From Out of the Ashes

Dark Phoenix did the impossible by somehow botching the Marvel comic storyline Dark Phoenix Saga for the second time in a row. Yet somehow making an adaptation that was 10 times worse. Dark Phoenix is the biggest box-office bomb, lowest rated (23% on Rotten Tomatoes), and most unwatchable X-Men movie I’ve ever seen. Sure movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men: Apocalypse weren’t great, but I still found them enjoyable. Dark Phoenix is a somber joyless mess that’s so boring I nearly fell asleep in the theater. A lot of the problems stem from The Last Stand co-writer Simon Kinberg directing for the first time.

Kinberg clearly has no idea what he’s doing, none of the actors look like they want to be there, and Disney was already close to securing the rights to 20th Century Fox. I honestly stopped caring about anything Fox wanted to do at this point. And they seriously thought they’d keep making X-Men movies for years to come. Intending Dark Phoenix to be a 2 parter, wanting to make a Gambit movie for several years, an X-Force movie, and at least 2 more movies after this one. Fox was clearly trying to extend the franchise as long as they could. Pushing Dark Phoenix back several times until Disney finally sealed the deal. Something that seriously backfired on them since Disney didn’t even bother marketing the movie well…

23. Dark Phoenix

Jean Grey unleashes the power of the Phoenix

Dark Phoenix is the clearest sign yet that Fox should have given up the X-Men a long time ago. There’s no denying we have 2000’s X-Men to thank for Marvel’s success moving forward, but the franchise long overstayed its welcome. Ignoring continuity, subtly rebooting, and exhausting so much material that they just did the Dark Phoenix Saga again. It’s widely known amongst Marvel fans that X-Men: The Last Stand did a disservice to the storyline. So I wasn’t overly surprised when Dark Phoenix was announced. The only surprise was them making yet another X-Men movie after already completing the prequel trilogy. Fox thought being experimental like Deadpool or Logan would automatically make Dark Phoenix better, so they didn’t even use X-Men in the title. I absolutely hate Dark Phoenix. Not as much as Fant4stic, but I really do struggle to find any redeeming qualities in it.

Since Hugh Jackman is no longer obligated to appear as Wolverine, Dark Phoenix actually stars Jean Grey this time. Unfortunately, Sophie Turner is awful in the part and should never be the lead in any movie. She barely convinced me in X-Men: Apocalypse, but here she can’t even maintain an American accent. Jean’s telekinetic power manifestation is drastically changed to her inadvertently causing the death of her mother. Then Charles Xavier comes to see her alone and offers her a place in the X-Mansion. It’s great to finally see a bald James McAvoy play Professor X, but it’s not fun when he’s blamed for pretty much everything. I don’t care that Professor X’s mistakes or misjudgements are comic accurate, his fellow Mutants would never just turn on him. The X-Men have also become more like superheroes who go on missions and have a line to the President.

While at the same time continuing the decade hoping gimmick for absolutely no reason. Despite taking place in the 90’s, none of the characters have aged since the 60’s. They don’t even include any 90’s nostalgia. I don’t care that their costumes are yellow & blue, the matching X-Men uniforms they chose are terrible. I should have known the Apocalypse tease was too good to be true. Jennifer Lawrence clearly feels like she’s too good to keep playing Mystique. Not even having a lame excuse for why she’s not blue all the time. She also throws in an extremely forced line about renaming the team X-Women. Nicholas Hoult has also stopped caring by continuing to change into Beast whenever. Tye Sheridan is at least around for the entire movie as Cyclops, but he has no chemistry with Sophie Turner. Cyclops & Jean’s relationship was constantly shortchanged by Fox and they couldn’t even get me to care about the two of them.

Alexandra Shipp has literally nothing to do as Storm. Outside of making ice and having an out of nowhere moment with Xavier. Kodi Smit-McPhee is only there for Nightcrawler’s teleportation and Evan Peters for Quicksilver’s speed. Which is the only thing worth using in the X-Men’s mission to space. Jean is struck by the Phoenix Force similar to the more cosmic comic storyline. Despite it already seeming like Jean had it at the end of Apocalypse. Jean’s power surges and mood swings never feel natural when she wakes up. Only coming out when they attend a Mutant party. A musical light show from Halston Sage as Dazzler may be the only thing I liked in the movie. Just because Dazzler was a long time coming in an X-Men movie. Jean leaves to see her father at her childhood home where she causes mild chaos. The X-Men arrive to help her, but the brief fight results in Mystique’s already spoiled death. I honestly felt nothing. I was more angered by the fact that Quicksilver’s injuries leave him out of the entire movie! Kiss a fun 90’s running monstage goodbye.

Just as frustrating is Beast being so furious at Mystique’s death that he practically becomes a villain. Speaking of villain, they’re just coming up with any excuse to keep Michael Fassbender in the movie as Magneto. The U.S. Government has given Erik Lehnsherr his own island for whatever reason. In the comics, Genosha is a gleaming safe haven for Mutants lead by Magneto. Here it’s just a generic farming community. Jean goes to Erik for help in controlling her power, but he turns her away when she nearly kills military forces that arrive. While doing the dumbest telekinetic performances you’ve ever seen. Returning actors are trying to a degree, but the same can’t be said for Jessica Chastain. After being hinted at playing anyone from a Hellfire Club member to Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, they finally settled on Vuk. An alien from the insanely obscure D’Bari alien race. Rather than plant aliens, the D’Bari are just bland shapeshifting Skrull knock offs.

Chastain is really going for that Razzie with a lifeless monotone performance. Vuk is an awful forgettable antagonist with a generic plan to gain Jean’s Phoenix Force. Erik wears his helmet and Beast joins him in his mission to kill Jean. As does an insulting psychic version of Selene and a Mutant with deadly dreadlocks. Remaining X-Men Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Professor X teleport to Jean’s location where they confront Magneto. Followed by the most forced, out of nowhere PG-13 F bomb dropped by Cyclops of all people. Then to add insult to injury, no one where’s a costume in the movie’s climax! Something no superhero movie should do in this day in age. The fight is full of Mutant powers, but it’s average at best. Magneto tries to kill Jean, but she breaks his helmet and throws him out.

Then Charles attempts to reason with her, but she makes him walk in an unintentionally laughable way. He reaches Jean, only to end up arrested by the Mutant Containment Unit (MCU, get it?!). What could have been a unique climax in outer space ended up a generic climax on a boring train. All the Mutants ban together to fight the D’Bari and Nightcrawler has an out of nowhere killing spree. Jean is freed just in time to face off against Vuk. Exploding into Phoenix energy and leaving me feeling absolutely nothing. Apart from confusion at the choice to rename Xavier’s school after the person who killed Mystique. Ending the entire Fox X-Men series on another game of chess and me begging the MCU to give us the X-Men we deserve. My response to Dark Phoenix is simply, to quote Magento, “Nobody cares anymore.”

