right for you), and I like the creepy old neighbour Nebbercracker. I also think it’s a nice moral about Nebbercracker too. I like that he turned out to be a good person, and having a reason for acting so nasty. It’s a really tragic back story as well, and one that adds some emotional heft to all the scares and action. Now I know not every grumpy old man has a reason for being that way, but this movie teaches us that maybe we should look a little deeper before judging.

Now this film starts off small but gets progressively bigger, it does a really good job of building up the threat, then delivering on that threat, and then making the threat even more terrifying until we reach a truly epic (if completely over the top) finale.

The film starts its turn towards the dark when DJ gives old man Nebbercracker a heart attack, and you get to enjoy the horror of the whole thing, all the way through when he falls on top of DJ, pinning him to the lawn (no cutaways here, enjoy the terror my friends), to when the ambulance wheels his body away. This leaves DJ rightly disturbed about the fact that he’s just killed a man, something I give the film credit for, being willing to give some attention to.

Now these are smart kids, and once they realise something is wrong they tell the grownups, starting with the babysitter, then the police. Oh God, the police, I’m sure someone will find these pair of imbeciles funny, but I certainly don’t. They’re ok at first, but they slowly grate on me. Saying that they did do one joke that I found funny, when one of them says they’ll phone for back up, the other one pointing out that the only other officer is Joan at reception. Anyway, so when neither of those options work out, the kids decide to settle this themselves. They start by stealing some cold medicine (Wait a minute, I thought I said these kids were smart?), as part of a plan to put the house to sleep so they can sneak inside.

Yeah, I’m all for independent kids and improvised Home Alone style solutions, but stealing drugs? Really? Any other dangerous ideas you want to implant in impressionable young minds? Explosives? Why not? Hey let’s go the whole hog and throw in some knives and guns, I’m sure the parents won’t mind. Oh, is that too far? Ok, we’ll just stick with the explosives then.

The nightmare fuel properly gets under way when the kids, trapped inside a police car, are swallowed by the house (in a really energetically animated, if terrifying scene). They explore the inside of the house, eventually getting captured by evil slinkies and sinister pipes, and dropped into a gaping maw of rotating teeth (Are you terrified yet? I know I am.)

Then the film decides, heck we’re animated, we can do whatever the hell we want. I imagine the conversation regarding the finale went something like this:

“Let’s have the house start walking around.”

“Ooh yeah, then we can have it chasing after the kids, smashing through all kinds of things.”

“Then, wait for it…we have the house fight a big mechanical digger.”

“Awesome. Then, to finish it off, we can have DJ throw dynamite down the chimney, wait for it…while swinging on a wrecking ball.”

“Epic bro.”

Yeah, as written by a committee of five year olds, and it’s…it’s… Good Lord is it exhilarating. Yes it’s so over the top sharks are flying in formation alongside it, it’s so action cliché it’s funny, but there can be no better ending for this film.

This film is great, a lovely Halloween treat (I know Halloween’s already gone), just make sure you check it before you show it to the little ones, or else the trick might be on you.

There, I did it, I reviewed the movie.

Feel better now?

Somewhat.

Are you going to come out from under the bed now?

You’re sure the house isn’t alive, and isn’t going to eat me.

I’m sure.

And you’re not going to write some obnoxious sidekick to join me on future reviews?

Of course not.

Ok, then, I’ll come out. Now, about these horrific tortures you have planned for me.

Oh look at the time, gotta go, see you in two weeks.

Hey wait a minute! See you in two weeks folks, I’ve got a Writer to hunt down. Get back here!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

First Impressions: Yona of the Dawn

I think the hardest thing to review is something that’s middle of the road, and that is what Yona of the Dawn is, so far. It’s not bad enough for me to rant about it, and it’s not good enough for me to squeal with delight. It’s just ok, nothing more, nothing less. The story is your standard fantasy. We have a kingdom at peace. We have a Princess. We have the Princess’ sweetheart. We have the soldier who is there to protect the Princess and has no feelings for her whatsoever. Then something happens to the King. The throne is usurped. Our Princess is on the run, and thus begins a battle to take back the kingdom.

