A worthy sequel to the 2013 phenomenon
Review by Gabriela Delgado
After the billion dollar success of Disney Animation’s hit Frozen (2013), the prospect of a sequel seemed to be more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. The film became the third highest grossing film of 2013, occupied the box office top 10 for sixteen consecutive weeks, and, more importantly, became a musical phenomenon with children and adults alike. It took the studio six years to take us back to the frosty land of Arendelle, home to Elsa, Anna and co., but Frozen II proves that it’s sometimes better to take your time perfecting something before letting it go.
After my enjoyable first experience at IMAX (Maleficent 2), I decided to treat myself to the 1 pm showing of Frozen II on Black Friday 2019, November 29th. I’ve long been a huge fan of Disney in all its forms, and I even had the pleasure to work at Disney World a couple of years ago. As I sat down in between a young couple and a family of four, I recalled, with fondness, that I’d had to sell quite a few Elsa and Anna toys to excited children and older fans as part of my job at Disney.
Those memories, in tandem with the fact that I’ve loved Frozen since it first came out years ago, set the bar quite high for the sequel since the second it was announced. Fortunately for other Frozen fans such as myself, the wait was well worth it. Frozen II is as magical as its predecessor and, though it doesn’t completely achieve Frozen‘s level of originality and impact, it delivers a heartfelt story full of great characters and catchy musical numbers. It proves once again that Disney remains unmatched in the American market when it comes to animation.
Frozen II sees sisters Elsa and Anna, accompanied by friends Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, on an adventure that leads them to discover their parents’ past and the origin of Elsa’s powers. Their journey takes them through a magical forest and a mighty ocean, and introduces new characters that expand on the world Elsa and Anna live in, building on Arendelle’s history. The plot is, perhaps, the weakest element of the film. It introduces a complex story that is meant to tie into the loose ends left over from the first movie, but it ultimately feels conveniently placed rather than organic. Frozen was light on the lore and rich on the emotions, and that is what made it so accessible for the general public. Frozen II on the other hand, tries too hard to seem bigger and grander by concentrating a little too much on plot, rather than on character development like the first one so famously did.
Elsa and Anna are once again the forces that drive the entire film, and their sisterly bond is nicely complemented by a deeper dive into their relationship with their late parents. The film also explores romantic love like the first one did by—hilariously—introducing Kristoff’s dilemma with trying to propose and not finding the right moment.
Fans who were anxiously anticipating a partner for Elsa will be disappointed to know that Disney didn’t deliver this time. I was one of the many who were actively campaigning all over the Internet for Elsa to find herself a girlfriend, as her character had resonated strongly with the LGBTQ+ community and the feelings expressed in “Let It Go”. While the film has Elsa interact with a new female character named Honeymaren, they are not given enough time to even develop a friendship. It was disappointing but not surprising.
The music and the animation, on the other hand, were far from mediocre: they were superb. I thoroughly enjoyed every song in the film, from Elsa’s enchanting solo “Into the Unknown”—which was immediately added to my Spotify playlist after I left the theatre—to Kristoff’s priceless, classic rock anthem “Lost in the Woods”. Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff, both of whom I’ve been a fan of for a few years, brought their best energy to the songs and gave them the precise amount of emotion they needed. Both songs have been re-released as singles by Panic! At the Disco and Weezer respectively. Additionally, Korean singer Taeyeon released a Korean-language version of “Into the Unknown”, as did David Bisbal for the Spanish version of the film.
As for the animation, Disney Animation continues their steady rise as one of the best studios under the House of Mouse for their attention to detail. The animations of water, in particular, were wonderfully realistic, elevating the quality of the film and helping set the mood for some of the more intense scenes. The colour palette for Frozen II is much warmer than in Frozen, focusing on the reds and oranges of Autumn rather than the colder blues that followed Elsa everywhere she went in the first film.
Frozen II isn’t everything I wanted, but I left far from let down. It almost made me cry several times throughout the story, made me like Elsa even more than I already did, and gave me songs that I’ll be listening to non-stop for the next few weeks.
While the plot verges on convoluted, the film retains the emotional depth, typical of Disney, that enchanted the audience with its first installment. It is definitely worth watching, and you’ll leave the theatre humming at least one of the songs, I guarantee it.
see also Aurora Frewin’s review