24. Dark Phoenix

The X-Men confront Jean

Followed by: Deadpool 2 & The New Mutants

Maximum Effort

Deadpool 2 put the X back in excessive. Even with a one year gap between Deadpool and Deadpool 2, it never seemed like Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking antics left. Especially since Logan opened with an unexpected short film titled No Good Deed. With Wade Wilson taking way too long to change into his superhero costume set to the Superman theme. Resulting in the death of an old man, but featuring a Stan Lee cameo. If anybody was angry about Hugh Jackman’s departure it was Ryan Reynolds. No chance of a Deadpool/Wolverine team up movie now. Not to mention Disney getting their hands on 20th Century Fox. Even though it was an accidental hit, it was obvious Deadpool would get a sequel.

One bigger and more beautiful than ever. That meant the already promised addition of Cable. Plus major supporting character Domino and frequently affiliated team X-Force. Although it wasn’t long after another more prominent Marvel movie, I still maintained my excitement for both. Made even more ironic by the choice of Josh Brolin to play Cable. Which is like the 8th comic book movie Brolin’s performed in. Since original director Tim Miller left due to creative differences, John Wick director David leitch came in. Unlike Deadpool or Logan, my parents did go to see Deadpool 2 with my brother and I. We just put some distance between us, because there’s no telling how R rated it was going to get…

21. Deadpool 2

Deadpool leads X-Force

Deadpool 2 was generally well received by most people, but I’ll be the first to admit I prefer the unfiltered rawness of the first Deadpool. Marketing was just as aggressive the second time around. From Norman Rockwell posters to Bob Ross style teaser trailers. Followed by a hilariously unfinished trailer and a Superman mustache joke. The only thing that was missing was a more subversive title. I mean Deadpool 2 was really all they could come up with? After awhile trailers became more standard, but Ryan Reynolds continued popping up everywhere. Although Deadpool’s jokes can still be hilarious and meta, it’s the PC humor that’s really out of character. Deadpool is probably the least PC superhero in comics. From his guntotting killing sprees to his attraction to pretty much everybody. So turning him into some kind of cynical crusader just doesn’t fit. I also wasn’t crazy about the casual blasphemy.

What works is his more blatant jokes directed at superhero movies and other pop culture things. Disney jokes are a little forced though. Although I was willing to accept the crudeness and 2 second profanity of the first film, some of it isn’t even creative the second time around. I can only assume Ryan Reynolds was responsible for a majority of that. Still, Deadpool 2 is a mostly enjoyable action heavy comedy family picture. As expected, Deadpool is jealous of Logan stealing his R rated thunder and dying in his own movie. So he kills himself too and goes for a slightly more depressive tone. Right from the start you can tell the budget’s increased and the action has gotten more John Wicky. Starting with a humorous sword fighting, gun firing, explosive montage against random international crime bosses. Every living character from the first movie returns in some capacity.

Except Morena Baccarin is immediately killed off as soon as Wade returns to Vanessa. Only having time to want a child and then returning every once in awhile in heavenly visions. Her death is followed by a copycat opening with the same joke names, but more of a James Bond aesthetic. Along with an amazing Celine Dion song that’s intentionally high caliber. Other song choices are just as hilariously random. Indian cab driver Dopinder returns with a blood thirsty need to be a contract killer and TJ Miller continues to show up as Weasel. Once again going on and on with jokes that are either hit or miss. When Wade is depressed, he returns to Blind Al who gives the same kind of advice. He takes it as an excuse to kill himself and that signals the return of Colossus. Who more forcefully attempts to make Deadpool an X-Men (trainee).

Negasonic Teenage Warhead is still the only other one in the house, but now she has longer hair, a better costume, and is a lesbian. Fox once again stopped caring since she’s with another version of Yukio. One with pink hair and some kind of energy chain. Although the funniest joke is Wade once again calling attention to the lack of other X-Men in the X-Mansion, then having them close the door right behind him. Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Beast, and Quicksilver all briefly appear in their prequel forms. Deadpool attempts to play X-Men, but his true nature comes out when he meets Russell. Unlike the very obscure Firefist, Russell is a chubby New Zealand kid. Played by Julian Dennison who got attention for a Taika Waititi film. Russell is simply fighting back against the abusers at a Mutant Re-Education Facility, but it gets the two of them arrested and sent to a Mutant power suppressing prison. It’s there they throw in other lesser comic characters like Black Tom Cassidy and something big underneath.

Russell clings to Wade, but all he wants to do is die. It’s at that moment Cable travels back in time. Josh Brolin matches Cable’s edgy weapon toting, robot arm having, flat top sporting look despite being significantly shorter. His needlessly complex origin is just reduced and not much emphasis is placed on his lineage as Nathan Summers. All that’s explored is his mission to avenge his wife and daughter Hope’s death in the future. The target is Russell, who grows up to be a supervillain. When he breaks into prison, Cable is more of an antagonist who clashes with Deadpool. Their straight man comedy duo dynamic shines through even though it doesn’t make up the entire movie. Wade ends up escaping prison and Vanessa convinces him to protect Russell in a vision. Which means it’s time to team up. This version of X-Force consists of electrical disruptor Bedlam, Mojoworld alien Shatterstar, acidic vomit spitter Zeitgeist, and lady luck herself Domino.

Although I would have prefered the comic accurate goth Domino, Zazie Beetz is fine in the role. She just has a white eye patch instead of a black one. Her luck powers look great on the big screen. The insanely average Peter also joins the team and so does Vanisher (I think?). A lot rides on X-Force making it to Russell’s prison transport truck, but (SPOILER ALERT!) everyone dies in unexpectedly funny fashion. Brad Pitt himself is revealed as Vanisher and Domino is the only survivor. Deadpool and Cable fight again and he even reuses his X-Men Origins: Wolverine bullet cutting move. But the tables turn when Russell’s new friend is revealed. I was shocked when it turned out they finally made a more accurate version of Juggernaut. Complete with giant CGI body and round metal helmet. If only it wasn’t in an R rated movie where he’s made to say overly profane things. Although it is fun to see him rip Deadpool in half. Even if it leads to the grossest joke where he has baby legs. Another downside is the lack of nudity. Something the last movie had no problem with.

Cable finally decides to team up with Deadpool and he explains his tragic backstory to everyone. Together with Domino, maybe Dopinder, and later Colossus, Negasonic & Yukio, they attempt to stop Russell, free the mutants, and take down Juggernaut. The climax ends when Deadpool sacrifices himself to keep Russell from killing the headmaster. What follows is a death that loses me the longer it goes on. Wade goes with Vanessa and it’s the only time Ryan Reynolds shows his face. A grateful Cable decides to save Wade’s life and they part ways as unlikely friends. In the end, the funniest moment for me is the mid-credits time fixing montage Deadpool goes on. He does everything from saving Vanessa and Peter to shooting Weapon XI multiple times in front of Wolverine and killing Ryan Reynolds before he does Green Lantern. Fortunately the baby Hitler joke was taken out. As were any other extreme jokes that only appear in The Super Duper $@%!#& Cut. The PG-13 The Princess Bride parodying Once Upon a Deadpool has its moments, but it was clearly only made to make extra money. Deadpool 2 is an R rated blockbuster hit, even if it is a little Hollywood for my taste.