The villain could be interesting. I’m sure there’s more to his back-story than has been stated. It does make me want to know what caused such a shift between his younger self and his current personality. As of yet though, I still haven’t seen that moment of pure evil that’ll make him a great villain.

It doesn’t help that this looks like it’s going to a slow show, they’re only just out of the castle at the end of episode 2.

The animation is ok, with the odd bout of goodness in the fight scenes.

The only thing that is really tempting me to keep watching is the contrast between our weeping flower of a Princess in the present, and the fierce archer she becomes in the flash forward. I kind of want to see how she develops into that, though I honestly doubt if the show’ll do anything really innovative or new. I’ll give a few more episodes.

First Impressions: When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace

I always find comedic shows the hardest to analyse or recommend to someone, as humour is such a deeply personal thing. Something you find hilarious, another person just won’t get. That’s why so many anecdotes end with the line ‘you had to be there’.

Trying to review an anime comedy show is twice as hard, as not only the writer, but the intended audience, come from a very different culture to my own. So that means there’s often a joke I just don’t get.

What’s this show about then? Well it asks the question of what happens when five school kids get superpowers, but unlike most anime, there’s no evil force to battle, or world to protect. Now this idea has been done before (and most of the time ends up with the kids using their powers for personal gain, or going psycho), but this anime takes a different route. This show is a love letter from geeks. It’s for anyone who has ever dreamed of having special powers, for anyone has spent ages working on the perfect name or powers for their superhero self.

As for the comedy, so far this series has a 50/50 hit rate when it comes to making me laugh. It’s not sidesplitting, but it’s enjoyable enough, and there are little pockets of drama and the suggestion of an actual threat on the horizon, which I appreciate. Personally I always prefer it when comedy is contrasted against drama. You can’t have light without a little darkness.

I’ll keep my eye on this series.

First Impressions: Celestial Method

Must resist. Anti-cute barriers being breached. No. No! She’s just too adorable. Damn you Noel!

Get a hold of yourself man, let’s talk about the anime. It’s very pretty, with some fluid animation and sumptuous backgrounds. The characters aren’t that bad either, if not exactly mould-breaking. The supernatural mystery of what exactly is the saucer is a good one, though there are a few things I don’t get. I understand that the thing has been hanging there for seven years, but really? No military presence to guard the thing? No research lab sending up probes and the like? They treat this like it happens all the time and I just don’t buy it.

Another thing that confused me at the start was the state of the character’s memories. At first I thought they’d been altered. I’d certainly remember the friends I tried to summon a demon with when I was little. But no, they’ve just forgotten one another. I think that could have been explained a bit better, and quicker.

Speaking of the demon of cuteness, Noel, when she started mentioning granting wishes and I realised that this cast was predominately female, I started getting Madoka Magica flashbacks. Now I have a feeling this show is going to go down the happy sappy route, but I’d certainly give it props if it started to get dark and twisted towards the end. But that’s probably just because I’m a sadist.

So far this is a pleasant little anime, with potential for some tear-inducing drama (Hopefully without the need to keep slapping one another).

Are Clichés Good or Bad?

As a writer I guess I’m supposed to say that clichés are horrible and evil. They’re just lazy storytelling and the cogs of a paint by numbers plot that has no passion or creativity and is purely there to empty your wallet. And…yeah, they are. But does that make them irredeemable? No.

Clichés become clichés because they are overused. As story beats in and of themselves, they’re fine. When I watched films as a kid I wasn’t bothered by the constant liar revealed plots, or stereotypical bully characters, or idiotic romantic misunderstandings that leads to the couples breaking up before getting back together at the end. When I was a kid these ideas were fresh and exciting to me. Would that couple get back together before the end credits role? Would that bully be taught his lesson? How would that liar win back the trust of the people they’d betrayed?

Now as an adult (though technically true, mentally I have some doubts) these plots just make me roll my eyes, as I can see exactly where the plot is going.

