Frozen is one of the most culturally significant movies to have been released this decade. With Frozen II now out in theaters, is this film able to retain the magic the first one had or does it “Let it Go”?
I remember when Frozen was released into theaters. I was a freshman in high school and was going through a bizarre “Disney fandom” phase. It was my favorite film I saw in theaters that year due to its songs, characters, animation, and magical sense of adventure present through every frame. To my shock at the time, the film would go on to be the highest grossing animated film of all time, before being overthrown by 2019’s remake of the Lion King, and a cultural phenomenon. Audiences simply could not get enough of Frozen and they too fell in love particularly with the songs and characters. In fact, Elsa’s main song in the film “Let it Go” was played so many times on the radio and any kid’s talent show you went to, people who weren’t fans became sick of it fast.
Further, once Disney saw the financial incentive that came with promoting Frozen as a franchise, it went onto become of the most recognizable brands and one many audience members, including myself as a fan of the original, became sick of. Naturally, Disney sought to expand the market of Frozen with a brand new original film made for theaters. This is a first for Disney as generally whenever a sequel to an animated Disney princess film is made, it is released under the now defunct “Disney Toon Studios” brand and sent straight to home video. This film is brought to you by the same animators who created the original film six years ago and sent to theaters as well. But with that being said, let’s go ahead and look at both Frozen 1 and 2. Are either of these films actually any good?
Frozen is a film that is by no means flawless, but it still is incredibly enjoyable years later.
I’m not sure if I need to explain the plot of the original film, but just in case it tells the story of two sisters named Anna and Elsa who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. It is revealed that Elsa was born with “magical ice powers” in which she can summon ice at will using her hands. She uses the magic at first to play with her sister Anna, but things turn ugly after Anna is struck in the head by Anna’s ice powers. The two are then separated for the rest of their childhood as Elsa is forced to live within the confines of her bedroom while Anna talks to her from the door. With Anna’s memory of the incident having been wiped by “rock trolls” in the forest in order to treat her injury, she lives the rest of her childhood unaware of Elsa’s powers and what she is capable of.
By the time Anna and Elsa are all grown up, the parents have now passed on and Elsa is crowned the new queen. But after Elsa refuses to bless a marriage between Anna and a prince she met that day, her powers are accidentally revealed to not only her sister, but everyone in the kingdom. This then forces Elsa to run off into the mountains where she brings an eternal winter onto the sunny kingdom and it’s up to Anna to get Elsa to bring back the summer.
I re-watched Frozen again before I went out and saw its sequel, and although I do not love this movie as much as I did when I was in high school, I still think it’s pretty good. Frozen is a very fun and delightful adventure that has some fantastic songs, great animation, and fun characters. The film follows the formula we’ve all grown used to from these classic Disney fairy tale movies, but it also modernizes it and does something new with it. It’s a shame the songs were as overplayed as they were because they are admittedly really good songs. Say what you will about “Let it Go,” when you listen to it as its own song, it really is empowering and Idina Menzel’s performance as Elsa is spectacular. She is an extremely talented singer and I have been hooked to whatever project she has decided to take ever since I saw her in this film for the first time.
All the other voice actors do a good job too. Kristen Bell as Anna is really strong, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff isn’t bad, Santino Fontana (who would later play Greg in the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) has a fun role as Hans, and Josh Gad is surprisingly funny as Olaf. In fact, Olaf, a talking snowman created by Anna and Elsa as children, is not annoying as you would expect a comic relief snowman character in a kids film to be. He whispers a lot of his line and much of his humor comes from sarcasm rather than stupidity or annoyance. I remember the 3D presentation of this film being particularly strong as well when I saw in in theaters for the first time.
Although it is annoying to see a children’s film like this be as over hyped as it was, it’s not hard to see why it was. The film is very well crafted and further a very fun enjoyable adventure for the whole family. And I suppose if Disney were to annoyingly shove one of their films onto all its products it releases, this isn’t a bad choice. It’s a very strong movie, I just wish it was not as exposed to the mainstream which therefore ruined its magic for me.
As for Frozen II, it’s hard to see the potential the creators see with this flick, and it’s clear that the only incentive for this blockbuster was to make a few extra dollars.
