On Second Thought – "Saving Mr. Banks"

Because of the many award-winning films that came out around its release, “Saving Mr. Banks” was passed by and mostly forgotten. You don’t see many people talking about it or mentioning that it was a good film that was worth seeing. 
Why is that? Was it merely because of all the other films that came out around the same time? Possibly because “Frozen” was a much bigger Disney hit and people only want to see one Disney film at a time? Or is it because, maybe the film isn’t as good as we thought? 
For that reason, let’s take a second look at “Saving Mr. Banks” and see if a bit of time and reflection has changed some outlooks on this movie. 

In my initial review, I talked about how Tom Hanks practically disappeared in the role. That we were witnessing the real Walt Disney and not some actor trying to be him. The film was able to capture the essence of what it means to be a kid and the charm of all Disney movies. There is also a wonderful juxtaposition between Disney and Travers as they butt heads constantly, which makes the a conflict that never gets old. 
“This is the driving force between Hanks and Thompson,” I wrote. “A man who has always embraced being a child and a woman who wishes to forget about being a child. Neither of them are wrong in their pursuits and attitude but they’re both people who wish to dominate and to have everything go their way.”
In the end, I gave “Saving Mr. Banks” a B+.
One thing you might note is missing from my original review is something negative against the film. I obviously had problems with the film, otherwise I would have given it an A. But as time has passed, those flaws which slightly bugged me when I saw the film have now become big glaring problems in the story. 

I now see “Saving Mr. Banks” as two different films coming together as one. The first film is the story of how “Mary Poppins” was created, and the rivalry between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers for the creative vision of the film. 
The second film is an Australian outback piece of a poor family with an alcoholic father but still wants to care for his children. 
The first film is a wonderful piece about two people with enormous egos and always work to get their way. They are both extremely passionate people but work on opposite ends of the spectrum. The second film is clunky, slow, off-putting and goes on much longer than it needs to. 
Granted, the Australian sequences serve as a flashback for Travers, as a way to explain why she is so stuck up and snobby during the making of “Mary Poppins.” My question is, did every little sequence need to be there? 

Did we really need so much detail and focus on something that could be simple to explain? The flashbacks could have been done in two or three scenes, instead of taking up nearly half the film. 
There is a long and extended sequence in the Australian flashbacks where Colin Ferrel’s character has to give a speech on behalf of the bank during a fair. It doesn’t really add anything to the film other than giving us information that we already knew: The father is usually drunk, but he loves his kids and will do anything for them. 
My problem with these scenes is not that they’re particularly bad, but that they are taking away from the much better scenes, the ones with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. 
One thing a film should always attempt to do is find the best aspect that it has to offer and focus as much attention on that. In the case of “Saving Mr. Banks,” that would be the relationship between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers. Thus, the flashbacks only serve as a distraction and take away from the film. 
Another aspect worth talking about is the ending. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say what happened in the film deviated from real life. In actuality, when all was said and done, P.L. Travers despised “Mary Poppins.” 

If they wanted to change what happened to give the film a happy ending, that’s fine. I can’t help but look at what happened and find simple ways to give that a happy ending. You can make Ms. Travers hate “Mary Poppins” but still have Walt admit that they tried their hardest to make the film she wanted and are damn proud of the results. The fact that the movie got made at all is a miracle. The fact that it is a movie beloved by millions all over the world is something even greater. 
In the end, both Walt and Ms. Travers got exactly what they wanted. Ms. Travers got a chance to tell the story she wanted to share with everyone and now everyone loves Mary Poppins. Walt got to make the movie he had always dreamed of giving his daughters and got to relive his boyhood fantasies. 
For that reason, I cannot hate “Saving Mr. Banks.” It is still a great movie, even if most of the Australian scenes are unnecessary and take away from the rest of the film. It is a bumpy ride and has a pacing problem, but overall it is worth it to see Tom Hanks play Walt Disney and have a fiery rivalry with Emma Thompson. 
Initial Grade: B+
Revised Grade: B-

On Second Thought – "Frozen"

Welcome to a new series entitled “On Second Thought.” In this series, I will be taking a second look at a film I have previously reviewed and analyzing how my thoughts and feelings on this particular film has changed over time. 
I’m using this mostly to demonstrate the biggest flaw within movie reviews: While a critic can give an accurate representation of how the film made them feel at the time, it doesn’t take into account how they might feel about it in the future. Opinions and feelings change over time just as much as a person can change. A film which someone once loved could suddenly become unbearable and irritating, or vice versa.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had second thoughts on a film. Where a new thought or feeling is produced, and suddenly that changes the entire outlook of the film. Some of the notable ones in the past have been “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” and “Rear Window” both of which I didn’t care for upon my initial viewing but grew to adore them over time. 
While I believe this is a problem within film criticism, it is also something that I believe everyone can relate to. We’ve all had second thoughts about events in our lives, or have grown to love something which we once hated. Forgiveness and admiration can be powerful forces when put together. 
I hope this series helps to show just that. Let’s start off with something that has become quite successful lately and has garnered much praise, “Frozen.”