Do you know what can make a story great though? When those expectations are subverted. When a cliché is presented to us, but suddenly diverts from the path we were expecting, leaving us suddenly unsure, curious as to how this will end. Clichés can be tools for good as well as evil is all I’m saying.

In fact that’s just what clichés are, tools to tell a story. I don’t believe the clichés are at fault, it’s how they’re used. When a writer uses them as a crutch to rely upon when they can’t be bothered to put some effort in or try something new. I suppose that’s what gets people really mad about clichés, well, it gets me mad at least. If someone isn’t going to put the effort in to craft a good story, why should I put the effort in to read/watch it?

Ok, a few examples to make my point. A really good one that I saw recently was in episode 2 of an anime called ‘When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace’. The plot of the episode basically revolves around a misunderstanding where a girl thinks a letter she got from the male character is actually a love letter (spoiler: it isn’t). Now normally in anime this would either end up in one of two ways. The first is that the girl would become a kind of stalker running gag, where she’s always jealously watching or trying to win over the boy, only to be shot down. The other way is that the gang would have try to come up with some crazy plan to get rid of the girl and hijinks would ensue. Thankfully the episode takes neither route. Instead, just as the gang are staring to concoct a plan, Andou simply goes and explains the situation, leading to a really bittersweet scene that I enjoyed

Another cliché that gets used all too often is the death of parents to give the main character a sad back story. This one really bugs me nowadays. There are lots of instances where the parents are just cheap cardboard cut outs, a means to an end, an excuse for the Main Character to mope and brood. Parents are important characters, they should help to shape and define the Main Character, and as such their deaths should be traumatic. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of occasions where it can be right, where it’s given the weight it deserves. Batman is a great example, because you feel that loss at his very core, it is the driving force of his psychosis. It is a part of him, and he wouldn’t be the same without it.

Clichés can be good when, like so many things, effort and creativity is put into them.

First Impressions: Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle

Broken speech. Excitement lots. Shocking truth. Chaika back!

Sorry, I can’t keep that up. But I’m so excited. I really enjoyed the first season of Chaika, and so far season 2 continues that trend. Fantastic fight sequences, lovable characters, a good dollop of humour and an intriguing mystery. Who exactly is Chaika? Why are there so many of her running around? And just what is the Emperor up to? Though it does look as if we’ll be getting a few answers sooner than I expected.

I love the contrasting struggles of the different Chaikas. A couple determined that they are the real Chaika, and another determined that she isn’t.

I will miss Gillette, partially because I can no longer make the ‘best a man can get’ joke. Saying that, they never did find a body. And then there’s that guy, what was his name again? Ah yes, Guy (at least I still have that joke). He’s as creepy and mysterious as ever.

Chaika may not break any new ground in the fantasy genre, but what it does, it does well. I really like this show, and I think it deserves a little more love.

First Impressions: Karen Senki

I’ve never been quite sure about these short, 10 minute episodes. I don’t really see the point of them. I mean the couple I’ve seen are all fine, but they’re just not long enough. There’s no time to properly build up a scenario and give a decent pay off.

Karen Senki gets the worst of this, it’s just one action scene after the next, strung together with… actually there’s no interconnecting link most of the time. The scenes just pop up and disappear again with little to no consequence.

The plot (if it can actually be called that) is that robots have taken over and forced the human race into subjugation. Now are brave hero must fight to overthrow these mechanical tyrants. All the while dressed in an eye patch, jetpack boots and the most inappropriate dress imaginable for fighting (Ok, who hit randomise on the character design button?).

Watching this felt like I was watching the rendered out cuts scenes of a Playstation game. Speaking of game consoles, seriously, you kill the robots by shooting them in the eye? Someone’s been playing too much Legend of Zelda.

And did we really need a robot prostitute? Really? That was so important to the narrative? Walking around in translucent underwear like that, think of the children!

Ok, I’ll give the show some credit. The action is good, it’s nicely animated and dynamic. I just wish the story had a bit more focus and weight to it.

