Disney’s sequel to the wildly successful Frozen ventures into places unknown, but still plays it safe. The film, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, is a great improvement from the first film that played like a spoof of fairy tales made famous by Disney themselves, but the weight of the story attempted here might have been too much for it to bear.
Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad) are now a family. Elsa is presumably a successful Queen, whilst Anna and Kristoff continue to grow in their relationship. Olaf remains the same, the goofy and lovable sidekick whose only purpose is to spout comedic lines with every breath, while being annoyingly endearing in doing so. The drama of the film is centred on Elsa’s desire to know more about herself: how her powers came to be and who is behind the siren-like voice beckoning her from the enchanted forest just outside the kingdom.
The sequel kickstarts with a flashback to Anna’s and Elsa’s childhood (pre-Elsa’s isolation in the first film). In this flashback, a lot is revealed about the King’s background and his relationship to the enchanted forest beyond the kingdom. It doesn’t take much nudging from the writers to connect the dots and see that Elsa’s powers are linked to the forest; the how is just in need of explaining. There is a considerable amount of effort done to remedy some of the odd choices made in the first film. Frozen 2 tries to present many answers, but whether they are satisfying is for the audience to decide.
Elsa gives in to the songstress in the wind that calls to her and she inadvertently wakes up the enchanted forest that had been slumbering and impenetrable for some time. This puts Arendelle in danger, and it becomes a race against the magical clock to figure out why the enchanted forest has turned against the kingdom. With Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf in tow, Elsa seeks to find the truth and save her Arandelle. Borrowing from the Moana and Tangled handbook, our central characters go on an epic adventure of self-discovery which uncovers many secrets and undoes mistakes of the past.
Firstly, the animation is spectacular (as is the nature of Disney animated films). There is a lot done to make the characters and their environments pop on screen, and some scenes will have you in awe. Elsa’s powers are fully realised visually, and the enchanted forest is beautifully defined and detailed in pure Disney fashion. From small insignificant details down to the larger picture, the animators and director should be very pleased with the results. Frozen 2 is a vibrant and visually captivating piece, leagues better than its predecessor.
The first Frozen was disappointing in some regards as it played like a satire or spoof of past Disney tales, without giving Elsa and Anna their due in existing in a story of their own. Although a lot is accomplished with the sisterly relationship, all the pieces just didn’t connect with many side characters eating up precious time that could have been spent on developing Elsa’s internal struggles and balancing it with Anna’s adventures. The sequel simply expands on what worked and did not work in the first film, and uses a lot of shorthand to explain the dynamic between the siblings. Elsa again is doubtful and Anna is hardheaded, but they love each other immensely.
Aside from a few arguments about whether it is safe to follow Elsa, the sisters lack a push and pull that indicates how far they have come from their initial riff in the first film, and the movie fails to fully capture the main theme of the film: growth. Elsa is still distant and reluctant to tell Anna anything and makes decisions without discussing them with Anna or explaining her thought process. She still internalises everything, showing a lack of growth from the first film, and lessening the impact of the third act. On the flip side, there is an entire narrative thread following Anna’s and Kristoff’s relationship which Anna is almost completely checked out for as her primary focus is the well-being of her sister. Also, perhaps it seems unthinkable, but Kristoff could have been completely written out and the film would have been better for it. Although he does get a stellar musical number, it is not stellar enough to warrant his presence in a story that he contributes nothing to.
All in all, Frozen 2 is a step up, but the pieces still don’t connect. There are one too many ingredients in this one, and it does nothing more than make things feel shallow and sometimes emotionally manipulative. This isn’t to say that the film is not enjoyable, in fact, it is. Frozen 2 is very funny and endearing, just like a certain snowman. Much like Olaf, the film is well-intentioned and in constant need of reassembling. It isn’t perfect, but still cute and delightful in its own way.
Frozen 2 is in cinemas now
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa Abdi is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick