Fans of the original will no doubt go into Frozen 2 with an equal amount of anticipation and trepidation; even big Disney fans may not be convinced that a sequel was entirely necessary for anything more than financial gain. Whilst those concerns are at times justified, Frozen 2 does offer enough enjoyment and depth to warrant itself a place as one of the better Disney sequels.
Frozen 2 Expands the Story and Lore
Frozen 2 centers around Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Sven going on a journey to a hidden enchanted forest after Elsa hears a voice calling to her. This voice causes Elsa to unintentionally free elemental spirits that had once been in conflict with their grandfather — a fight that ended with the spirits’ disappearance and the forests’ inhabitants (including some Arendelle soldiers and a tribe called the Northuldra) encased everyone an impassable mist. Together they must set off to discover the secrets of the past, and save the kingdom.
It’s a far more mature storyline this time around, acknowledging that younger fans of the first film will have grown, and feeling very much like a fantasy story set in a world where magic and reality coexist. However, while there is some interesting world-building, a little more in terms of explanations would have been nice. Magic is tossed around here and there, but is never fully examined, and there are also some politics thrown in; a good deal of the story focuses on the treatment of the indigenous Northuldra tribe of the forest by the previous King of Arendelle. Though a little all over the place at times due to some uneven pacing, the story is nevertheless captivating, enjoyable, and thought-provoking. It’s also nice to see two Disney female characters as major players in a fantasy story rather than one merely centered on romance and marriage and will appeal to little girls who think all that lovey-dovey stuff is gross.
There is also more depth given to most of the returning characters, specifically Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), and their parents, whose deaths in the first film are explained here. However, the new characters are a bit hit and miss in terms of development. Northuldra tribe members Honeymaren and Ryder seemed interesting at first, but are then ignored past initial introductions. However Lieutenant Matthias — one of the trapped Arendellians — is a welcome new face who is charming and funny enough to earn his place amongst the cast. The only character who seems to have been given a backseat is Kristoff. He is pretty much left behind as soon as the main narrative begins, which feels like a bit of injustice (even Olaf the sentient snowman gets more development than he does).
Interestingly, the tone can be a little jarring at times. One particularly odd moment comes when Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) gets his solo — an absolutely brilliant mockery of 80s and 90s cheesy pop ballads and their accompanying music videos. Kristoff dramatically (and hysterically) throws himself around the forest with his reindeer, Sven, who sings and broods along with him. Pop culture references are rife, including a chuckle-worthy nod to the band Queen. There is no denying the moment’s greatness, but it is immediately followed by one of the saddest scenes in the film, where Anna and Elsa find the wreckage of their parent’s ship — and the last image of the former royals’ life. The emotional charge is stunning here, and the incredible animation showing Elsa and Anna’s horrified expressions made it all the more impactful; yet, it felt incredibly jarring after such a funny sequence. The need to appeal to an older audience with a darker sequel is often at war with the rampant fun and humor in Frozen 2.
There are also continuity issues that support the whole ‘unnecessary sequel’ argument, as more people are shown to have known of the existence of magic. An incredibly predictable twist even has Elsa and Anna’s mother shown to have connections with the elements, which makes the decision to lock up the younger Elsa make even less sense. Certain plot points make it seem like Frozen 2 is struggling to warrant its existence, and there are one too many callbacks to the first film to attempt this justification. Though a particular reference involving Olaf re-enacting the events of the original film is one of the funniest parts of the movie, it also feels like a little too much winking and nudging to remind audiences of previous huge success.
Frozen 2 is Visually Stunning
Still, one can’t discuss a Disney film without talking about the animation, and Frozen 2 is visually stunning from start to finish. From the glistening ice that Elsa creates to the incredible detail of every single tree in the forest, the craft here deserves much praise. A standout scene sees Elsa battling the waves with her ice, and confronting a mystical water spirit that takes the form of a horse; it’s amazing to look at in every sense, and in fact, the whole film is vibrant, beautiful, and one of the best looking animations to date.
The Soundtrack and Changing Tones of the Franchise
Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez also outdo themselves with the soundtrack, a task that seemed impossible after the behemoth that was “Let it Go.” Like the rest of Frozen 2, the songs have matured this time around, and feel more akin to a Broadway musical than ever before. “Into the Unknown,” sung by Elsa and the mysterious voice that calls to her (performed beautifully by Norwegian artist Aurora) seems to want to be the new “Let it Go,” but “Show Yourself” is actually far more affecting, despite its evident show-tune style.
Idina Menzel once again shines and gives Elsa the gravitas she deserves; her soft-spoken performance perfectly captures Elsa’s shy nature while speaking, but her belting vocals are second to none for her songs. Kristoff’s aforementioned pop-rock ballad “Lost in the Woods” is also a highlight, as Jonathan Groff rocks the intense cheese amazingly well. Another standout is Anna’s solo, “The Next Right Thing.” It’s a song that could easily be an anthem for anyone struggling, and Kristen Bell brings heaps of emotion.
Josh Gad’s song as Olaf is expectedly pretty funny (and a little irritating), whilst Evan Rachel Wood’s lullaby as Queen Iduna is a quieter number that may quickly become a fan favourite. Only “Some Things Never Change,” a sickly sweet opening number for all the characters, falls a little flat with intentional awkward foreshadowing. Christophe Beck’s score is just as magical, with even more emphasis on the Nordic themes. The music may not become as iconic as that of Frozen, but it is a definite reflection of the maturing audience and changing tones of the franchise.
Though it sometimes finds itself struggling to justify its purpose, Frozen 2 expands the right elements from the first film. The characters are more relatable, and the concept of magic within the world is expanded (even if not entirely elaborated). The music is strong, if not quite as iconic, and the animation is dazzling. Despite plot holes consistent with a story crafted only because of its highly successful predecessor, Frozen 2 is still engrossing, enchanting, and highly likely to spawn more adventures in the franchise.