First Impressions: Terra Formars

I really do not understand this show. I mean what’s the point of even airing it if you’re going to censor it so badly? Now I’m not a huge fan of gore, I can put up with it if I like a show (Akame Ga Kill does just enough to keep me hanging on), so I appreciate not having those scenes of horror burnt onto my eyes, but I also can’t help but feel the invasion of the black squares ruins the flow of the show somewhat. There’s no point in broadcasting it if everyone has to wait for the DVD release to watch it properly. If that wasn’t bad enough, I don’t like the rest of the show either. But, before I go into that, what exactly is this show meant to be about (when we can actually see what’s going on?)

A virus is spreading across the Earth and looks set to wipe out the human race. But this is no ordinary virus, it comes from Mars, so they need to send a team up to collect samples, there’s just one itty bitty problem. There’s a bunch of giant humanoid cockroaches (who’ve obviously been at the steroids), waiting up on Mars and they don’t take kindly to humans. The battle for humanity’s survival is on!

Yeah, anybody else getting that whiff of Attack on Titan? It doesn’t help that the first episode begins with a nightmare-inducing parade of grotesque faces all smiling at you (I see the Titans are doing well off of all those merchandising deals.) Now I like Attack on Titan, but could I watch something else please? I mean how many stories about humanity pushed to the brink by alien/mysterious forces are there? Oh right, they never end.

And then there’s the fact that the opening, where our main character fights a bear (Ok, I admit that’s a cool way to start a show) and we’re introduced to this girl, just for her to be killed off. I can feel the show violently shaking me, screaming “Feel sad! Feel sad for our main character!” And I’m sorry, but that kind of thing really rubs me the wrong way. And things don’t get any better in the second episode, as we’re introduced to characters only for them to violently die a few minutes down the line (I’m starting to become glad I can’t see any of this).

And finally there are the monsters for our series. Now I’m fine with giant humanoid cockroaches, though I can’t help but feel that this is mimicking (see what I did there?) something I’ve seen before. But it’s the fact that they look so stupid, they look like they were designed in the 60s, then filtered through the 90s (seriously, what’s with the muscles?), and that a threatening monster it does not make. I’m out on this one guys.

First Impressions: Shirobako

Sometimes you have to break away from what you normally watch and dip your toe into a different genre, just to expand your horizons.

I’m saying that because I don’t normally watch slice of life type shows, I prefer more fantasy or supernatural stuff. I watch TV (and write, and draw) in order to escape reality most of the time. Still, this show has me intrigued.

Shirobako is about the trials and tribulations of a group of young girls entering the anime industry. Whether it be working in production, animation or even voice acting.

Now I know animation is no easy thing, I can only imagine the stress and mayhem that goes on when you have deadlines, directors and executives breathing down your neck. It’s a hundred times worse when you have to pump out a quality product each week. And judging by the first few episodes, things are worse than I expected. If nothing else, I have a feeling this show is going to give me a great amount of respect and gratitude for my weekly supply of anime.

Though that doesn’t mean this episode is devoid of fun, I particularly liked the sweet, happy tune played over the high-speed street race, seriously was that legal? I thought for a moment that someone had slipped in some test animation from a Need for Speed game by accident.

But I like the characters, what I got to see of them. And I do like the contrast of the overflowing enthusiasm when the girls were making their own little short at school, to the endless grind of the actual job. I think I’m going to be sticking with this show for a bit. And now I have a craving for donuts.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Frozen

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

Blog Frozen Review Title

Ok, my first review on this blog, and I have to be honest, I struggled with what would be a good place to start. There are plenty of movies I want to gush about, some I want to tear apart, and a fair few that I think deserve a bit more of the spotlight, all of which I shall get to in time, but to start there is really only one choice. It’s Frozen. Yes I know everyone from here to the South Pole and back has voiced their opinions on it, but for me my feelings on Frozen are…mixed, to say the least.