22. Deadpool 2

Thanos Cable faces Deadpool

Followed by: Logan & Preceded by: Dark Phoenix

Adamantium

Logan marked the end of Hugh Jackman’s 17 year tenure as Wolverine. The longest time any actor has played a Marvel superhero. I was there from the very beginning. Seeing X-Men in theaters at the age of 5. Unaware I’d be seeing the same franchise go on for nearly 2 decades. Yet Hugh Jackman remained dedicated every step of the way. Appearing in 8 separate X-Men related movies. Unlike just about every superhero trilogy, Wolverine’s solo outings are a rare example of a trilogy getting better with each installment. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was critically panned, The Wolverine was mostly mixed, and Logan is critically acclaimed. It’s one of the best superhero movies ever made and the best reviewed movie in the franchise. Becoming the first comic book movie nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Like with most long running characters, Jackman knew it was time to stop. So Jackman, The Wolverine director James Mangold, and 20th Century Fox sought to make a deeply personal R rated swan song. I was lucky to have grown up watching X-Men, because there’s no way I would’ve wanted to miss going to the theater to see it. Unlike Deadpool that motivated it, Logan is dark, depressing, and so serious they don’t even use his superhero name. With older Johnny Cash setting the mood. Logan is very loosely inspired by Old Man Logan. An excessively violent graphic novel from the demented Mark Millar. The only similarities are a dystopian future, a road trip with an old friend, hope found in a young child, and an aging Wolverine known only as Logan…

19. Logan

Logan fights back

Logan takes full advantage of the grim tone found in Old Man Logan. I knew that had to be the storyline adapted. Since Wolverine’s origin, time in Japan, and older years are his 3 biggest storylines not involving the X-Men. Although I had the opportunity, I chose not to read the comic prior to seeing the movie. Mostly because Mark Millar’s mature comics disgust me. Old Man Logan is a lot crazier than you’d think it would be. Utilizing the entire Marvel universe in an alternate dystopian future ruled by supervillains. Logan refuses to use his claws after accidentally killing all the X-Men. He accepts a job driving a blind Hawkeye across the territory and fights a gang of inbred hillbilly Hulks. Ending with a fight to the death with an insane older Hulk. With the only hope being a baby Hulk that he takes in. Obviously there’s no way a story like this could’ve been made.

Logan instead follows an aging Logan in the year 2029. Mutants are all but extinct with the X-Men killed in a devastating accident. Although it’s not quite a dystopian future for everyone else. Logan earns money as a limo driver in Texas. Logan is distinctly western both in feel and style. There are no major special effects or massive set pieces. Since Hugh Jackman ages as slow as Wolverine, makeup and CGI were used to age him. His beard and short hair was made to resemble the comic, but he still needs a widows peak. Right off the bat the film takes advantage of its R rating. Something Jackman had been wanting for a long time. Now his Adamantium claws slice off limbs, graphically cut into people, and leave scenes drenched in blood. Almost resembling a slasher movie at times. Wolverine already started dropping F bombs, but now he swears almost constantly. A quick boob shot is even through in just because. Along with failing eyesight and drowsiness, Logan drinks to suppress the pain of his diminishing healing factor.

If you think that’s depressing, Professor X is even worse. I can’t say I was expecting Patrick Stewart to return, especially for a story like this, but Logan would be incomplete without him. Logan’s relationship with Charles Xavier has been important from the very beginning. Charles has sadly become stricken with devastating seizures that affect his mental powers. Causing intense pain to anyone within close proximity. Logan is the only one who can get close enough to be his caretaker. Although Caliban appeared in X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox continued not bothering with continuity. This time Caliban is helping Logan subdue Charles’ powers. He just can’t go out in the sun. Logan’s only goal is making enough money to buy a boat for him and Charles. Conflict only comes when a Mexican woman comes to him with a job. The job is taking Gabriela and little girl Laura across the border to Eden. Gabriela formerly worked for Alkali-Transigen. A facility cloning new mutants to be used as living weapons.

Since every other Wolverine character had been done up to this point, the only remaining character was X-23. A younger female version of Wolverine created for the animated series X-Men: Evolution. She soon crossed over into comics and became a much more complex character with a tragic past. Laura is a significantly younger 11 year old who doesn’t speak, but has all the aggression of her biological father. She’s being hunted by her handler Donald Pierce. One of the few remaining X-Men villains who leads the cybernetically enhanced militant group the Reavers. They’re lead by Dr. Zander Rice. The man behind the fall of the mutants. Logan is very reluctant to help, but Charles is there to convince him otherwise. Forming a telepathic bond with Laura, offering her a family, and promising to take her to Eden.

The truth comes out when Laura’s duel claws come out. Seeing kids in violent situations usually makes me uncomfortable, but it’s understandable. In a way, Logan is a lot like The Last of Us. Newcomer Dafne Keen is more than up for a role this mature and her innocence does shine through. Logan, Charles, and Laura escape from the Reavers and set out to their destination. Unfortunately, Caliban is captured and used to track them. Logan finds the same coordinates to Eden in an X-Men comic. Authentic looking comics that had to be made for the movie since Marvel couldn’t allow the real thing. They survive a seizure attack in Oklahoma City and make an ill advised stop at a friendly families ranch. Taking a breather and helping with their problems, but ultimately being discovered.

SPOILER ALERT! Since Wolverine movies never have great villains, Logan continues that tradition with a younger clone of Wolverine called X-24. The twist is the only downside to an otherwise excellent Wolverine movie. Since it really should have been Sabretooth. X-24 is responsible for the second, far more tragic death of Charles Xavier. A bloody confrontation leaves the clone mangled and gives them a chance to leave. After burying his friend, Logan grows more enfeebled. It’s then that Laura finally speaks and forces him to drive to Eden. Which turns out to be a real place containing Laura’s fellow Mutant’s from the facility. It’s there she discovers an Adamantium bullet he kept for himself and a serum that temporarily enhances abilities.

When the children are discovered, Logan uses it to unleash his berserker rage one last time. The mutant kids use their powers on the Reavers and Laura fights side by side with Logan. When Rice and Pierce are killed, X-24 overwhelms Logan, and fatally impales him on a tree branch. After decades and decades of fighting, that’s enough to kill him. Laura uses the Adamantium bullet on X-24 and tearfully says goodbye to her father. As sad as the moment is, it’s even sadder when you realize Yukio’s prediction was correct. Ending with a funeral that honors the fallen X-Men. Logan is a fitting send off for such a beloved superhero and performance. Although Jackman never wore the iconic yellow & blue costume, he always captured the essence of Wolverine. No matter the struggle, demand, or quality of the movie, Hugh Jackman will always be Wolverine. Logan is the highest possible note Fox should have ended their franchise on.

20. Logan

Logan and Laura bury a friend

Preceded by: X-Men: Apocalypse & Deadpool 2

Titans Unleashed

Wrath of the Titans unleashed a great evil on the franchise. If I wasn’t interested in Clash of the Titans at the time, then I was less impressed by its sequel. The difference being the lack of a sequel for the original. Although Wrath of the Titans comics were made for the 1981 film. Wrath of the Titans suffers from having no existing story to adapt. Outside of basic Greek mythology. They continued to use the 3D gimmick, but this time the sequel was so derided that Sam Worthington himself denounced the movie. Effectively ending his career as a major star (until Avatar 2 comes out).

