“Frozen” came out six years ago. Keep that in the back of your mind. We waited six years for this.
I feel bad for “Frozen 2.” I really do. Its predecessor was a decent film in its own right, elevated by lighting-in-a-bottle music numbers that both fit narratively in the film, while being legitimate pieces of art in their own right, winning the film two Grammys and two Oscars.
“Frozen” became a cultural phenomenon, with the series’ lead, Ice Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) being slapped on every type of cheap plastic junk from China, smartphone game, and other sorts of merchandise Disney could get away with. “Frozen” put Walt Disney Animation Studios back on the map, giving Pixar a serious run for their money, while providing the company with one of the largest merchandising cash cows they’ve ever had.
“Frozen” is one of those things that caught on more than it should have, and will undoubtedly be something we all will struggle to explain to tomorrow’s kids why it was so popular. It’s just one of those fads where all the stars were aligned in a manner that let “Frozen” take over the world for a few years, which in turn created so much hype and anticipation for the series’ sequel that there was almost no hope that it would live up to it.
And it just about didn’t.
“Frozen” is a film that arguably does not need a sequel, as it was made to be a perfectly-contained original IP Walt Disney Animation could call their own to prove their mettle in a changed animation landscape. However, after “Frozen” blossomed into a Testsuo-at-the-end-of-“Akira”-esque monstrosity of a brand, “Frozen 2” was inevitable.
“Frozen 2” follows royal sisters Queen Elsa, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and talking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) in the land of Arendelle three years after the first movie, though it might as well take place right after it.
There is peace in the kingdom, and not much has happened except for the fact that certain buildings are inexplicably capped with snow year-round. But this equilibrium is not to last, as soon elemental spirits (because we needed those in another movie) begin to slightly mess up the town, forcing Elsa and company to investigate, without the use of the army or any form of armed protection, which leads me to my first main complaint with the film.
Elsa is not a princess anymore. She’s the ruler of a kingdom, but at no point does he act like it or face any challenges a queen would face. I understand that the reason why Disney wanted to make her a queen as opposed to a princess was mostly superficial, in hopes of differentiating her from the other Disney princesses; but making your main character the ruler of a kingdom drastically changes the stakes and the type of story you need to tell. Queens such as Elsa are responsible for the well-being and management of the kingdom, leading armies while addressing the needs of the kingdom.
Elsa is a queen in name alone, as she selfishly abandons her duties as ruler (which seem to be nothing, as the kingdom seems to just run itself) to run off on an unnecessary quest that leaves the kingdom leaderless. She interacts with the townspeople completely unguarded, and seemingly has no political rivals. Apparently Hans from the last film was the only person with bad intentions in the entire world, as while Elsa understandably has a reputation for being dangerous through her magical ice powers, she is too naive and untrained to stave off an assassination or coup attempt that is part of everyday life for real rulers. Thankfully, the film provides her with no real challenges to her power, instead focusing on another “wanting more” story.
Perhaps “Frozen 2” would have been a better film had they dedicated some time to the actual reality of ruling, having her feel the weight of the world on her shoulders, but I digress. The film instead decides to recycle elements from the first movie though a mystery box plot involving a dam Elsa’s grandfather built that irked the indigenous people named the Northuldra, and put the kingdom in bad graces with nature — which has decided to mild annoy them about thirty years later about it. Through it all, Elsa and Anna find not only the truth about how the kingdom was built, but they find themselves … again!
Normally, I would get into spoilers at this part of the review, but I honestly don’t think they’re worth discussing outside the fact that the film’s overall plot makes no sense, its reveals are a perfect example of a mystery box plot whose mystery isn’t particularly interesting (i.e. the great beyond that the film teases ends up being a few hills up the road, and an ocean just beyond that, that was previously covered in magical fog), and its character journeys are rushed, unoriginal, and without consequence.
The whole film feels slapped together. *Spoilers* Olaf dies, and I felt nothing and forgot about it, as the film takes away any tension by resorting to stolen “Frosty the Snowman” logic about water having memory, allowing him to later be restored as if nothing happened. The film makes Elsa and Anna have a brief moral struggle about destroying the dam that nature doesn’t like that will destroy the town they rule, but all the consequences of that are taken away when Elsa decides to use her powers to have her cake and eat it too by simply protecting the town with a wall of ice. It really diminishes the main conflict of the film as a minor dispute that really wasn’t that big of a deal in the first place, not at all warranting the 30 year magical separation the nature spirit elements imposed between Arendelle and the Northuldra.
Elsa even befriends a water horse elemental that initially tried to drown her in the same sea her parents drowned (95 percent certain that horse killed her parents), and it’s never brought up again or addressed, because it is clear that that horse only exists to sell “Frozen” toys.
This is all a shame, because “Frozen 2″‘s soundtrack is legitimately good, though it comes nowhere close to as great as the first film’s soundtrack. It’s too bad that most of the songs are introduced and implemented horribly in the film. “Frozen 2” feels like a bad movie adaptation of a musical at times, with its numbers often distracting from the action on screen rather than enhancing it.
It really feels like the studio ordered the filmmakers to include a certain amount of musical numbers in the film that were already recorded, and didn’t care how they were included. And because of this, “Frozen 2” feels like a movie that was written and recorded in six months rather than a project the studio had six years to think about.
The animation is also nothing special, at times feeling like a film that came out six years ago rather than a modern film made by one of the best CG animation studios.
Don’t expect a lot of sense or deep themes from this sequel, but be sure to pick up the soundtrack.
“Frozen 2” gets a 5/10