Now while reviewing this film, I’m also going to have to mention Tangled at certain intervals here. Normally I don’t like to compare films, I believe they should stand on their own, but my feelings for Frozen are too tethered to Tangled for me to pull the two apart. I’m a bit nervous to say this, but I prefer Tangled to Frozen.

Guys? Guys! Put the comments down! Look, Tangled has a special place in my heart. It’s the film that got me back into Disney. I left Disney somewhere around Tarzan, I saw a couple of movies after that, but they just didn’t feel the same as those blissful childhood memories. Then one day I found a DVD of Tangled staring at me in a shop. I’d heard some pretty good reviews, so I took a chance, and promptly fell in love. Sure Tangled isn’t the greatest film, it’s doesn’t have the most depth or heart wrenching story of the Disney films, but it is really good fun. I adore the characters, the side-characters are a blast, and I love the sense of humour it has, pretty much every joke in the film has me laughing, no matter how many times I re-watch it.

And that’s the first problem I have. For you see, it was hype that killed Frozen for me. My expectations where astronomical going into this film. Disney was on a roll (I Love Wreck-it Ralph more than Frozen and Tangled combined), I loved the songs (I’d heard them all about a month prior to seeing the film), and although I knew it would never be faithful to the Snow Queen, it would at least have elements of it in there, so what could possibly go wrong? Let’s find out shall we?

We begin with “Frozen Heart”, a great song that I feel is a little underrated. It does a great job of setting up the themes for the movie. There’s just one itty bitty problem with it. Kristof. You see this movie starts off badly, for me anyway, because this film is terrible at explaining itself. I have the chair and spotlight prepared, so here we go.

Example one, Kristof. We see him here working alongside these ice-sellers as they gather their stock, but none of them acknowledge the kid. They seem content to let a small child run around a dangerous work environment with no supervision whatsoever. Then they just clear off without so much as a glance at the kid. Yes, keep singing, maybe the brat will go away of his own accord. Come on, I’m just asking for a little clarification here. Who is Kristof? Where are this kid’s parents? I know Disney likes to shuffle parents off screen one way or another, but this is ridiculous. Is Kristof an orphan? If so, where are his legal guardians? Who takes care of him? Who feeds him? Clothes him? Explain movie! Explain!

And, oh boy, here we go. That brings me to THE scene, the scene where Frozen fell from the great podium that I had put it upon in expectation. This is the scene where we meet the trolls. Ok, let’s go through this one by one. First, Kristof and Sven have followed the King and Queen and sneak a peek, and a troll proudly declares that she’s going to keep them. That is kidnapping. Guards! Arrest that troll, and find me this kid’s parents, they’re clearly neglectful. Honestly, worst parents ever.

Second, when the immortal lines are uttered. “Born with the powers, or cursed?” “Born, and they’re getting stronger.” Ok, annnnd? What? That’s it? No, no, no movie. I know I was asking you to explain to stuff, and I’m glad you’re finally starting to try, but I require a little more than that. What do you mean she was born with the powers? Is that a thing? Does it happen often? If so, why are people so freaked out by it later in the movie? Where does this magic come from? Did the Queen have an affair with an ice wizard and the king is just too stupid to realise it? Maybe she got a cold while she was pregnant, who knows, if the movies does it’s certainly not telling us.

Err… Can I just interject here?

What? Who said that?

I did.

Who are you, voice in italics?

You shall discover that after a long and harrowing journey through the depths of despair and insanity, but that is for another time.

Sounds ominous.

It will be, when I actually figure what I’m going to write.

Wait, write, are you the Writer? The half-mad deity that created me?

You see the reason I’m here is…

Completely ignore me, ok.

You’re little grumble about not knowing where Elsa’s powers come from, to my knowledge, it’s not actually mentioned in the book either. As I recall, they explain it like so, snowflakes are like bees, and all bees have a queen, so therefore snow must also have a queen.

There is logic in that (somewhere). Look, ok, maybe the book’s not much better, but this is a particular bug of mine. I hate it when magic is just used as a kind of blanket term in the hopes that the audience doesn’t realise there’s no actual explanation. Like, why is there suddenly an omnipotent deity speaking in italics in my review?