Wrath of the Titans continues to make the gods more interesting. Zeus reconciling with Hades should have been the focus. Zeus is taken to the Underworld where Hades captures him. Ares, god of war turns on his father and Poseidon barely makes it to Perseus before dying. Since a lack of prayers is draining the gods of their power, the Titans are being unleashed. Despite Io being so important, she’s randomly killed off screen. Now Andromeda actually gets to go on the adventure, but she’s replaced by Rosamund Pike. Who looks nothing like Alexa Davalos.

Perseus & Andromeda have a romance that’s only shown with an out of nowhere kiss. Zeus calls his son to action and Poseidon gives him his trident. Which belongs to his failure son Agenor. They search for passage into Tartarus with the help of Hephaestus who somehow has Bubo the owl. They fight Cyclopes, a Minotaur, a Chimera, and Kronos himself. It’s even more deadly dull since they’re mostly there to distract from the weak story. Wrath of the Titans is great at inflicting wrath upon the viewers.

Wrath of the Titans

Perseus draws his sword

Preceded by: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Release the Kraken!

Clash of the Titans (2010) is the overblown CGI heavy remake that more people are familiar with. Instead of stop-motion, there’s the 3D gimmick every blockbuster after Avatar had to have. Speaking of which, this was back when Sam Worthington was still a thing. Appearing in 3 major movies in a row. Clash of the Titans (2010) didn’t go unnoticed by me, but I just had no interest. It’s a good thing I saw the original first, because the changes make all the difference. Like Bubo the owl being just a cameo. The conflict instead stems from humanity turning their backs on the gods.

Mount Olympus has an even more pleasing ethereal quality. While Liam Neeson makes for a commanding Zeus. Since no one knows who Thetis is, the more recognizable Hades is the antagonistic god. Ralph Fiennes brings the dark ruler of the Underworld to life. So basically Aslan and Voldemort fight over what to do about the humans. Hades attacks and kills Perseus’ family in the process. Sam Worthington can handle the action, but his Perseus is kind of annoying. Complaining about only wanting to do things like a man. Rejecting his father’s weapons even when they could’ve saved lives.

Andromeda is barely around, so the much more interesting immortal goddess Io replaces her as love interest. Played by the lovely Gemma Arterton. She, along with Mads Mikkelsen’s character were the only characters who made sense. Pegasus just shows up without Perseus having to earn it, Calibos is more of an obstacle, the scorpions are intimidating, but lose their menace when ridden, and the witches are a bit creepier. Medusa has hidden beauty and is much faster. Her dwelling is just too bright. When Zeus finally says “Release the Kraken!,” it’s a spectacle that works. Clash of the Titans (2010) has the fast paced thrills director Louis Leterrier is known for, but a less than mythological execution.

Clash of the Titans 2010

Perseus hunts Medusa

Remake of: Clash of the Titans (1981) & Followed by: Wrath of the Titans

Living in the Moment

The Spectacular Now is all about living in the moment. As one of the earliest films from A24, I knew I needed to see The Spectacular Now now. I didn’t read the book, but Shailene Woodley’s strange romantic connection to three of her Divergent co-stars is what caught my attention. In this case it’s with her onscreen rival played by Miles Teller. What elevates The Spectacular Now from other coming of age teen flicks is just how genuine it feels.

Set at the end of Senior year, Sutter Keely is only concerned with drinking and partying with his girlfriend Cassidy. But living in the now comes at the expense of his future and even his girlfriend. I’m not the biggest fan of Miles Teller, but he does manage to make a popular alcoholic like Sutter likable, or at least believable. The breakup hits him hard and he goes on a bender that results in him passed out on a strangers lawn. Genuinely likable introvert Aimee Finecky finds him and they start talking. Aimee’s a lot like how I was growing up. Not exactly shy, optimistic, nerdy, comfortable staying out of social situations, but willing to do more.

Shailene Woodley is a natural who plays Aimee very kind and forgiving. Although they seem like polar opposites, they become a couple that feels real. Their first kiss is awkward, their first time is realistic, and they have rough patches before and after prom. It’s just Sutter meeting his deadbeat drunk father for the first time that causes self doubt. I thought it would take a darker turn, but The Spectacular Now works best as a personal journey that points to an optimistic future.

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Aimee helps Sutter pick out a song

How Far I’ll Go

Moana took Disney fans back to the ocean in the most transformative way yet. In my opinion, the fifty-sixth Walt Disney Animation Studios movie marked the end of the Revival era. An era known for returning to tradition, but also taking chances with modern twists. It was the closest thing to a second Renaissance for Disney in the 2010’s. So it only made sense for proven Disney duo Clements & Musker to director their 7th film for the studio. Except this was the very first computer animated feature for the duo. Since The Princess and the Frog was their last project. Unlike all their other projects, Moana was much more original with inspiration drawn from Polynesian mythology. Something that hadn’t been explored nearly as much as Greek, Roman, or even Norse mythology.

The most well known individual among the culture was Māui. A trickster demigod kind of like a Polynesian Hercules. The directors read up on Māui and were inspired to build an animated story around him. Although he was the main character at first, Moana developed into more of a Princess movie. One that was further inspired by Polynesian wayfinding tradition. John Lasseter sent the directors to research locations and understand the culture better. Unlike Tangled and Frozen, Disney kept its “feminine” title and was successful. The only problem was releasing it the same year as Zootopia. Which seriously overshadowed it as a non-Pixar Disney movie come award season. Same with La La Land in any original song category. Still, Moana was a strong way to end an era that looked to the future…

88. Moana

Moana doesn’t know how far she’ll go

Moana is my second favorite Polynesian animated Disney movie. Sorry but, Lilo & Stitch will always be #1 for me. Not that my brother and I didn’t get fully invested in Moana as soon as it came out. I still had my usual reservations, but it was like most Disney classics that focused on a specific culture. One that greatly benefited from a theater going experience. Although I couldn’t help but feel like it was trying to be an Oceanic Frozen. Well Moana didn’t become a major phenomenon, but it did come closest to matching it. Moana is set on the Polynesian island of Motunui. An island that was once rich with coconuts and wayfinders who explored the vast oceans. Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea (hero of men) removed the heart of island goddess Te Fiti. Causing an unstoppable curse that affects the stability of the ocean and slowly infects islands one by one.

Moana is the first Polynesian Disney Princess. Although she’s technically the daughter of a village chief, one of several meta jokes point out her qualifications. She just follows the trend of not having a Prince. Something I’m still coming to terms with. Moana is more concerned with following the sea. Even at a young age when the ocean comes to life right in front of her. Her father is just like King Triton in terms of keeping his daughter away from somewhere she truly wants to be. Her mother and father want her to focus on learning to lead her people. A people that fish, harvest coconuts, and earn tribal tattoos. The only person that supports Moana’s dream is her caring grandmother Tala. Moana grows up through song into the new village chief. She’s attractive like all other Princesses, but differs in terms of body type. Having a stronger physique with a bit more curves. Along with long wavy hair and a traditional island dress.

