Review: Frozen II

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf are back in Walt Disney’s animated sequel Frozen II in a quest to save the kingdom of Arendelle, but all is not what it seems.

With the closing scenes of Frozen (2013) all seemed rosy in Arendelle. Hans was sent back to where he came from, the dubious Duke of Weselton was banned from being a trade partner, Olaf got his own personal snow cloud, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) became a couple, and Elsa (Idina Menzel) finally learnt that love was the key to thaw her frozen powers.

So with everything seeming so cushy and neatly wrapped up, where was Disney going to take it from there? And perhaps more importantly can Frozen II give its predecessor, the highest grossing animation in history, a run for its money?

Frozen offered no explanation as to where Elsa’s powers came from, however in the sequel Jennifer Lee transports the story into the past to uncover the origins of Elsa’s powers, along with some family secrets.

This time there is no ‘villain’ in the traditional sense but Elsa and Anna battle the elements of the earth and delve into the past to save Arendelle from the restless spirits of the enchanted forest. The plot is not quite as easy to follow as the first film, but the incredible scenery makes up for that.

While the first film flitted between Arendelle and the North Mountain, the sequel offers a vast selection of mysterious landscapes. From an autumnal enchanted forest, to rivers with sleeping earth giants, to forbidding seas and glaciers, the scenery is of an immense scale and impact. Disney also ramps up the enchantment and magical elements making it visually exciting.

Perhaps the strongest component are the revelations of Anna and Elsa’s parents. The sister’s parents were marginalised in the first film due to their untimely death at sea. This is a common trope in Disney films, mirroring Walt Disney’s own tragedy of losing his mother.

However the sequel revisits the sister’s carefree childhood days with the opening scene. Their father, King Agnarr, tells them a story of the ‘enchanted forest’ and it becomes clear he is recounting his own experience of the forest as a child. This storyline offers a prequel tone to the film, and knits the film’s unravelling plot together. 

Back to the present time frame, Olaf no longer pines for summer, but instead wishes for old age and wisdom. This seems at odds with his lighthearted character, however he does maintain his unique sense of humour throughout. This particularly shines through with his snappy, dramatic and entertaining retelling of the entire plot of the first film.

Although this scene occurs part way through the film, Frozen II is still suitable for those who haven’t seen the first film. However, there are a few flashbacks and references to events from the first.

As for Kristoff and Anna, their relationship takes a cliche turn of miscommunication and misunderstandings that may annoy those that rooted for them in the first film. At one point Kristoff ventures off into a solo song reminiscent of a soppy 90s boy-band music video. Kristoff’s clumsy ways with communication, which seemed sweet and endearing in the first film, unfortunately appear unattractive in this one. 

But what about Elsa? A BIG rumour sparked from fan’s tooth-comb analysis of the trailers was that Elsa may find romance. However the sequel remains faithful to the key feminist line that romance doesn’t have to be the main component of a female lead’s story.  

Instead the sisterly love, which was such a strong component of the first film, remains strong in Frozen II. Despite starting their quest together Anna and Elsa get separated leading them to face challenges on their own. However it is their collective effort that ultimately saves Arendelle, and each other. 

Disney set the bar high with Frozen, leading it to scoop two Oscars, including best original song for Let it Go.

The music in the sequel is not quite as memorable, but Elsa’s Into the Unknown early in the film offers gravitas and the lyrics cleverly reflect her continuing fear of losing control over her powers. Ultimately it is her great power and slight anti-hero stance which makes her such an engaging and commanding character. 

Overall Frozen II offers a charming, empowering, and magical experience. While new themes and revelations are made, Elsa reprises her independence and formidable power, and Anna her resilience and bravery.

Image courtesy of Walt Disney via YouTube, with thanks.

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