'Frozen II': A Frosty Sequel
You won't leave the theatre stone cold, but don't expect to feel warm at heart.
When I first heard that Disney had plans to make a sequel to Frozen, I was partially excited, but mostly kind of indifferent. It’s not like the first movie left us on a note that necessitated a sequel, but at the same time, I knew that a sequel presented a chance for a brand new world to be properly fleshed out, and the possibility of that intrigued me. Disney movies are exceedingly good at building entire universes, and they usually know how to present them to us in doses that are just right. Bearing this in mind, I walked into Frozen II having only watched the initial trailer that they released, and based on that, I was ready for a darker adventure that explored both the characters of Anna and Elsa as well as their relationship as sisters.
And I got that. Or at least, I sort of did.
Let me preface this review by saying this: by no means is Frozen II a bad movie. It, in fact, excels at many things, and I would definitely recommend that everyone give it a watch at the very least. However, the potential of what it could have been sort of tarnished the experience for me. Before I get into why I feel this way, a brief foray into the plot of the movie. It's a while after the events of the first movie, and Elsa is now Queen of Arendelle. However, it is clear that she does not ‘fit in’ with the people of the town, or even still completely with her life at the castle, surrounded by her sister and friends. On top of this, she keeps hearing a melody in the distance, almost as if it’s calling to her. One night, it becomes too much and she uses her powers to unintentionally awaken the spirits of nature, who disrupt Arendelle’s residents to the extent that the entire town is forced to the hills. Its up to the sisters and their friends to find out what’s causing the spirits wrath, and they set off on a journey to the Enchanted Forest, a place known to them only through their fathers' bedtime stories. Once there, however, they discover that in order to learn the reason behind the spirit’s anger, they have to uncover the mysteries surrounding Arendelle’s history, as well as the story behind the source of Elsa’s powers.
Right off the bat, the voice work in this movie was phenomenal. Its pretty easy to tell that every voice actor gave it their all, and a special mention goes to the wickedly talented Indina Menzel, who once again, shines bright in both her dialogue and her singing. Kirsten Bell isn’t too far behind, however, and when the two are on screen together, its utterly captivating. A word about the visuals in this movie also must be said - While it is certainly bold to say that this is the best animation that has ever been seen in a Disney movie, you’d find that its a statement that’s pretty hard to refute. The entire sequence of Elsa at the heart of Ahtohallan was entrancing, and I have to give every single person who worked on even a frame of this movie massive credit. Everything on screen was absolutely gorgeous, and that alone ensured that 100% of my attention was on the screen at all times, even when the plot became somewhat stale.
Unfortunately, that’s where I shall begin to list the things that didn’t really work for me during the movie, and first of all, its the plot.
Frozen II’s plot felt…..well, lackluster. At times, I kind of wondered if I was reading a fan fiction. It wasn’t all that bad - the age old tale of betrayal despite two warring sides having made peace with one another is one that has been done a lot and over here it’s executed decently, but to me, it didn’t dive as deep into the lore as I was expecting. But again, that’s just me, and the plot is a rather tiny complaint. By and large, it works, and I can get by whatever complaints I may have with it - it certainly doesn’t pull the movie down (well, except for ONE particular part, but I’ll get to that later.)
What really made this movie fairly average in my eyes, were the characters, starting with Kristoff. While I will say his role wasn’t as integral to the overall plot as Anna and Elsa’s, his disappearance from everything that happened in the second half of the story made his final appearance of saving Anna from the dam act like a cop out - a way for the writers to say ‘yes, he’s still around’. It also doesn’t help that he had an entire song that delved into what I thought was a particularly sobering moment for his character (the song was was surprisingly good, the homage to the ballad genre was nicely done). You really felt his presence as a side character, which, again, he is in this movie, but surely there could have been more of him on screen.
Olaf was annoying. I was not a fan of him in this movie at all. In the first movie, he was reacting to everything that was happening around him and it worked very well. Here, he was kind of annoying because he inserted the jokes into every scene he was in. His ‘budding maturity’ arc (if you can even call it that?) was pretty forgettable overall, and I expected cleverer writing for him. On the one hand, though, there were some heartwarming scenes with him getting Thanos snapped and all, but it wasn’t enough to save his character overall.
And finally, the sisters.
Anna and Elsa got to spend a fair portion of the movie together, and yes, there was focus on the two of them for the most part, and while I also have a slight problem with the way the two got separated in the middle of the movie (because it seemed like Elsa was doing the same thing from the first movie all over again - shutting her out because she doesn’t want her to get hurt), the context of why she made the choice here and why she did it back then is different, so I can get past it. What I find harder to digest though, is the decision to split up the characters at the end of the movie, despite having virtually no buildup to it. It’s important to note that I don’t have a problem with the ending itself - I just feel like it could have been set up more. Maybe Elsa having some more interaction with the forest on the way to the ocean, or maybe some kind of introspective song on her part - either way, what we got seemed to be done to set up a third movie (which you bet will happen in another 5-6 years)
And now, finally, perhaps my BIGGEST problem with this movie - the ending.
Short and simple? Arendelle should have been washed away. It should have been destroyed. And yeah, I know it's a kids movie and that you can't really expect such a dark ending, but come on. The movie had already dealt with pretty dark themes - the death of the sister’s parents, the grief Elsa feels at being responsible for their deaths, the literal execution of the leader of the tribe, not to mention Anna's pretty depressing song in the cave. These were the moments I felt that this movie was punching above its weight, and the destruction of the town as a consequence to the betrayal that their grandfather wrought on the peaceful tribe many years ago seemed like the crescendo.
Plus, there’s fact that it would have fit with the entire theme of the movie, or at least, one of them. Anna sings about ‘doing the next right thing’ in her admittedly inspiring number to muster the willpower to carry on when all hope seems lost. This, I thought, also applied very well to Arendelle, and how in order for the wrong that was committed so many years ago to be made right, the kingdom must be destroyed. It would have presented a new start that ‘made things right’, as Anna said. But no, they saved it. I kind of got the feeling that it meant that the consequences of your actions shouldn’t be faced as long as you can avoid them - but maybe I’m reading too much into it. This is, after all, Frozen II.
Still, I was expecting SOME mention of consequence; instead, we got the typical ‘happily ever after’ ending, and for a movie that soared as high as the first one did by subverting expectations and making something that stood out from the rest of Disney’s movies, I for one, was disappointed.
I know I’ve been fairly critical of this movie. but let me be clear in saying that (again) Frozen II is not a bad movie. It had a lot of good qualities - the animation was gorgeous, some of Disney’s best. The voice work was outstanding, with some of the songs still giving me earworms, and the limited way they explored themes like death, grief, and not giving up was satisfying….if only to an extent. For me, the lack of buildup for the characters in the movie and the rushed ending weren’t enough to overlook some of the things I thought could have been handled better. An enjoyable watch, but not one I'll be rushing to watch again.
Final Score: 6.75/10