The original “Frozen” from 2013 was essentially what I would consider to be Disney’s strengths boiled down into an absolute science. While the film wasn’t exactly amazing, it was good enough to recapture the mainstream audience’s attention in singing princesses, making well over a billion dollars along the way. Far more successful than “Monster’s University” and “Planes,” (eughhh) that released the same year, Frozen quickly became the posterchild of Disney’s new quasi-progressive movement, generating a metric ton of income, telling little girls they don’t need a prince to save them (but they still need a boyfriend), and driving everyone across the world crazy with the never-ending cycle of “Let It Go” playing nonstop on every radio station for the next 6 months. But when you have a movie that’s already complete, with very little left over for exploration or meaningful character development, where do you go from there? What can you do to provide an interesting story, especially almost 7 years after the original released? Frozen II essentially answers this question by saying “not much.”
While it’s undeniable that Frozen II is a massive box office smash hit, once again raking in over a billion dollars, it’s a much less interesting and entertaining film than its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of interesting ideas introduced through this not-entirely-unique storyline of the four spirits (air, earth, fire, and wind) being thrown into turmoil and requiring a bridge between the mortal world and the spirit world to set them right once again (I wonder where I’ve heard that before…). The problem is that the execution of these ideas is so messy, vague, and unclear that it creates more questions than answers. And to be honest, I don’t think explaining how Elsa got her powers was ever even a necessity, and I personally preferred them just being a part of her character rather than some kind of rational, specific enchantment determined by science (see: Midichlorians).
So, disregarding my personal gripes with the way the creators have decided to handle the Frozen lore, if you can call it that, another major problem is the emphasis on “change” throughout the movie, despite the fact that nobody actually really changes at all. For some reason, right from the very first song of the film, change is introduced as a motif, as characters sing about how they’re happy nothing will ever change, their lives will always be perfect, and so on. The word “change” will probably be burned into your brain after the first 30 minutes of the movie, and unfortunately the film never really lets it go (pun not intended). For anyone even half-paying attention, this will immediately cement the idea that the audience should constantly be on the look out for when these changes start to take effect, and the consequences these changes will enact upon our characters.
However, despite the countless reminders that change is a constant unavoidable force, nothing actually happens in this movie that can really be classified as genuine “change.” At least in terms of our characters and the way they think, act, and grow as people. Anna briefly learns that she needs to be strong and carry on without the help of anyone else, only to immediately regain the help of Elsa and Olaf less than 5 minutes later. Poor Kristoff, who the plot literally leaves behind to do nothing for half the movie, goes through some relationship turmoil with Anna only to swing back around to loving her the moment they’re reunited. And I guess Elsa learns not to be afraid of her powers anymore and be comfortable with who she is, which I thought was the entire point of the last movie, but I guess not. All of our characters end this movie exactly the same as they started it, only Elsa makes herself a new fancy dress, again.
Also, I just wanted to add that while it may be a topic I am severely unqualified to talk about with any degree of authority, the entire “colonist savior” dynamic this movie has towards traditionally civilized nations and indigenous people feels very bizarre and outdated. In the opening scene of the movie, Anna and Elsa’s father tells them the tale of how his kingdom once gifted a great stone dam to the indigenous northern tribes as a “gift of peace” but during the ceremony celebrating its construction, the tribesmen attacked them all for no reason, which angered the spirits and caused them to entrap the entire forest in a magical fog. Their father would’ve perished in battle if it wasn’t for a mysterious savior, an indigenous girl who is eventually revealed to be their mother.
As such, Elsa is a girl “born of two worlds,” civilized and indigenous, and when the movie eventually reaches its conclusion, Elsa decides that she should leave her position as queen of Arendelle and become the queen of the northern tribes (despite the fact that they already have a leader, and that there doesn’t seem to be any reason why she’s qualified for this position in the first place). In case it isn’t obvious, the real reason the tribesmen attacked Elsa’s father at the start of the film was because the kingdom of Arendelle struck the first blow. Her Grandfather had just murdered the original northern tribe chief after the tribesmen complained to him that the dam was hurting their ecosystem. This act plunged both civilizations into war, only one was allowed to prosper and the other was trapped in a dark foggy forest filled with restless spirits for almost 20 years (guess which one is which). I guess my overall point is that it seems odd how forgiving and accepting the indigenous people are of Elsa as their new leader, especially after the colonist-esque Arendelle army killed their chief, tried to wipe them out for personal gain, and trapped their whole civilization in an inescapable magic fog that literally blocked out the sun. The story just leaves a bit to be desired on that front.
Luckily, what Frozen II lacks in storytelling and nuance, it makes up for in some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen from a 3D animation. While the character models can look a little too polished in close-ups, with absolutely no pores or blemishes, the environments and landscapes are completely breathtaking throughout. It’s pretty obvious that great-looking locations were the focus of Disney’s animation team this time, and the entire aesthetic of the movie is gorgeous. The music is also pretty good, though it definitely has its blemishes. The overly-long and ultimately pointless Kristoff rock ballad knockoff probably could’ve been axed. However, “Into the Unknown” is fantastic and far worthier of attention compared to the Katy Perry inspired “Let It Go” of the original film. I only wished the song finished as strongly as it starts.
Overall, Frozen II is a decent movie, it just doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to be. The characters from the original film already went through some pretty major arcs, so coming up with interesting things for them to do in a sequel was already a difficult task. Combine that with the fact that there’s no real antagonist, the plot is messy, and there’s a lot of pretty major logical gaps, and you’ve got the recipe for a disappointing continuation of an already-closed story. As I said before, there’s no denying Frozen II is a financial hit, and I’m sure it will continue to make money long after the movie exits theaters. I only wish it had an interesting story to pair with all its great atmosphere and artwork. And also make Elsa a lesbian already you cowards. Or at least confirm she’s asexual.
5/10 – Average