Despite me being critical of some of the business decisions Disney has taken within the last few years (decision to launch their own streaming service, decision to purchase the entirety of 20th Century Fox, and their reliance on releasing mainly animated sequels and live action remakes being some of the examples of questionable business practices), I was still very excited for Frozen II. I did not go into this movie expecting to dislike it, I was merely hoping for and expecting a fun adventure with the characters I’ve grown to love. The good news is that despite being a vastly inferior film to the original, this does make some attempts at creating a fun adventure. The animation is still spectacular and Elsa performs many creative “tricks” and “spells” with her powers.
Although I feel like everything in this movie is fine, it is all inferior to the original and even feels hastily rushed. The songs aren’t as good, the story is nowhere near as good, and the characters have gotten less interesting as well. The only aspect that I feel has gotten improvement was the animation. It’s spectacular to see what they have accomplished with the animation and think it looks gorgeous. The 3D this time around was good too. To discuss my issues with this movie though I will need to go into spoilers. If you do not want this movie spoiled for you, click away now. The overall recommendation I have for this movie is if you want to see this movie because you are a fan of the original and are excited to see these characters again, you may find some enjoyment in this. If you are skeptical about this film and was never a fan of the original anyways, you can easily skip this one.
The first notable issue I can pin point about Frozen II is that it’s very complicated and at times hard to follow. This is especially concerning given that this is an animated adventure dedicated to families. I watched this entire movie and at times struggled to comprehend and make sense of the narrative. The reason for this is that so much lore is introduced and not all of it receives the amount of screen time it should. With the amount of conflicts set up in this film, they could have almost made this an over two hour movie. Everything in the film though is so rushed since they cannot make this movie over 100 minutes given that it is made for children. But what is this movie about exactly? Well here’s the best way I can describe it.
Frozen II takes place three years after the first film ended. The gates of the palace are now wide open and civilians get to enjoy Elsa’s ice powers while still feeling secure under her rule. Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven meanwhile are all living happy lives together with Elsa at Arendelle and Kristoff is even hoping to propose to Anna soon. Problems start to arise though when events from the kingdom’s past start to affect them in bad ways. Elsa feels compelled to follow a mysterious voice which accidentally awakens elemental spirits which leaves the kingdom without resources and forces them to evacuate. It is now up to Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to go north towards a mysterious forest and find out how to bring Arendelle to its once prosperous state.
They enter into the forest, that apparently no one is able to escape from (this movie kinda rips off Annihilation), and find soldiers from Arendelle still in conflict with the Northuldra tribe, which shocks the team given that they had always believed there was a treaty set in the form of the building of a dam. They then are forced to call for a truce as they discover Anna and Elsa’s mother is of Northuldran descent while the father is of Arendellian, a marriage it is assumed would bring the two warring states at peace. You can already start to tell how jam-packed with detail this plot is. You would expect this much lore and background from a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie that’s well above two hours, but to see it in a Frozen movie that’s a little over an hour and a half long is so bizarre to me.
Kristoff and Sven then stay with the tribe as Elsa continues north with Anna and Olaf. She ditches them, however, after she discovers a map to an island known as Ahtohollan which apparently holds the answers to how to end this conflict and how it began in the first place. Elsa goes on her own hoping she can also find the answer to how she got her powers in the first place. It is also in this moment that the ship their mother and father drowned in was found as it turns out they were traveling to this island so they too could help their daughter understand why she has her powers in the first place. Anyone who hoped that they were going to Rapunzel’s wedding is going to be very disappointed when they see that.
Once Elsa reaches the island, though, she finds that the dam was actually built to block resources and halt the growth of the Northuldran civilization. She becomes a sculpture while on the island and Olaf vanishes as Anna is given a sign that the dam is what started the conflict and without much thought, fully acknowledging that Arendelle will perish, she leads a bunch of giant rock trolls to the dam to destroy it. They’re successful in doing so, but Elsa is able to unfreeze at the very last second to stop the water flow from hitting the kingdom and putting it underwater. Elsa then decides Anna is now queen and she decides to live with the Northuldran people forever away from Arendelle. And I didn’t even get to mention that there are five “elemental spirits” that being earth, water, fire, and air and the fifth is Elsa and her powers which were granted to her as a peacemaker and gift to others after her mother married an Arendellian prince to bring the two nations together.
Wow, this is clearly too much lore for a kid’s film. Where do we begin in dissecting all this?