Disney was sure to be thorough in finding a Polynesian voice actress. Happening on 14 year old Hawaiian Auliʻi Cravalho in the process. She was so perfect for the part that she resembled Moana before even being cast. Moana’s animal sidekick is a pig named Pua. Except when he’s dropped in the first act and doesn’t even go on the adventure. The teaser sure made it look like he was important. Really it’s Alan Tudyk voiced chicken Heihei who’s the primary animal sidekick that joins Moana on the sea. A brainless chicken so dumb he serves practically no purpose outside of mild comic relief. Moana disobeys her father by attempting to pass the reef, but her grandmother reveals the truth to her before she gives up. Showing her the boats her people used and pointing her towards her destiny. Confirming that the ocean chose her to restore Te Fiti’s heart and return balance to the islands. So Moana literally has to save the world.

Her journey begins with a loss and a treacherous ocean, but it’s more helpful than it appears. Leading her to the island Maui’s been stranded on. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with Dwayne Johnson. Maui’s an immediate scene stealer and the funniest part of the movie. Like mythology, he possesses a giant magical fish hook that grants him shapeshifting abilities. Along with a bunch of other cool powers he’s more than happy to boast about. His look is pure Rock apart from his heftier build. Which contains several sentient tattoos that can interact with his body. Maui is all too eager to leave the island and sail as far away from Moana as possible. Ignoring the whole reason she came there. She escapes and the sea assists her every time she’s thrown off her boat. Maui eventually comes around in exchange for his fish hook back and the admiration of his people.

Moana & Maui make for a strong non-romantic duo. Evading a horde of coconut pirates called Kakamora, Maui teaching Moana to sail, and reaching the Realm of Monsters. A deadly subterranean lair that Moana somehow survives falling into. It contains the closest thing to a Disney villain with a flashy personality in years. Although giant Jemaine Clement voiced collector crab Tamatoa is a strange sort of random. Obsessed with shiny things and currently possessing Maui’s hook. Which he turns out to be a bit rusty with. Moana gets them out, but it takes some prodding to get Maui to open up. Revealing his sad past and the real reason he seeks admiration from mortals. They bond even more and Moana becomes an expert wayfinder. All they need to do now is get past the volcanic monster Te Kā that emerged since Maui removed the heart.

Moana goes too far and Maui’s hook is damaged in the process. Forcing him to leave and for Moana to give up on herself. All it takes is a visit from her grandmother’s spirit for her to realize who she is. Retrieving the heart, setting sail, and being reunited with a more confident Maui. It’s a thrilling final battle fraught with danger and the near loss of the heart. Heihei grabbing it is literally the only good thing he ends up doing. SPOILER ALERT! I’ve seen enough Disney movies at this point to know some kind of twist was coming. So learning Te Kā was really Te Fiti didn’t come as much of a surprise. Not that Moana walking through a parted ocean to restore the heart wasn’t an epic moment. Revealing the beautiful grassy goddess underneath. In the end, Moana restores piece, Maui is gifted a new hook, and her people return to wayfinding. Moana has such crisp and beautiful computer animation that I’d swear they were just showing off. Although Clements & Musker briefly considered continuing to use traditional animation, it was better to embrace the new medium.

The only hand drawn part is Maui’s tattoos and some Polynesian artwork. Water is beyond life-like with tropical warmth and personality. The islands have immense detail, but it’s really Te Fiti that continues to blow me away. Although it doesn’t stray too far from the Disney look, characters are made to look a bit more stylized. As a musical, Moana greatly benefits from Polynesian beats and original songs from Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Where You Are” explores their culture in an entertaining way. “We Know the Way” is an epic explorer song that makes me want to sail. Maui’s song “You’re Welcome” is easily the most infectiously catchy song in the movie. Enough to forgive the Rock’s singing voice. “Shiny” is a welcomed villain song for Tamatoa, but it does come out of nowhere. “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)” is necessary, but feels like overkill this late in the movie. Same with “Know Who You Are.” The best song (and obvious attempt at another “Let it Go”) is Moana’s signature longing song “How Far I’ll Go” A wayfinding power ballad that stands on its own. Moana goes further than any Disney adventure ever dreamed imaginable.

87. Moana

Moana and Maui gaze upon his fish hook

Try Everything

Zootopia talks about prejudice through the kid friendly lense of talking animals. Anthropomorphic animal movies have always been a staple of Walt Disney animation. From Robin Hood to Chicken Little, they were just never the biggest successes for the studio. Quadrupedal animal movies like Lady and the Tramp and The Lion King were always much bigger successes. All that changed when Zootopia became the most well received anthropomorphic animal movie ever made. The fifty-fifth animated Disney film sustained a 100% for a long time on Rotten Tomatoes. Becoming the third non-Pixar Disney movie to win Best Animated Feature after Frozen and Big Hero 6. Zootopia is an entirely original idea. The director pitched three different animal stories to John Lasseter.

All of which sound like a serious step back from the higher standard the Revival era maintained. It would have either been an all animal Three Musketeers, a 60’s mad doctor cat movie, or something with a space pug. It eventually evolved into an arctic hare spy adventure. The only constant was a modern world made by animals for animals. It helped distinguish Zootopia from any other anthropomorphic animal movie made before it. So a city focused police procedural was envisioned instead. The original concept was just a lot darker than what we ended up with. Featuring something called a Tame Collar that’s mandatory for all predators. That idea was dropped and the perspective of the protagonists were switched. The change turned out to be the best thing for Zootopia

85. Zootopia

Nick and Judy attend the DMV

Zootopia made me nervous as soon as I first learned about. I knew the reputation of anthropomorphic animal movies and the teaser didn’t help much. The teaser was Disney’s way of explaining how the world worked. The trailer made me laugh too much not to at least give it a chance. My brother and I went to the theater to see it and I can’t say I was expecting what we ended up with. Zootopia was finally an animal world that fully warranted the use of animal protagonists. I was blown away by the animal utopia they created. Zootopia takes place in a non-human world where animals have evolved into a modern bipedal fully clothed society. Zootopia is an impressively complex city that unites mammals from all walks of life. I’m not sure where that leaves birds, fish, or lizards. Size and ecosystem are all taken into account. With buildings that accommodate giraffes and elephants, miniature towns for rodents, and climate controlled regions. Like Tundratown, Sahara Square, Savannah Central, and the Rainforest District. Everyone’s still obsessed with smartphones though.

Judy Hopps is an optimistic country bunny who believes in Zootopia’s motto that an animal can be whatever they want. So Judy wants to be the first rabbit police officer. Judy is a good Disney role model and a better protagonist for a story like this. Once Upon a Time actress Ginnifer Goodwin was almost overqualified for the role. She brings a certain persistence to Judy’s struggle to be taken seriously as a cop. So there’s obvious commentary throughout Zootopia that replaces racism, sexisim, ect. with speciesism. Zootopia is unknowingly divided into predator and prey. Judy is frequently stereotyped as a dumb bunny, but she won’t let an incident with a fox bully define who she is. But she’s not perfect since she still reluctantly accepts fox spray from her concerned parents. Judy works extra hard to overcome basic training and is graciously accepted into Zootopia’s mammal inclusion initiative.

