“All this to say, in Frozen 2 Anna and Elsa feel like real characters, not just props Disney uses to sell toys”
Frozen 2 knows that it’s a sequel to one of the most important Disney movies of the last few years. Regardless of what you actually thought of the original Frozen – I found it to be fine – it’s hard to deny that its release was a cultural moment that lasted for a while. So, in that way, it’s not really surprising that Frozen 2 is a confident sequel. Anything less than a confident, surefooted sequel would’ve been disastrous.
But what’s really impressive is that it feels like it was planned from the start — that ecstatic, epic success of its predecessor seems to have had no effect on this film. There’s no pandering, no second-go-rounds for whatever element worked well, it’s all a reasonable evolution of ideas. Frozen was about sisterly love, Frozen 2 is about self love; Frozen is about coming to be a responsible ruler, Frozen 2 is about owning the history of your kingdom.
So what is Frozen 2 actually about? It starts off pretty much where the first one ended. Elsa is Queen of Arendelle, Anna and Kristoff are happily together. Olaf is the only one who’s really changed — his new bit is that he’s now older than any snow-creature should ever be, so he’s constantly amidst an existential spiral. But there’s a problem — Elsa is hearing voices.
Actually, it’s only once voice. A mystical, feminine voice calls to her from across the mountains. Only she can hear it, and it’s giving her the sense that she’s not where she should be. Throw in one magically charged near-disaster, and our crew, Sven the Reindeer included, are off on another adventure. Their destination is a magically shrouded forest: Northuldra, a land of eternal Autumn, where magical creatures roam and secrets lay.
Frozen’s initial idea was fairly novel– what if we did the Ice Queen, but she was misunderstood? What if it wasn’t about romantic love, but sisterly love? It’s a self aware premise that, although dressed up nicely, was inherently limited by dedicating itself to subversion. It was to be the response to the criticism that all Disney Princesses rely on a man to complete them, nothing more.
Frozen 2 features a genuinely interesting, character motivated story. Elsa’s penchant for rugged individualism doesn’t jive with Anna’s protectiveness, and the sisters need to navigate the rapidly changing nature of their dynamic.
All the while they uncover Arendelle’s secrets. It all leads to a dramatic and thrilling climax initiated by the sister’s choices. Its conclusion is earnest, an attempt to make these characters more than just their archetypes. Even though this film starts out as a cliche yet fun quest, Frozen 2 ends up surpassing any sort of limitation that ‘sequel to a wildly successful Disney Princess story’ may suggest. All this to say, in Frozen 2 Elsa and Anna feel like real characters, not just props Disney uses to sell toys.
That’s not to say the story is perfectly executed. All the elements touched on aren’t explored as thoroghly as it initially seems. The relationship between Arendelle and the Northuldra people, those indigenous to the forest, is provocative and generally delicately handled, ultimately seeming to built to a genuinely profound conclusion, but may seem a bit too optimistic given the nature of the relationship. Also, similar to Frozen, Frozen 2 has a habit of solving conflict with vaguely explained magic. Neither of these are huge deals, but they do suggest ways in which the plot could’ve improved.
With music, your mileage will vary. The music is still good. Great, even. But I didn’t feel there was anything quite as banging as Let It Go. There is a Let It Go equivalent, but it doesn’t have the same oomph. It’s still good, though. Kristoff does have a fairly hilarious song — a melodramatic power pop ballad – it’s mostly just funny, but I think that’s intentional. Speaking of: Frozen 2 also features some great laughs, which is always a good thing. Especially in a kids movie.
One final note: the animation here is really killer. There are several truly beautifully imagined sequences. Although it’s not as technically impressive as, say, Toy Story 4, stylization and the scope make up for it.
Frozen 2 surprised me. It’s genuinely well-written, clever, and broaches some interesting territory. Unfortunately, it’s not brave enough to truly make the most of that narrative potential, but the humour, music, and good character beats carry everything along nicely.
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff
Producer: Peter Del Vecho