Back in 2013, a small film was released close to the Christmas holidays. A film about two sisters (one cursed with magic) who must mend their relationship and save their kingdom from corruption. But, once upon a time, this little film had a very different premise. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, the original pitch followed a young woman trying to stop an icy witch, keeping more in line with the original fairy tale. However, a single decision changed all this, the decision to make the film a ballad about sisterly love. And in an instant, Disney had a hit on their hands, even though they wouldn’t know it until it broke box office records and became one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. Soon the film was followed by two shorts, and finally the announcement that a sequel was on the way. But after the colossal mess of Ralph Breaks The Internet, would Disney be able to finally deliver a solid animated sequel? Well, yes and in some cases no.
Set three years after the events of the first film, Arendelle is blooming under Elsa’s rule, Anna and Kristoff have set up base in the castle and Olaf is just happy to be there. Then suddenly Elsa begins hearing a strange siren call, pulling her towards the enchanted forest of her bedtime stories. Soon the kingdom is struck by magical chaos and our heroes set off to discover what they can do to stop it. Already I can say that the story for this film is blatantly stronger than that of the other film. Probably because the first film was rewritten to the point of indifference before its release. And in many ways, the writers of Frozen have spent the intervening five years trying to figure out the story and characters they first created. And I think they have found it. This film branches out beyond pretty snow shows and wintery aesthetics to give us a story enriched by Scandinavian folklore, immersive animation and layered characters. Giving us a narrative more akin to high fantasy than your usual Disney schlock. But that doesn’t mean the story in its entirety works off of the page. The primary obstacle that needs to be broken down in the film is one that seems both convenient and unrealised, and the majority of the supporting cast have very little to do besides stand around and look Nordic.
In some ways the film seems to follow Maleficent 2’s mode of storytelling, where the narrative veers off into several different directions before coming together for the climax. The only issue here being that there is no big climax, not really. So instead it feels almost like another Frozen short but with more padding. Again this isn’t a negative criticism, the shorts have both been solid and this film is no different. I just would have preferred a more satisfying conclusion to the magical spirit storyline.
The film sees the return of all of your Frozen favourites, from Elsa to that guy with the shop. Whereas in the first film, the primary arc for the two sisters was the rekindling of their relationship, while in this film it felt more like strengthening their relationship by allowing each other to move on their own paths. A message I would have liked more if it didn’t ring of the same emotional core as Ralph Breaks the Internet, which also focused on the main characters having to move on in life without the need for each other. Of course in this new film it is handled much better, with Anna’s concerns for her sister coming across as actual concerns and not the obsessions of a mentally unstable stalker (cough *Ralph* cough). And in the end both sisters are placed into roles that suit their characters beautifully, especially when it comes to Elsa, who finds herself being levelled up into a far more powerful being than ever before. Elsa’s arc was one I deeply enjoyed, as the so-called ‘introvert princess’, Elsa has always felt like the outsider, so to see her finally accept herself as the thing she has been searching for was truly a tear jerking moment. At least I cried. Sadly on the other end of the character spectrum we find Olaf and Kristoff who, although each being given their own solo musical numbers, have very little to do in the story. It appears that some writer grew so tired of Olaf that they simply wrote him out of the latter part of film, so as to focus on the characters who truly deserve the screen-time. Although Josh Gad once again gives an amazing performance, there is no place for Olaf in this story. He is given an arc that involves him maturing into an ‘adult’ but it falls flat when compared to Elsa’s power drama and Anna’s emotional turmoil. But he does have more to do than poor Kristoff, who wanders around the enchanted forest not doing anything and constantly pondering how to propose to Anna. Seeing as he is voiced by Jonathan Groff, you would think that he would be given more time to develop as a character, but sadly that isn’t the case. Groff does get to show off his vocal skills though, in a song that is executed and performed both comically and excellently. But overall Kristoff recalls to mind Finn from the new Star Wars movies, who also accomplishes very little over six hours of film. The new characters also have very little to do and I do wonder why several were introduced if they were all going to take a backseat to Elsa. Seems like a waste of money and talent.
The songs for the movie are also a mixed bag. And I would suggest listening to them for yourself if you truly want to judge them. It’s obvious from the outset of this film that the Lopez’ have once again tried to deliver a Broadway style musical. But I also feel like they missed their chance to create a new anthem that could truly eclipse the bombastic power of ‘Let it Go’. Even Elsa’s new power ballad ‘Into the Unknown’ suffers from being just too safe and clean cut. I doubt many of the songs in this new track will live on in infamy, but they do provide beautiful moments for the characters and their arcs in the story. Particularly Elsa’s transformation song ‘Show Yourself’, which delivers both in awe-inspiring imagery and character journey. In the end I don’t think these songs will last through the ages likes their predecessors’, and I doubt you will be hearing five year olds belt out any of these songs a decade from now. Sadly the Lopez’ had a mission that they simply couldn’t complete, but it does also prove the resilience of their previous work.
Once again the animation on display here is simply amazing. Proving again why Disney is the standard to beat when it comes to Western animation. Like in Toy Story 4, the small details here add a level of uncanny realness to everything, the water animation in this film will shock you in how real it looks. The finer details on the characters should also be commended, from the freckles on Elsa’s nose, to the markings on Bruni the Salamander’s scaly back. The animation on display here only makes me more excited for Disney’s next major animated release, Raya and the Last Dragon, which will finally be another original piece.
Overall Frozen 2 delivers a stronger story than the first, but also suffers from not living up to the memorability. The songs are no where near as strong, but the animation remains completely breath-taking. I do wonder if the success of this film will warrant a third movie, because although this has proven to be the best Disney sequel of the main canon, its shortcomings do argue against the need for sequels in the first place. But still a beautiful movie that will move you and thrill you.