Magic.

My point exactly. Where was I? Oh yes, ranting!

Third, why do the trolls have to remove Anna’s memories of magic? I realise we wouldn’t have a film if this didn’t happen, but what purpose does it serve? How will memories of magic hurt her?

And finally, four, the King and Queen are idiots. I mean, they’ve just been told that fear is enemy, so they decide to lock up their daughter in one of the most paranoia, fear-inducing environments they can possibly concoct. Congratulations, you’ve just won the Worst Parents award from Kristof’s family. Ok, ok. I joke about this, I think the entire Internet has joked about it, but I can kind of see where the parents are coming from. They’ve got the wrong end of the stick, they think fear from the outside is the enemy, not helped by the troll’s little light show, so they want to keep Elsa away from that. I can even understand them not telling Anna, seriously if you want to keep a secret, you do not tell small children. Just ask Regina from Once Upon a Time, she’ll back me up on that. It’s just that the King and Queen don’t have more than two brain cells working at any one time to warn them of the psychological damage this will do their daughter, the Queen’s daughter anyway.

Ok, time to bring in Tangled. Because you see no film is without its plot holes, and Tangled has a few. How does Mother Gothel know the magic song she has to sing to the flower? The Queen, a brunette, gives birth to a baby girl, with a full head of blonde hair I might add, and the King, also a brunette, doesn’t question this? Or have the very handsome blonde tennis coach quietly executed? (Again with the affairs, you’d think I was bitter or something.) How does an old lady sneak into a palace and kidnap the Princess? How useless are these guards? Oh my mistake, these are the same idiots who guard a crown by STANDING WITH THEIR BACKS TO IT!!! A horse could do a better job than those morons, and he does! Crime practically vanishes once Maximus takes charge. I love that horse so much. Sorry, I got sidetracked, my point is, yes if you think about Tangled’s opening, it needs to do a little explaining itself, but the one think it doesn’t need to explain, is the motivations of its characters, we know exactly why they do what they do. We understand the mechanics of the magic, it’s a little vague, but it’s better than “Born or cursed?” Frozen just doesn’t explain the thought processes, or its magic all that well. The art of good storytelling it to wrap the audience up in an experience, so that they don’t notice the flaws until after they’ve left, but at this point in the film I’m just asking myself too many questions, and its pulling me out of that experience.

Now just to be clear, I like Frozen, but by this point with Tangled I was in the first heart-fluttering embrace of love. Whereas with Frozen, from this point onwards the film has to work damn hard to win me over, it manages it in the end, but it’s the fact that the film has to try, whereas Tangled is just effortless.

A demonstration of my emotional state at this point of the film, when I first heard “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?” or as I prefer to call it, “Anna Adorable, Gonna Try and Make you Cry Now” (I know it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s accurate), when I first heard this song, it was on YouTube a few weeks before I saw the film, and I’ll admit it got me a little choked up. But when it’s played in the film, I’m sorry I ain’t crying. I’ve still got a bad taste from that last scene in my mouth, and this is way too early in the film for me to cry. I barely know these characters, I can’t cry over them yet. Come back in half an’ hour, then maybe you’ll get me.

Then the film begins its assault on the hardening defences of my heart. The opening salvo is a kid’s response to having to wear a suit. “Why do I have to wear this?” “Because the Queen has come of age.” “But why is that my fault?” Ok, keep that up and you might just win me back movie, but then we hit another stumbling block.

Alright, I’ve held off on this long enough. Tangled get back in here. I’m sorry but in my opinion Tangled is a much prettier film. The colours are more vibrant, the lighting is fantastic, the animation is exhilarating, especially in the action sequences. Frozen feels like a tiny step backwards, which I admit didn’t help me warm to the movie (Sorry, I’ll never make that joke again, probably).

