Why We Enjoy Movies

This past week I went with two of my very good friends and their two-year old son to see the newest Disney Movie Frozen. If you haven’t seen it yet stop reading this post and go see it. Now. I’ll wait. You back yet? Good.Frozen International poster

This was actually my second time seeing the movie. I had seen it over Thanksgiving weekend with my parents and my sister and enjoyed it so much I thought it would make for a good post-Christmas get together with my friends. I was right. Critics are right in saying it is one of Disney’s best films to date. This movie has everything. Action, adventure,  humor, great songs, fun characters, a top-notch voice cast, and even excellent message about what love really  is.

Elsa and Anna

Elsa and Anna

In this movie, all is not what it seems. Elsa, with the power of winter isn’t all that evil, and Hans, the Prince Charming character isn’t all that he seems. Anna is cute, and instead of being just the typical headstrong action girl, she is quirky. Olaf the snow man steals the show in Rankin/Bass fashion, and even does a dance number calling back to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. And is it just me, or are Kristoff and Sven a bit like a Norwegian Han Solo and Chewie, in a good way? You have the rugged, roguish, “delivery man” who is initially in on the adventure for the money and comes to love the princess, and his strong, but silent animal sidekick. Just a look at the two pairs and you can see the similarities.

Kristoff and Sven from Frozen Han Solo and Chewie from Star Wars.  One and the same?

Kristoff and Sven from Frozen
Han Solo and Chewie from Star Wars.
One and the same?

Half of the fun of seeing it a second time around was that I was able to see how my “nephew” was reacting to the movie. This was actually his second trip to the movies. His first was to see Disney’s Planes. I know critics panned it, but c’mon, he’s almost two and a half. He’s not a registered voter for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And it could have been worse. The Oogieloves could have been his first movie.

And it’s just as well too. As a two-year old he is unhindered by the same things that disengage us from a movie or story. When we read a book or watch a movie or TV show, what do we look for? We look for plot holes, inconsistencies, subtext, and a whole slew of things that a kid doesn’t care about.

Believe me. I know. I’m a literature major. One lit theory course and the next thing you know you’re over analyzing everything you come across. Even a kids menu is open for dialogue as you wonder if it’s meant to be a stream of conciousness narrative or an abstract construct.

Not so when you were a kid. Remember  when you were a kid and you first s aw a movie that you “responded to? What was it? Maybe it was the Wizard of Oz .Or was it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Perhaps you were like me and it was E.T. or The American Tale? Maybe it was the Lion King? Whatever it was about that movie you responded to it.

How about when we were older? Did you jump when the T-Rex went on a rampage in Jurassic Park? Gasp at Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back or when Indy found the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Wince when the Joker finished telling one of his alleged back stories in The Dark Knight? Cheer as Hulk caught Iron Man in Avengers? Get pumped up when Rocky would race up the steps of the art museum in the Rocky films? Go “Wow!” when you saw the DeLorean fly Back to the Future, thereby seeing your first flying car? Did you cry during Wall-E, Up, or Toy Story 3 or get choked up at Spock’s sacrifice in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn? Even as an older kid, or an adult you responded to these movies.

That’s how it was for my nephew. Any time Olaf the snow man said or did something, he laughed. He’d gasp with excitement and amazement when Elsa would do her magic.  He jumped a bit when the movie got intense. During some of the “slower” moments he’d simply lean in close to his mommy or daddy and relax a bit. He’d even laugh at something the rest of the audience laughed at, not fully knowing what was so funny.

While it is certainly good to appreciate the artistry and depth of a movie like Frozen, or discuss it’s themes, there is something to be said for simply enjoying a movie in the way my nephew did .There is something wonderful about laughing together, getting that jolt during an intense moment, or just drawing close to those we love while being engaged in a story.

Film is the closest thing we have to the oral tradition. The likes of Disney, Spielberg, Jackson, Nolan and Lucas gather us around the fire and like Homer or Snorri Sturluson, they thrill us in a tale or two. Like those old stories told around the fire they are a communal experience. It’s why we like hearing scary stories around the camp fire or having our parents read to us when we were younger. We love stories, but we love to share them with someone else even more.

Sure there is a time to offer valid criticism of a movie ( ie, how did the dogs in the Airbud movies suddenly gain the ability to talk? Are Cary Elwes and Christopher Lloyd that desperate for money that they would agree to do the Oogieloves? Also, what is an Oogielove? I hear that word and I only think of this…)

An explanation of what an Oogie may be...pt. 1

An Explanation of what an Oogie may be...pt .2

( Panels from the graphic novel Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise pt. 1.)

But there is also a time to just switch of the brain and enjoy a story, especially a story well told. Kids can do it. We should be able to do the same every once in a while. I think it’s why an adult will still go to and enjoy a Disney movie, even if they do feel a bit embarrassed about it at first. We just enjoy good stories that are well told.

Photo credits.

International poster from Frozen. 2013. Disney
Elsa and Anna wallpaper. 2013. Disney
Kristoff and Sven. 2013. Disney
Han Solo and Chewie. 1977. Lucasfilm.
Panels from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Promise. pt. 1. 2012. Dark Horse Comics.

About jonathondsvendsen

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Somehow you stumbled upon it. Whatever brought you around, I'm glad you're here. I am a free-lance writer and independent scholar of pop-cultural mythology, living and working in Minnesota. An aspiring mythmaker, I dream of voyages through space, fantastic worlds, and even my own superhero or two. I am also an established public speaker and have guest-lectured for college classes on the topic of comic book superheroes. I graduated from Bethel University in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Creative writing. I also write for the website NarniaFans.com. Head on over and you can check out my book reviews , a few fun interviews and even my April Fools Day jokes.
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