Whenever the film focuses on being an adventure with these characters we’ve all grown to love, the movie is fine. Whenever it takes itself as seriously as it does and decides to delve into its complex lore, the film falls flat. I just don’t understand why the filmmakers felt the need to jam pack as much information about this world’s universe as they did in this movie. Although I respect the filmmakers’ intent to invest its audience into the world and respect their intelligence, it is all information that isn’t necessary in furthering the narrative of this film along. It just feels like “fluff” to make this movie more confusing for children and even adults. It’s also unlikely that any children or even adults are going to be compelled to discuss the politics of the Frozen universe. Children are smart, but they certainly are not smart enough to understand treaties, governmental relations, and the complications of war.
I understand and respect the filmmakers who take their audience seriously, but I think if they want to have this much lore in this universe, it either needs to be saved for a television show or built up and discussed in future movies. Maybe the filmmakers introducing as much lore as they did gives them an excuse to make more movies in the future (which would be a bad idea probably), but even if they want to simply set up this lore, the film should still probably be over two hours. And again, if they’re concerned about the film being too long for kids, take out some lore and don’t make it so complex, because the end result is that this film feels incredibly rushed and convoluted.
The rest of the film and its elements (aside from the animation) are average.
Every other element in this film feels like a downgrade from the first. The songs are good but nowhere near the quality of the songs from the original. One of the worst songs in the whole movie is a song Kristoff gets about how he’s afraid to propose to Anna. The sequence is accompanied with singing reindeer and an early 2000’s boy band style music video. That’s not to say I did not like any of the songs. “Into the Unknown” was an nice song that I hope the radio stations can have remain unknown to the mainstream.
As for the characters, Kristoff does not have much of a character aside from the fact that he wants to propose to Anna but can’t find the right time to do so. So many other movies, especially animated flicks, have done this before and I’m sick of it. It’s not cute or quirky anymore, it’s just annoying. Olaf is annoying this time which is super unfortunate because he was not in the original. His humor is now comprised of how annoying he can be and how much of a bumbling idiot he is, which is odd because they specifically did not do that in the original movie. In fact, they recreate the bit from Shrek 2 where Donkey annoys Shrek and Fiona on their way to the city of Far Far Away. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s just annoying and cringe-worthy. Anna and Elsa are still alright characters though. I really liked the relationship they had with one another, and if anything is to be explored in future films, it should be that. Other than that, though, everything feels rushed and as if not much care was given to its production.
Frozen II is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a while.
It represents the corporate commercial nature that many grew to hate about the first film and doesn’t actually feel like a film but rather a product made by a large company like Disney. Had this film been funnier or more engaging (had a simpler narrative that still took its audience seriously), it probably would have been better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney is on a downward spiral and bad movies like this do not help its case. With the exception of Toy Story 4 and some of the Marvel movies, I have not liked a single Disney film I’ve seen released this year and that is a shame. Yeah, all of their movies have made money, so I guess this was a successful year for them, but I really wish they would focus on art and creativity rather than profit. There’s no soul in any of these movies. This is polished garbage released by a company that we’ve all been brainwashed to trust.
The thing is if they were to focus on the creative aspect of their films, they would still do well. People love going to see a new Disney movie whether it’s a reboot or an original concept. Don’t believe me, how did Zootopia, Coco, and Moana all go onto be successful? I trust Disney so little lately that I still am reluctant about subscribing to Disney+ because I specifically do not want to promote the idea that a single studio can just release their own streaming service.
Disney is a company, not a corporate empire, the idea that they care about you or your enjoyment about any of their products or your approval of their actions is crazy. As long as we continue to give money to them, they are only going to continue to grow. They have money to burn, they can make whatever movies they want. I swear Lars Von Trier could create a disturbing surrealist film under their name that completely abandons their image and likeness and their profits would barely be impacted. If you care at all about Disney and want them to take more risks with their projects, show that to them. Don’t support the crappy movies they put out and don’t give them money to encourage them to continue doing so. Only give them money if you feel them releasing this project in question is beneficial for the industry.
So my final thoughts on this movie though are that if you still really want to see this movie and want to see where these characters end up, you can see it. Just don’t expect the movie to be a masterpiece. If you’re on the fence about this one, skip it. The movie isn’t awful and I understand I’m treating it as if it is awful, I just wish Disney would make good movies again because they are on a downward spiral once again and it depresses me to see.
Written by: Christian Scognamillo