So now the film comes back with a counter-offensive. Anna. Oh Anna you’re all grown up now, and what can I say? I love you Anna, marry me! She’s nerdy, she’s awkward, a hopeless romantic, full of boundless optimism and guts a plenty. I don’t care how many dolls and lunchboxes Elsa sells, you’re the star of this show and that’s that. Anna is a joy to watch, helped by Kristen Bell’s enchanting performance. She’s like Rapunzel, but more, and I really love Rapunzel. One of my favourite Anna moments, is just how adorable she is when she tries to be all authoritative and Elsa-like as she demands Kristof take her up the mountain. (Stop that sniggering in back, you have dirty minds the lot of you.) And I have to say, after years of Disney putting forward this ideal of true love, where you just have to meet your fated partner and you’ll then live happily ever after with no problems whatsoever, outside of evil sorcerers anyway, I am so glad that Disney is finally done with that. Love has never worked like that, and it never will. I love how this film tackles love, in its different forms and misconceptions. The only real misstep is that they use love as the magic wand to fix everything at the end, though I suppose that’s only so jarring because it comes about so fast. This message is such a huge step forward for Disney that I just want to hug everyone that worked on this film. Well done guys.

This brings me to Elsa. Elsa is a great character, full of depth and tragedy. She is a character archetype that Disney has never done before, and is a milestone character because of that. I must admit though, a part of me would have liked to see Elsa go a bit more ‘villain’, only briefly mind. Just to give Elsa more a chance to be a bad ass and show off, and let’s face it, Elsa is such a good character she could easily pull off being a hero and a villain. She is also played wonderfully by Idina Menzel, who captures the complicated character perfectly. Honestly, Anna and Elsa make this movie for me. I love every single scene where the two of them interact, I just wish there was more of them together. Every exchange is both joyous and heart-breaking all at once, my favourite being at the party after Elsa’s coronation, where Elsa rightly refuses to allow Anna to marry Hans (How can she go out with me if she’s already married?). This triggers a row between the sisters, leading to probably the best performances in the entire movie. The pain and desperation is so raw it hurts. Anna pleading with her “I can’t live like this anymore!” and Elsa whispering to her “Then leave.” And my heart just shattered. The amount of emotion Idina packs into those two little words is just phenomenal. (Now you may play “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and I will weep a bucket full of tears.)

Sigh. Here we go with “Let it Go” (See what I did there?). Now I love this song, it’s phenomenal (despite the fact that it’s played ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME!). Idina knocks it out of the park. On its own this is a fantastic song, I cannot say that enough and I want you all to keep it in mind when I say this next part, but in the context of the film it doesn’t work for me. This song is about Elsa finally breaking free, letting go of her past and joyously stepping forward into a bright new future, except there’s the little matter of her country being trapped in a perpetual winter! Now I know Elsa doesn’t know that’s happening yet, but still I feel like the song should be cutting back to the town for scenes of people freezing to death. Elsa is running away, and at no point does the song show that this is a bad thing. The song makes it sound like Elsa is stepping into a wonderful new chapter in her life, when in reality she’s making the biggest mistake of her life, and the song doesn’t get that across. (Running away from a problem is never the answer kids.)

Remember how I said Tangled has better animation in my opinion, well I think I know why. You see there is one part of this film’s animation that is astoundingly gorgeous and breathtaking, and that is the snow. The way it moves and flutters. The way it reacts to people falling into it, or scooping it up. It acts just like real snow. Obviously a lot, and I mean a lot, of money went into making those particle effects, and they’re worth every penny. (Yes I’m wearing my animator’s anorak, I never take it off.)

Speaking of snow, now we get to meet Olaf (Can you say segue?). I really like Olaf, I respect the amount of thought and effort that went into him, which is a thousand times more than most other talking magical sidekicks. He’s the embodiment of the happy moments in Anna and Elsa’s childhood, and has a heart as big as they come. Now that’s something that is often forgotten with the comedy sidekicks, they’re not just a series of jokes to keep the kid’s entertained; they’re actual characters with feelings. Think back to the Genie in Aladdin, or Mushu in Mulan, they had some really tender moments. Olaf is just the same. That scene with Anna by the fire is beautiful, and has a wonderful message about what love really is. Some people are definitely worth melting for indeed. It also helps that Olaf’s quite funny, he’s not laugh out loud funny for me, but he does make me chuckle, though that is mostly down to Josh Gad‘s superb delivery.

