Frozen II (2019)

Six years ago, the world kowtowed at Disney’s feet, granting the honor of being the highest grossing animated movie of all time, and people remain split about it to this day. I think a lot of people have cooled down now that “Let it Go” isn’t on repeat and Elsa and Olaf isn’t on every package at the grocery store.

I still like it, even though my tendency to get overexposed on certain pop cultural phenomena. I still like Olaf and “Let it Go”. I still like the animation and the jokes. I still respect it as a quality film that can still snark on Disney tropes. But can the franchise stay strong? Freeze frames in this friendly franchise of frenetic fracases in…Frozen II: Electric Boogaloo!

The plot: Elsa (Idina Menzel) has been hearing a mysterious siren call that no one else can. At first she doesn’t tell anyone, not even Anna (Kristen Bell). But when the literal forces of nature of earth, fire, wind, and water force the citizens of Arendelle to evacuate, Elsa enlists Anna, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven to journey to the enchanted forest of Northuldra. The forest has been surrounded by an impenetrable mist no one has gotten through since their father was a boy. They manage to get through, and meet the native tribe and a handful of abandoned Arendelle soldiers, including general Mattias (Sterling K. Brown).

Anna and Elsa discover the bad blood between the kingdom and Northuldra, and that only by investigating what happened over thirty years ago can they find out what caused the poor relations, as well as why the nature spirits are so disruptive, and why the siren beckons Elsa. Moreover, Kristoff struggles to find the right time to propose to Anna, and Olaf faces the dour nature of change.

How’s the writing?: Sequels have a lot of challenges at the outset. They have to juggle that there may be newcomers unfamiliar with the characters and the stakes, but not slow down so much to bore those who know every line of the original. They have to invoke what we already know and love from the first movie, but still need to grow and expand on what has already been established. Frozen II delivered in spades on that.

Elsa’s ice powers feel more incidental, which means it has to rely on her being a fully dimensional character as she assumes the responsibility of figuring out what happened with the past. It can be frustrating to see she’s still insistent on sidelining Anna, but it’s clear she’s much more broken up about it than she was last time. Plus, she’s not running away, but actively digging deep and trying to fix things. In addition, Anna is not some goofy girl bumbling her way through adventure, but a headstrong, dedicated young woman whose goal is help her sister by every means necessary and becoming increasingly self-reliant. Olaf still spouts one-liners and is still a playful, simple-minded snowman, but now he’s coming to terms with his awareness growing about change and life. All in all, the characters grew. It’s no rehash. And it’s wonderful to see them develop and mature.

In terms of story, it’s played like a murder-mystery, and our intrepid team has far more questions as things unfold and the stakes get higher. It’s a truly bold take on what was an extension of a romantic Disney princess fairy tale.

Does it give the feels?: Sure. There are definitely some emotional highlights, and the one that hurt the most was…well, Olaf. As if Thanos snapped again, we see Olaf start to flurry away when Elsa freezes over, and it hurts to watch. Just watching Anna panicking at losing him while she’s already lost and alone is heartbreaking, but much more so as Olaf whispers what little comfort he can give her. I was in tears, definitely.

The other emotional moments, like Elsa exploring Ahtohallan, is meant to be another emotional moment, not unlike “Let it Go”, but it only does so much.

Who makes it worth it?: I was truly hoping Olaf wouldn’t wear out his welcome. Thankfully, he didn’t. A lot of it had to do with his increasing awareness and perception. He’s still goofy, addle-brained, and hopelessly optimistic, but he seems more keenly involved than before. His song, “When I’m Older” is fun, but it lacks the clever wordplay and nuance of “In Summer”.

Before, Olaf just kind of wandered around willy-nilly, occasionally stumbling upon a relevant plot beat almost completely by accident. Here, he definitely takes a more active role and becomes Anna’s primary companion, particularly after Elsa casts the two away when she heads off the Ahtohallan. And because the movie has such a dark tone, his humor is certainly a welcome respite.

Best quality provided: The animation is stunning. I was worried when I saw the local ads that featured the quotes about how the visuals were so impressive, because that usually means it’s the only good thing about the movie. And while I found plenty of other things to like about it, indeed, it was a visual masterpiece. The hushed autumnal hues gave the film a darker, more interesting style, which gives it an entirely separate aesthetic than the first movie.

In the first movie, the snow and ice effects were the stars, but here, there’s so much more. Elsa’s powers have grown, but now with the other elemental spirits, complete with water, fire, wind, and rock effects that look and feel like the real things.

What could have been improved: I fell in love with the catalogue of songs from the first movie. The songs here don’t quite match the same level of catchiness. If given the choice, I’d probably put “When I’m Older” on my playlist because it’s highly ironic. I liked Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods”, but only for the 80’s power ballad motif, so I can’t speak much to the content of the song itself. I felt both “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” just kind of feel like pseudo-sequels to “Let it Go”. Elsa struts around belting at the top of her lungs, complete with her demonstrating her ice powers and getting new hairstyle and dress.

Verdict: Frozen II is beautiful and a great step up from its predecessor. Great franchises need to adapt and develop as their audiences grow up, and Frozen II does that. I don’t know if it’s better than the original, but it’s welcome, considering how it expands on the world of the characters and their own development. I give this one eight Samanthas out of ten.

Wait, I don’t even know a Samantha…

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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