Tangled really got me unawares. I am not a particular fan of 3D-animated features, maybe because I have a special sense of aesthetics and many 3D features don’t fit in there. Tangled is different in so many ways. The graphics, the music, the story, the characters – everything complements the other so nicely to create a wonderful modern fairy tale that goes way beyond re-telling an old classic. It is in enchanting, exciting, cheeky and heart-rending and manages to pull all of this off without feeling disconnected. In my opinion it is way better than Frozen, which I think has a great soundtrack and nice visuals, but falls flat on the storytelling (the plot is good – there is a difference!). But everyone is entitled to pick their favourites – mine is Tangled.
We all know one Rapunzel story or other, but this one takes a whole different angle. Magic is introduced very early on in a little golden flower that grew from a drop of sunlight. It has the power to heal when you sing a song and it is soon discovered by Gothel, an old witch who uses the flower to become young again. Rapunzel’s mother, the queen of the kingdom, falls ill during her pregnancy and the king orders to find the healing flower. They make medicine from it, so the queen gives birth to a healthy girl. The girl’s hair is as golden as the flower and the hair has inherited the healing powers. Gothel sneaks into the castle to steal the hair, but the hair loses its magic when it’s cut off. So Gothel abducts the little Rapunzel and keeps her in a hidden tower, pretending she is her mother and never allowing her to cut her hair or go outside.
That was basically the prologue of the story, which is narrated by dashing Flynn Rider, a scoundrel and con man. Soon the paths of Flynn and Rapunzel cross. Rapunzel, locked up in her tower, always sees floating lights on the night of her birthday, which are actually floating lanterns that her parents and the whole kingdom release in hope of finding her again. Her dearest wish is to see these lights, but Gothel would never let her go. So when Flynn climbs into her tower while he is trying to hide from pursuers they strike a deal: Rapunzel will give Flynn the bag with a stolen crown (her crown!) back, when he leads her to see the lights on her birthday the next day. A magical adventure begins and just possibly a little adorable love story…
First of all Tangled will draw you in with its beautiful visuals. Everything is pretty, the design throughout is very harmonious and the soft colours make for a pleasant viewing. The world design is very charming and the quirky “medieval” buildings, in the vein of the game series Fable, have their very own special charm. The movements look so real and the characters themselves are lovely actors, which is a strange thing to say, but the animators (and their models, I assume) did a fantastic job here.
What’s great about the character is that they are all based on an archetypes, but they constantly defy the conventions, so they can’t be easily contained by just one description. For example the main “baddie” Gothel isn’t all that bad during the whole film (despite the kidnapping…). She seems to be an overly vain, but affectionate mother who cares for her daughter. Maybe she cares for the wrong reasons, but you can’t really condemn her from the start as the evil witch or evil stepmother. Flynn Rider is great, as he basically takes up the prince’s role, but he is no prince. He is a dishonest scoundrel, but slowly he finds his true upright self. His development and the growing love story are so adorable to watch. The film subverts stereotypes constantly and the story strikes this wonderful balance between heartfelt fairy tale and cheeky but affectionate parody.
Rapunzel herself is also a great example for this. She is the princess, but she isn’t just a young girl pining for love or a damsel in distress. She fights for her dream. It is so easy for many girls to identify with Rapunzel. She is a girl trying to find her place in the world and hopes to do so by pursuing her dream. Sometimes she shows herself to be highly confident, but she can also be at a complete loss about what to do. She is a little clumsy, which is so endearing and she is intuitive. I love it that Tangled has such a modern heroine, not like Aurora for example, who just has to wait for her prince to save her.
This paragraph will spoil the ending, so don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film yet and come back when you have. Ready? The film starts with Flynn stating that it’s the story of how he died. And I am so gullible sometimes, it’s quite embarrassing. Especially as I studied screenwriting you would expect me to get every single allusion or plot device the writers have planted. But no – I am so gullible… When it came to the ending and Flynn died I was drenched in tears I told my screen that it’s a Disney film, for goodness sake! He can’t die! But well, it turns out that my concern was unnecessary… I really should have known – those kinds of films don’t end badly. Never. I was just led on by the modern nature of the film and the fact that they have so brilliantly subverted all other fairy tale stereotypes. It would have fit to let him die, but it would have just been plain awful. Thank you Disney for being conservative on that one 🙂
It’s great to finally see a film again where everything fits so seamlessly together as if film-making isn’t a long, difficult and highly collaborative process. Not only the main characters, but also smaller roles and the animals are so endearing. Tangled is a lovely modern fairy tale that goes so well with our age. Some new elements added to the fairy tale make it a whole new story to be enjoyed by modern viewers. Tangled is fun, hopeful, daring, highly romantic and plain enchanting. Prepare to want to watch it again and again.