Mayor Lionheart is mostly concerned with publicity and frequently mistreats his sheep assistant mayor Bellwether. Probably the only mammal who really believes in her. Although Zootopia tries to overcome stereotypes, they still have characters like doughnut eating cheetah dispatch Officer Clawhauser. Along with the expected animal puns and pretty much any excuse to make risque jokes with animals. Luckily the humor ends up working out. Judy’s African buffalo police Chief Bogo doesn’t have much confidence in her. It’s one of many Disney roles that suited Idris Elba. Bogo puts her on parking duty, but she tries to make the most of it. It’s then that she runs into sly fox Nick Wilde. Formally the protagonist who wanted to build a collar free amusement park for predators. He’s better in a supporting role that still makes good use of an unlikely buddy cop dynamic between Nick & Judy.

Nick is a con artist who deals with prejudice just like Judy. Since everyone expects a fox to be untrustworthy. Just the kind of role for the dry-witted Jason Bateman. They meet when an elephant ice cream parlor refuses Nick’s service and she stands up for him. Before discovering his popsicle con. They behave like a bunny and fox at first, but Judy gains extra confidence after apprehending a thieving weasel in the rodent district. Judy receives a case for a missing otter that’s her only chance to be taken seriously as a cop. Judy seeks Nick’s help after the Otter is caught on camera with one of his popsicles. So she hustles him with a carrot tape recorder containing his own incriminating words. The neo-noir case is really where the plot kicks in. Nick & Judy cross all parts of Zootopia to find information. He takes her to a nudist resort that they can only get away with because they’re animals.

A hippie yak with the appropriate voice of Tommy Chong recalls the licence plate for the car the otter was driving in. Leading to them running the number at a DMV run by sloths. The hilarious joke was the best way to make people want to see the movie. The car they find is owned by a feared mob boss that’s really just a shrew modeled after the Godfather. A little cliché, but funny nonetheless. He points them in the direction of the jaguar driver who explains how the otter went savage and attacked him. When the driver goes savage, it leads to a conspiracy that predators are biologically reverting to an animalistic state. Nick stands up for Judy when the police miss any evidence of that. Which leads to Nick opening up about his own past struggles. Since prejudice goes both ways. Although Nick & Judy never become an interspecies couple, I still ship them together.

Bellwether leads them to the final stop in a compound guarded by timber wolves that they assume are the “night hollowers” the otter screamed about. It’s in the compound that they find all missing predators. SPOILER ALERT! Mayor Lionheart is holding them to avoid a panic that predators can turn savage. Judy is able to get the evidence to the police and she’s hailed a hero by the precinct. Nick’s help on the case inspires him to fill out an application, but everything goes wrong when Judy twists her words in front of reporters. Causing a rift in their friendship, increased division, protests, and a lot of other things that were gusty for Disney. Judy becomes disillusioned by this and gives up her dream. Fortunately it’s at her parents home that she receives closure from her bully and realizes “night hollowers” are actually plants that make animals savage.

Nick & Judy make up and the weasel Duke Weaselton points them in the direction of a ram that he sold the plants to. Alan Tudyk voices Duke, who’s an obvious pun on his Frozen character. Plus there’s the added bonus of pirated Disney DVDs with animal puns. The ram basically works in a meth lab modeled after Breaking Bad. So now we have drug metaphors in a Disney movie. Judy & Nick work together to get the train full of evidence to the station. Until they realize Bellwether is a literal wolf in sheep’s clothing. She’s another Disney twist villain with a prey-supremacist mentality. Like Disney’s other twists, it makes sense, but it starts to get a little played out after awhile. No one’s gonna put a small sheep voiced by Jenny Slate on a list of iconic Disney villains. She is ruthless in her resentment though, but Nick & Judy trick her into recording her entire evil plan. It’s then that Zootopia ends with a message from Judy about trying harder to make the world a better place. Leading by example with her new police partner Nick by her side.

Zootopia employed the same technology Big Hero 6 used to render a heavily detailed cityscape. Zootopia is truly a wonder of computer animation. Techniques used for Bolt were improved as well. Rendering animals with life-like fur. Having animals drawn to scale was another way of differentiating the movie. Mammals are cartoony, but not overly stylized. Like most non-musicals in the Revival era, there’s at least one original song. Zootopia’s only celebrity is Gazelle. A Thomson’s gazelle with the curvy hips and latin charm of Shakira. She provides the very catchy dreamer song “Try Everything.” Zootopia shows us that whether human or animal, unity can only be achieved when we come together.

86. Zootopia

Judy comforts Nick

We Can Be Immortals

Big Hero 6 took an obscure comic book team and turned it into something truly special. After Disney acquired the rights to Marvel in 2009, it was only a matter of time before they exploited that opportunity. The MCU was one thing, but Walt Disney Animation wanted a piece of the action. Fortunately they went with the most obscure Marvel comic imaginable. Superheroes that no one would care if they were drastically changed. So Big Hero 6 became Disney’s fifty-fourth animated film and the first based on a comic. Totally different from how Pixar made something original with The Incredibles. Big Hero 6 is so obscure that even I never heard of it. The team was created in 1998 by Man of Action under the title Sunfire & Big Hero 6.

They exist in the greater Marvel universe, but never had many crossovers with other superheroes. The only real connection was founding Mutants Sunfire and Silver Samurai from X-Men. The director was won over by the title and John Lasseter saw its potential as well. Marvel CCO Joe Quesada even gave his blessing on the revision of the story. Names, abilities, and a Japanese connection remained similar, but Big Hero 6 was given much more of a Disney feel. Along with a strong focus on science that was completely different than their previous success with Frozen. Although I feel like something else should have won, Big Hero 6 nevertheless became another worthy Best Animated Feature winner for the Disney Revival era…

83. Big Hero 6

Hiro talks with Baymax

Big Hero 6 was mandatory theater viewing as both a Disney and Marvel movie. Big Hero 6 technically became the first Marvel movie to win a major Oscar. Although we never asked for a Big Hero 6 movie, my brother and I were on board nonetheless. I didn’t read any comics beforehand, but I did as much research as I usually do. I’m not sure what I was expecting from a Marvel movie made by Disney, but I wasn’t disappointed. Nor was I upset that it wasn’t set in the MCU. Not that doing that would’ve made any sense. It fast became one of my favorite obscure comic adaptations. Big Hero 6 is primarily a superhero movie, but this is really the story of a boy and his robot. Unlike the comic, the action is set in the fictional city San Fransokyo. A futuristic city that blends elements of San Francisco with Tokyo. There’s a reasonable explanation for the location, but I’ll just settle for it sounding cool.

