Would you look at that! I actually made it to a movie while it was still in the theaters. As a Christmas treat, my family went to see Frozen 2. I think I was probably more excited about it than my kids. I LOVED everything about Frozen and had high hopes for the sequel.
At the end of Frozen, Anna and Elsa have finally rebuilt their relationship as loving sisters and have overcome Elsa’s fear of her unique magic. In the process, they also showed Hans that true love is far more powerful than greed. It was a wonderfully well-balanced story that rocked between humor and powerful moments of self-realization.
Frozen 2 picks up a few years later. We kick off the story with a prologue showing Anna and Elsa as adorable little girls. The King tells them a bedtime story about how the elemental spirits were angered and formed a magical barrier locking everyone out of the Enchanted Forest. Yes, it’s literally called that. Using a prologue like this is important, because it makes it feel like this new story line always existed, even before the success of Frozen 1.
What would have been more effective is if they managed to make some cryptic mention of the mist-shrouded Enchanted Forest in the first movie, but I digress.
Fast forward to several years after the events of Frozen 1 and we see Anna, Elsa, Cristoff, and Olaf generally enjoying life as grownups. Elsa starts hearing a magical call that no one else can hear. After repeated attempts to ignore it, she bursts out into the song intended to be this film’s version of “Let it Go.” It even happens at the same point in the film. For my writer friends, this is the inciting incident. The whole movie is very literally textbook Hero’s Journey, if you keep track of things like that.
I don’t do spoilers, so let the vagueness begin.
Elsa is determined to find out where the call is coming from so she sets out on a quest. Anna insists on coming. Ever since the whole frozen heart incident, she’s pretty dead set on staying by Elsa’s side – forever. (see what I did there?) They set off with Cristoff and Olaf and by the virtue of Elsa’s powers are able to get through the mist.
One revelation follows another until we reach an epic showdown where both Anna and Elsa are in very real mortal danger. To survive, they must resolve a conflict that started years before either of them were born, the heart of the problem behind the formation of the mist.
There was so much potential for this movie to be amazing . When it came to beautiful animation, stunning settings, and engaging characters, this film truly did have all the elements of what could have been an amazing experience. However, there was so much crammed in there, that the movie ended up falling flat for me. It was simply trying too hard.
For me, the complexity killed it. Not only do we have a much larger cast, but also two distinct cultures in addition to the people of Arendelle. We meet the people to the north which are the equivalent to an indigenous tribe and the elemental powers belonging to a mysterious magical island isolated in the North Sea. Even as a seasoned storyist, I struggled to remember who was doing what and why.
There’s also a whole lot of more mature angst. Olaf has this running gag about what it must be like to be old and mature because he’s figuratively still only a few years old. He sings a song about it, surprise. Cristoff is trying to propose to Anna and failing over and over, and he sings a song about it as well. Yep, that’s the one you’ve probably heard about, the 80s rock ballad. Anna and Elsa struggle with the death of their parents and trying to protect each other and Arendelle, and both sing a lot about it. And then there’s the angst of all the secondary characters as well. Like I said. Complex.
Does all this angst get resolved? Come on, this is Disney. Of course it does. Are the solutions ingenious and surprising, but still make sense? I’ll give that a solid 60%. They hint at the solution hoards of times so when it happens it’s like, duh.
In Frozen 1, the themes were “love conquers fear” with a splash of “follow your heart.” In Frozen 2, they beat you over the head with the theme as “take the next right step.” It’s not as compelling to say the least.
I would recommend this movie to those who fell in love with the characters of the original movie and are happy to just see them again. They’ve grown up, developed their personalities and interests, and have become more complex and interesting people. Those who love folklore and magical origins and lots of familial angst, this movie will definitely scratch that itch is well.
Honestly, it’s not a bad movie. It just doesn’t have the same kind of punch as the first. But I would warn those who were hoping for a similar mind-blowing powerful experience as the first movie, that you might be disappointed. They tried to shoehorn in so much that it felt forced and even, dare I say, gimmicky.
I rate Frozen II 3 out of 5 stars
Psst! It’s cover reveal week for the rerelease of Stonebearer’s Betrayal – here’s a sneak peek! Launch day is January 2nd, and preorders will open soon!