Having watched the movie twice now, I’m struck by how they could have made him into a really complex and fascinating villain instead of…what we got. As it stands, the writing with him feels super inconsistent re: before and after the reveal. We see him doing things that don’t add up if everything…
Okay, some serious spoilers up ahead, so if you haven’t seen Frozen yet (and you should see it!), don’t read on.
Still with me? Okay.
I do think that the big reveal is a bit abrupt, especially with how completely different Hans acts towards the beginning of the film. It could have been handled with a bit more grace and complexity, but I have a feeling that several scenes have been cut from the film. The “That’s no blizzard - that’s my sister!” dialogue from the trailer is probably the most obvious one, but I had a feeling that some pieces of the Hans story were also absent. We do get a couple warning signs, though:
- Hans’ tales about his childhood: How two of his brothers pretended he was invisible for two years, how he was basically destined to be ignored and penniless. That’s definitely enough to make someone desperate for power. Hans even says in the same song he’s been looking his whole life for somewhere to belong. Has he been to other kingdoms? How many princesses has he tried to woo?
- Prince Hans is really almost too good to be true. He acts exactly like a very traditional, early-Disney Prince Charming in every way, going out of his way to woo the inexperienced Anna with thoughts of instant true love, which everyone around her points out is crazy and probably a falsehood. Surprise! It is.
- I sort of think his similarity to early Prince Charmings is also a warning. Our earliest princes kissed dead people, creeped up on singing girls in the forest, and forced every young woman in their kingdom to try on a shoe. These people share Hans’ single-minded, aggressive pursuit of a goal.
- When Hans is left in control of Arendelle, he threatens anyone who opposes him with a charge of treason. He’s acting under the veneer of humility and goodwill, but this is jumping the gun a bit.
- The look on his face when Elsa tells him she can’t stop the winter might look like he’s resolved or resigned, but he also seems to be a bit calculating - time to change the plan.
- Hans is always loudly proclaiming that he is loyal to the ruling sisters and they are not to be harmed. He’s always making a show of some kind. Contrast him with Kristoff, who acts as a great foil to Hans. Kristoff is unassuming, straight-talking, and a little embarrassed at the prospect of making a scene. Not a coincidence!
As for his behavior not making sense with his goals, I think some of it does. Hans is not trying to take over Arendelle by force. It’s crawling with soldiers and with so many merchants visiting at once that risk is too big for him to take. That “accident” might be too public.
So what Hans opts for instead is a more friendly, subtle takeover. He goes out of his way to please and woo the princess Anna and seems very insistent that they get married ASAP. I think, had Elsa not freaked out, he would have probably tried to be married that night. Hans has to appear to be Anna’s ally when this happens, so he offers to go with her and then solemnly agrees to stay behind when she names him regent. He has to be so gleeful on the inside - this is precisely what he wanted! While playing at regent in Arendelle, he makes a show of supporting the sisters. When Anna’s horse returns without her, it has to appear that Anna has died. Still, it’s obvious that Arendelle’s people love both Anna and Elsa, so he has to go along with that and he bravely goes after her. He makes a point of taking men from the kingdom with him. That way, they can see him showing mercy on Elsa. After this moment, you know those men went home with that story to their families. Hans is right where he wants to be now in the minds of the people.
When Anna returns, Hans reveals himself to her and makes up the story about their tragic marriage. He probably intended after this to kill Elsa and take up the crown of Arendelle. Unfortunately, Anna is a lot more awesome and intelligent than he initially took her for (and Elsa is FAR more powerful), and he instead gets shipped back to his brothers. Serves him right, the snake.
A villain song is missing here, though. I agree with the OP that a creepy reprise of “Love is an Open Door” would have been fantastic and probably an instant classic, and it might have made Hans’ earlier subterfuge a bit easier to swallow if he’d monologued a bit in front of Anna before abandoning her. It would have made him look even more evil, as well. My only guess is that time got in the animators’ and editors’ way. Hopefully some version of a villain song will be on the DVD or in the stage musical, should there ever be one.