The literal hero of the story is Hiro Hamada, based on Hiro Takachiho from the comics. Both are 14 year old Japanese child prodigies with vast intellect. Hiro just squanders his talents hustling illegal bot fights. Ryan Potter adds great angst to Hiro. His big brother Tadashi looks out for him and tries to help him see his potential. I’m not sure if the sibling dynamic was a carryover from Frozen, but Hiro & Tadashi have a great brotherly bond too. Much like Spider-Man, Hiro and his brother live with their Aunt. Aunt Cass is a quirky, but caring guardian that Maya Rudolph tires a lot harder with than she needs to. Tadashi’s main encouragement is showing Hiro around his nerd school. San Fransokyo Institute of Technology was closely modeled after real scientific institutes. Not all inventions sound plausible, but they do a decent job at replacing superpowers. It’s at the Institute that Hiro meets his new friends and future teammates.

Go Go is an athletic mechanical genius, based on GoGo Tomago from the comics. Both are Asian, but the movie version is curvy with a biker look. Jamie Chung doesn’t speak much, but she makes an impression. Wasabi is an OCD laser genius, based on Wasabi-No-Ginger from the comics. Apart from the name, Wasabi is black instead of Asian with a buffer build. The exact opposite of Damon Wayans Jr.’s neurotic approach. Honey Lemon is a caring chemical genius, based on the character of the same name from the comics. Other than a less revealing costume, they’re both still attractive blondes. Genesis Rodriguez is enthusiastic enough to stand out as well. Fred is just a slacker/comic book enthusiast, based on Fredzilla from the comics. He’s white instead of Asian with your typical slacker look. Although T.J. Miller is usually a warning sign, this is actually one of his better comedic characters. Especially when it turns out Fred is fabulously wealthy.

The final member of the group is also the biggest scene stealer and face of the movie. Baymax is a personal healthcare companion, based on the robot of the same name from the comics. His alterations were vital in adding heart to the story. Since Baymax was drastically changed from a dragon mech bodyguard built by Hiro to a soft medical assistant built by Tadashi. Baymax became an instant favorite with his huggable marshmallow appearance and limited facial features. Of course Scott Adsit helped bring humor even with a robotic voice. Baymax is an awesome invention that scans illness, offers aid, and deflates when not in use. Hiro can only attend the school if he builds something that impresses encouraging head of robotics Robert Callaghan. Hiro’s idea is an equally impressive series of microbots that can build and transport with the aid of a head scanner. Alan Tudyk’s third voice role is Alistair Krei. An industrialist who shows interest in Hiro’s invention.

Everything goes well for Hiro until a sudden fire leads to the unexpected death of his brother. Hiro falls into depression, but Baymax is around to answer his cry for help. Although Hiro doesn’t want any help, Baymax follows the lead of one of his stray microbots. What they discover is a mysterious trench coat wearing man in a kabuki mask developing more microbots. Although it’s not stated in the movie, Yokai is the original supervillain’s name. Baymax is comically unable to do much and they narrowly escape. The police don’t believe Hiro and Baymax needs to return home to recharge his battery in drunk fashion. In the process, Baymax learns more about personal loss and contacts his friends for him. But Hiro would rather upgrade Baymax to better fight the villain. Karate skills are uploaded into his system and he’s fitted with pudgy green armor. Like all great “Boy and his robot” stories, Hiro begins to bond with Baymax by teaching him slang and fist bumps (“balalala”).

Honey Lemon, Go Go, Wasabi, and Fred get roped into the fight and narrowly avoid the villain in a car chase. It’s then that Fred’s superhero themed room inspires Hiro to create upgrades for the rest of his friends. Equipping them with their own colorful costumes and weapons inspired by their individual inventions. Go Go races around with hydraulic wheel feet and throwing discs. Honey Lemon has a purse that mixes various elements together. Wasabi has energized blades built into his wrists. Fred has a flamethrowing dragon suit. And Hiro can magnetize himself to a heavily armored Baymax with flight capabilities. The most awe-inspiring sequence is Baymax flying around San Fransokyo with Hiro. Scanning for the man in the mask. Although they make a cool looking team, they’re a bit inexperienced at first. They find answers at an abandoned island with a decommissioned teleportation device in it.

SPOILER ALERT! Although they think Alistair Krei is the bad guy, surprise, another twist villain. Robert Callaghan was behind the mask all along. All to avenge his daughter who was lost when Krei’s teleportation test went wrong. It wasn’t overly surprising since Krei’s nose couldn’t fit in that mask and it wasn’t the first time James Cromwell played a twist villain. Hiro goes too far by removing Baymax’s health chip to destroy Callaghan, but he’s stopped before any lines are crossed. It’s not until Baymax reminds Hiro of Tadashi’s need to help people that he’s finally able to let his emotions out for his team. In the climax, the team have to prevent Callaghan from plunging Krei Tech into a portal. They’re overwhelmed at first, but the team really power up when they approach things scientifically. Allowing the microbots to drift into the sky beam before anyone else is hurt.

All that’s left is Callaghan’s daughter who’s still alive in the other dimension. Sadly, Baymax is damaged before they can make it out and has to sacrifice himself in order to free Hiro. It doesn’t last too long since he is a robot after all. Ending with a big hero shot of the newly dubbed Big Hero 6. Plus a very unexpected animated post-credits Stan Lee cameo as Fred’s dad. Big Hero 6 is like most superhero movies, but a lot of inspiration came from Anime. So the art style reflects that in a more three dimensional way. The crisp computer animation advanced to the point of rendering an entire digital model of San Fransokyo. With a distinctive look that blends the best of both major cities together. It’s not a musical, but “Immortals” by Fall Out Boy is an awesome hero theme. Big Hero 6 is big hero fun in a huggable package.

84. Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 assembles

Let it Go

Frozen is the Disney phenomenon that audiences just couldn’t let go. Not since The Lion King has a Disney movie become such an obsession that resonated with people regardless of age, nationality, or gender. Although Wreck-It Ralph came close, Frozen was the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to win Best Animated Feature. It only took fifty-three movies, but the category wasn’t introduced until the Post-Renaissance. In a decade that belonged to Pixar. Frozen has the longest, most confusing history of any Disney production. Walt Disney himself wanted to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 Danish fairy tale The Snow Queen before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was even released. Envisioning it as an animated segment in an Andersen biopic. The story proved to be the most difficult fairy tale Disney ever attempted to adapt.

It was shelved many times over the decades, because they just couldn’t get the Snow Queen herself right. I knew practically nothing about The Snow Queen. Turns out it’s very complex. Dealing with religious aspects of good vs. evil with characters like Gerda, Kai, and a mysterious Snow Queen. Original drafts followed the story closely, just with a more Disneyfied spin, and traditional animation. It wasn’t until late 2000’s that director Chris Buck imagined something more relatable and subversive. While continuing to remain true to Disney tradition in a way that defined the Revival era. With John Lasseter’s encouragement, Jennifer Lee put her own perspective in the story and was even promoted to co-director. Frozen was such an unexpected hit that it became the highest grossing animated film at the time. With year long attention that never seemed to go away…

81. Frozen

Elsa lets it go

Frozen was actually something that I was a little hesitant about at first. Misleading teasers and comical trailers made me a bit nervous about its success. Along with a neutral title reminiscent of Tangled. Boy, was I off base. Like critics, Frozen was the closest thing to a Disney Renaissance movie I’d seen in years. I could tell watching it in theaters with my brother that it would turn into something special. Kids were singing along the moment we left the theater. Little did we know they’d be singing non-stop for the next couple of years. Although it’s easy to get tired of Frozen years later, I still love it anytime I watch it. And I have seen Frozen more times than any other Revival movie. Releasing Frozen at the end of November 2013, so close to Christmas was a genius way to keep it going. Of course Frozen wouldn’t be as big of a success if they didn’t make the changes they did at the last possible second. Not since Toy Story 2, has an animated production been cut so close without becoming a disaster.