Now by it’s probably time for me to discuss another big part of the film, and that’s Hans. When we first meet Hans he’s charming, and dashing, and Anna clearly has the hots for him (Back off buddy, I saw her first). And Hans is such a nice young man, there is no conceivable way he could possibly be evil. Ok, I’m sure we all know the twist, and I gotta admit, I had it spoiled for me before I went in to see the film, so I can’t judge how shocking it is, but I do admire it. It’s a really good idea, and there are a couple of subtle little hints to it, it just needs a few more in my opinion, so then it doesn’t feel like it comes completely out of left field when it’s finally revealed.

The hints come at the aforementioned party. When Anna and Hans are walking through the rose garden, not once does he complicate Anna. Even his first line in “Love is an Open Door” is “All my life I’ve been searching for my own place.” Nothing about Anna, just getting his butt on a throne all his own. Still Anna is just too desperate for love and attention to see any of this.

Now I think what Hans needs to sell himself as the villain a bit better, is a villain song. Could you imagine if he sung a dark little reprise of “Love is an Open Door” here? It would have turned him from incompetent to incompetent yet pure evil. Yes, Hans is an incompetent villain. What? Anna is two minutes away from dying and you’re just going to leave her in a room where anyone can find her? (So sorry to take time out of your precious schedule.) And another thing, you clearly need to read up on this marriage lark, because claiming you exchanged marriage vows (WITHOUT ANY WITNESSES!!) is in no way legally binding. And while you’re there, check out monarchy as well. When Anna and Elsa die, the throne will pass to their next living relative, no matter how distant they may be. The only hope you’ve got of getting within sitting distance of that throne is to start a civil war and install a democracy. The people will vote for you I’m sure, but that’s a long way off. You have won nothing by any stretch of the imagination! Moron! Okay, breathe. Yeah, Hans is a bit of a letdown.

There’s one more little bit that bugs me about Frozen, and that’s the set pieces. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they all feel like they’re on a smaller scale. The wolf chase, running away from Olaf-zilla (I know he’s called Marshmallow, but I prefer my name for him), Elsa’s fight with the soldiers, they’re all kind of mundane. I don’t feel the blood pumping through my veins at an ever increasing speed. Tangled has some really amazing action scenes, the part there Rapunzel and Flynn escape the soldiers, where the dam breaks and water comes flooding down, or the ending where Maximus leaps across the rooftops, racing away at breakneck speed. Now that’s action. Frozen just doesn’t have that.

Ok, that’s a lie, Frozen has one fantastic action scene, and that’s the ending. The entire scene is truly epic as Kristof races across the frozen fjord to get to Anna, with the ice cracking, and ships crashing all around, the camera swooping between our protagonists. The way the storm sweeps away as Elsa collapses in grief, thinking she killed Anna, it’s breath-taking. All of it leading up to Anna sacrificing herself to protect her sister. We see Anna’s last tiny breath leave her as she turns to ice. The entire scene is beautiful, filled with drama and heartbreak. (Where’s my bucket, I need to cry again.) It’s only slightly marred by the rather quick resolution, where Elsa figures out the magic cure, love. You were doing so well Disney.

All in all, Frozen has better performances, better songs, stronger themes, and a great pair of leads in Anna and Elsa. I admit that logically Frozen is the superior film, but I still prefer Tangled (Because when has logic ever had anything to do with love?). I went into Frozen wanting to love it, I feel I should love it, but I just don’t, not completely anyway. I have too many quibbles with the narrative for me to embrace this film wholeheartedly. The parts are so much greater than the whole here, but I think I’ve finally come to terms with that. I may not love Frozen, but I do really like it, and I will be watching it again without a doubt. I’ll just watch Tangled a bit more often.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog should update every Friday.