In my initial review of the film, I talked about how I loved the design and look of the film and thought Elsa was a wonderfully developed character. Yet, I was turned off by the film’s lack of imagination and creativity, something which the two previous Disney animated films, “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph” had in abundance. 
“I think the reason I’m disappointed in “Frozen” is due to its lack of imagination and creativity, something that the previous Disney films had plenty of,” I wrote. “Here is this unique and interesting premise of a queen who accidently freezes her kingdom and its up to her sister to save everyone, and I feel like little came from it. The way in which Elsa uses her ice powers can be fun its own right, but its not enough to save the film.”
In the end, I gave “Frozen” a C-.
I realize now that this grade was way too harsh and undeserving for such a beautiful movie. 
While I still feel like it took a while for the film to get interesting, once the entire kingdom knew about Elsa’s powers, suddenly the film got intense and exciting. There are rivals from opposing kingdoms who want Elsa hunted down, while Anna just wants to save her sister. She says that it is for the kingdom, but we all know that the love for her sister comes above all else.

Perhaps the reason I was so hard on the film in the first place was because the relationship between Elsa and Anna wasn’t as strong as I thought it could have been. The two spend a little time as a kid, Elsa nearly kills Anna but is saved and has her memory wiped of Elsa’s powers, and then the two spend the next ten years of their lives hardly ever seeing one another.
I do believe this is a problem, especially the mind wiping part. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Anna knew about Elsa’s powers but had to keep it secret from every one else? That way, in moments where Elsa needed comforting, Anna could have been there for and made the pain of near death go away.
However, I feel like I was only observing it from Anna’s perspective. Most of what she recalled about Elsa were implanted memories. For Elsa, her memories of Anna were real. It was clear those were some of the best moments of her childhood, before she had to be put in solitude. Kind of a Charles Foster Kane moment, if you will. 
When you look at it like that, suddenly the lengths that Elsa goes to near the end make it all the more powerful. She is doing everything to get back to that moment of happiness, but nearly repeats it again because she is so absorbed in the past. 

So even though I think their relationship could have been stronger, it is much deeper and more complex than I gave it credit for. 
I also hardly touched on the musical numbers in “Frozen.” Most of them I found to be rather forgettable, apart from two. I have a hard time remember any of the lyrics or tunes to the songs, other than “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go.” 
“Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” serves as the emotional relationship between Anna and Elsa for the opening of the film, and shows just how much love Anna has for her sister even after all that has happened. Years pass, but Anna never gives up on her. All punctuated by Anna’s final line, repeating the title and giving us a great shot of Elsa and Anna, back-to-back, but separated.
“Let It Go,” on the other hand has become a huge sensation. Not only has it just won the Oscar for Best Original Song, but there are parodies of it everywhere, along with different styles of music set to the lyrics. 

It honestly was the highlight of the film, served as a wonderful transformation in Elsa’s character, had the best visuals of the whole movie and was extremely catchy. I’ve had the song stuck in my head since Adele Dazeem sang it at the Oscars and I have no problem with that. 
The last thing I’d like to mention about my initial review was how it was unfair of me to constantly compare “Frozen” to films like “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” A film deserves to stand or fall on its own merits, without being compared to any other works and “Frozen” is no exception.
It felt like my initial review wanted to talk about how “Frozen” was a watered down “Tangled.” Now I see that the two try entirely different things and have vastly different approaches to their presentation. “Tangled” wanted to tell a tale similar to many of the classic Disney princess films, like “Beauty And The Beast” meets “Aladdin.” “Frozen,” on the other hand, may have had princesses, but wanted to tell a story of the love within family, something that has been rarely touched upon in Disney films.
It seems like Disney is in the process of starting up its second Renaissance Era. The first “Disney Renaissance” began with “Beauty And The Beast” which took their animated features in a whole new direction, which eventually gave us films like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King.”
“Frozen” just might be the beginning of a new Renaissance Era, especially if you include “Saving Mr. Banks” and the upcoming “Maleficent” film. All three of these films have something in common: They take classic tropes and story that is inherently Disney, but they take a new spin on. “Frozen” is about the bond between sisters. “Saving Mr. Banks” gave us a depiction of Walt Disney, but were not afraid to show his darker and more brash side, as we seem him swear, smoke and drink. While we don’t know much about “Maleficent” I think we can assume the plot is going to be that of “Sleeping Beauty” but rather told from the villain’s perspective. 

That’s what this new Renaissance is putting above all else: perspective. Who is telling the story makes a huge difference. When you look at “Frozen” as a film about Anna, you get my initial review. If you see it more as Elsa’s tale, or even better as both Elsa and Anna’s story, then it comes out looking much better.
Not only is “Frozen” beautiful, hilarious and catchy, but it has incredibly well written character and a wonderful relationship between the two leads. It is not the best, but for what it was, it gives some touching moments that will melt any heart. 
Initial Grade: C-
Revised Grade: B