Once upon a time there lived two sisters from the fictional Scandinavian kingdom Arendelle. The most game changing difference between The Snow Queen and Frozen was making the hero and villain sisters. Their way of making the titular character resonate better. The decision effectively altered the entire original story. Until only snow and the Queen remained in tact. Elsa is a Disney Princess born with magical ice powers. Anna is her sister and another Disney Princess who doesn’t have powers. Apart from the underappreciated Lilo & Stitch, Frozen is a rare Disney movie that tackles a sister dynamic. Another reason for its success since most people can relate to having a sibling. While playing with Elsa’s powers as children, Anna is accidentally struck. The King and Queen seek help from rock trolls that help alter Anna’s memory. A warning from the Troll King forces Elsa’s parents to take drastic actions. Keeping her powers hidden from Anna for the rest of their childhood.

When the King and Queen parish at sea, Elsa is crowned Queen for the first time in Disney history. Despite their immense popularity, both Princesses are so different that they haven’t even been officially inducted in the Disney Princess line up. Anna replaces Gerda as the main protagonist. Kristen Bell gave her a down to Earth personality with more relatable enthusiasm and a determination that makes her stand out. Anna is adorkable with light brown braids, a Rogue streak, and freckles. Her biggest need is overcoming her loneliness. Since Elsa shut her out, she’s willing to accept love from the first person she meets. Prince Hans of the Southern Isle turns out to be that guy. He’s a handsome standard Disney Prince who wins Anna’s heart in one day. When Elsa won’t bless the marriage, her powers are revealed to the whole kingdom who dub her a monster. Unlike the traditional Disney villain that she was envisioned as, Elsa evolved into a way more sympathetic character.

Elsa’s powers are a fear she needs to overcome and embrace. Turning Elsa into a beloved Princess and an instant icon. It was practically impossible not to see her snow white braid and icy blue dress. Elsa accidentally plunges Arendelle in eternal winter, but her actions are never outright villainous. Elsa’s powers are also very random. She can create snow, ice, an entire castle, a dress, and even a living snowman. Anna sets out to find Elsa and acquires a stylish blue & purple snowsuit at a quirky merchants shop. She also meets Kristoff and his reindeer companion Sven. Hans Kristoff Anna Sven, get it? Kristoff is a rugged blonde ice harvester who reluctantly gives Anna safe passage to see her sister. Jonathan Groff makes Kristoff a bit of a weirdo too with his habit of talking for Sven. Disney clichés start to unravel a bit when he questions Anna’s unrealistic decision to marry a guy she just met. While escaping hungry wolves and dangerous cliffs, it becomes more clear that they’re meant for eachother.

Since Frozen is winter themed with a reindeer companion, it only made sense for a snowman to be the wacky comedic Disney sidekick. Olaf the talking snowman was a major boost to Josh Gad’s career. His random thoughts/body mix ups are funny and never obnoxious since he genuinely cares about Anna’s well being. He’s just a bit absent-minded when it comes to heat. Anna finally reaches Elsa, but her out of control powers strike her in the heart. A giant snowman called Marshmallow throws them out and drives them away. Hans sets out to find Anna and the more villainous Duke of Weasel Town (Weselton) voiced by Alan Tudyk orders his men to take Elsa out when they find her. Elsa nearly crosses the line, but is captured instead. The effects of Elsa’s blast gives Anna a frozen heart that will consume her unless she finds an act of true love. Something she discovers from Kristoff’s adopted rock troll family. Who are frankly the only weak part of the movie. Kristoff cares about Anna enough to take her back to kiss Hans and hopefully break the curse.

SPOILER ALERT! Hans becomes another twist Disney villain when it’s revealed that he was just manipulating Anna the entire time. Planning to rule Arendelle since he’s 13th in line for his own throne. It’s unexpected and makes sense, but it does come out of nowhere in a somewhat cynical way. Hans always seems genuinely likable before that. Well with him as the antagonist, Kristoff becomes the true Disney Prince who turns back to be with Anna. Elsa tries to escape into a now out of control snow storm, but Hans convinces her that she killed her own sister. Anna frees herself with Olaf’s help, in time for Kristoff to find her. The second and most subversive twist comes when Anna chooses to save Elsa from Hans. Thawing her frozen heart, because family love is just as powerful as romantic love. The power of love enables Elsa to reverse the storm and keep Olaf from melting, while Anna punches out Hans. Although it wasn’t what saved the day, Anna & Kristoff become a cute couple anyway. Elsa is embraced by the kingdom, the gates remain open, and they all lived happily ever after.

Frozen pushed the boundaries of computer animation. Creating a magical winter wonderland that captured snow and ice so well you’d swear it was the real thing. It’s better they stuck with CGI. Since they were also able to give great detail to the movie’s culture. Norwegian architecture, clothing, and customs were studied in order to bring a new level of authenticity. Dresses in particular have so much fine detail in every stitch. Similar to Tangled, characters are once again meant to resemble classic hand drawn Disney characters. Managing to create two beautiful Disney Princesses that looked like siblings, but didn’t look exactly the same. Fortunately, Frozen has a spectacular soundtrack to go with its amazing animation. Years later, it’s still one of Disney’s all time greatest musicals. We have Winnie the Pooh songwriting couple Robert & Kristen Anderson-Lopez to thank for creating so many catchy instant hits. While Christophe Beck is who’s to thank for the opening Scandinavian choir.

Which leads to the underrated ice cutting song “Frozen Heart.” Followed by four Broadway caliber songs in a row. Granted it does sort of go downhill after that. Kristoff’s Reindeer song is quick and silly, Olaf’s “In Summer” is random, but likable, and the rock trolls’ “Fixer Upper” matchmaking song is kinda pointless. Young Anna’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is an infectious way to explore childhood. “For the First Time in Forever” is my second favorite song and a triumphant longing song that shows the differences between siblings. The reprise is less spectacular, but still emotional. “Love is an Open Door” is a well oiled love song that takes on an unexpected meaning by the end. Of course the real star of Frozen is the power ballad “Let it Go.” A clear, easy to remember, emotionally resonate song that was made for Idina Menzel. It’s impossible to separate Menzel from Elsa or the song. Leading to an expected Oscar win for Best Original Song. Frozen may have overstayed its welcome, but I’m confident that it’ll thaw even the most frozen of hearts.

82. Frozen

Anna, Kristoff, and Sven meet Olaf

Followed by: Frozen II