Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Frozen. One of the most massive, popular, and heavily advertised (to a fault) movies ever made under the Disney name sure reached out to a lot of people, hasn’t it? With its intriguing characters, strong music, and thoughtful writing, it became a touchstone of Disney animation. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of my favorites, I still respect the movie for all that it accomplished as a movie.
So, how would that all fare with a sequel, Frozen II, being out and about?
For the past few years, what Disney lacked in artistic merit through its live action remakes, it made up for dearly with the artistic merit found in its sequels. Many of them continued the story of the previous film, just like a good sequel should, and they did so with some of the actors and the creative team of the original being brought back for the job. Even though I thought of the first Frozen as good, but not great, when I saw the promos for this movie, I secretly hoped that it would live up to our expectations and be as good a movie, if not better, as the first Frozen was.
Frozen II was not a good movie. Instead, it was a great movie. Not only did it continue the story, but it went as far as to build up on it.
Anna and Elsa have grown closer as sisters than ever before while they had Arandelle under their rulership and Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf on their side. Then, one day, Elsa kept hearing a strange voice calling out to her, and she was hesitant to respond due to what she had to put up with three years ago. But, curiosity got the best of her, so she, along with Anna and all their friends, ventured out to seek the source of the voice. In so doing, they ventured into the Enchanted Forest, which was subject to a permanent autumn and was closed off from the outside world by a thick, magical blanket of fog. There, they crossed paths with a tribe called the Northuldras, who went to war against the Arandellians a long time ago, and were about to slowly discover the source not just of the voice, but also of Elsa’s ice powers.
Now, I noticed some people say they had problems with the story and found it a bit hard to follow. While I do acknowledge that the execution was a bit bumpy, I didn’t mind it at all, mostly because of what the movie promised. And that was where Elsa got her ice powers, how she would've put them to good use, and what connections everyone and everything the main characters encountered had with Anna and Elsa’s past. In fact, I remembered how Grand Pabbie, the chief troll, said:
We have always feared Elsa’s powers were too much for this world. Now we must hope they are enough.
Not to mention, according to the movie’s general summary, Elsa was meant to save Arandelle as she discovered the origin of her ice powers. As I walked in to see the movie, the biggest question I had for it can be summed up in just two words:
That was the hook that reeled me in, and all in all, the plot presented itself as a fascinating, compelling backbone for the entire Frozen franchise. And judging the story in a circumstantial manner, ‘complex’ is the word I would use to describe it, and to me, as long as the chips fall where they may, that rarely fails.
The more I thought about it, I felt blown away by the characters, both old and new.
Case in point: Elsa. In the last movie, she was mostly afraid of revealing herself and her ice powers to anyone, least of all Anna, in the hopes of keeping them safe from harm. And when her ice powers were revealed, she reacted to it fearfully, then with rebellious boastfulness, and then finally, with self-acceptance. Here, she was more than just self-accepting. When she heard the voice, she was willing to keep on searching until she found it, even if it meant covering great distances and even putting her life on the line. This made me see her as establishing the same confidence that her sister did, and this added to her development and complexity as a character.
I admired just how strong-willed Anna has become in this movie. Don’t get me wrong, she already was brave during the last movie, but it’s pretty cool to see her try to support her sister in her decisions even if she was in her "I can’t lose you again" mode. And whenever things started to look more bleak for her, she still had a burning urge to keep going until she finally set things right. In which case, she was allowed to grow as her own person with hefty capabilities. In a way, she had pretty much developed as a character, too.
Olaf was still the same gleeful, somewhat oblivious goofball of a snowman that he was in the last movie, though I generally thought he added nothing new to the movie outside of its sense of levity. But even then, his wisecracks and ways of delivering that levity were, comedically speaking, timed out nicely. And, in the few moments where he did acknowledge some of the more unnerving dilemmas, they all felt mostly genuine. Believe it or not, while I’ll refrain myself from giving away the details, there was one scene involving Olaf that really felt like a gut-punch, I felt so sorry for him. It’s not often where a movie makes you pour your heart out to someone you wouldn’t expect to be that invested in, and I congratulate the movie for that.
Kristoff was an interesting case. Outside of still being the sensible, sarcastic guy with hints of him being a reindeer whisperer that he was in the first movie, his role in Frozen II was similar to that of Bernard from The Rescuers Down Under: he tried to propose to Anna throughout the movie only to be cut off in every opportunity that he had. Except instead of outside forces, it was due to either miscommunications between him and Anna or being separated from her while she was out to help Elsa. Normally, I would’ve taken an issue with that, but seeing how that, at the end of the last film, he was at a loss as to how to express his love to Anna, I found it intriguing to see him work up the nerve to do exactly that while still having her back before having her back.
Anna and Elsa’s parents were completely more complex and interesting than they were in the last movie, and were established as being far more than just well-meaning but uncertain parents. The father, named Agnarr, was with his father (and Anna and Elsa’s grandfather), King Runeard, when he constructed a dam as a treaty gift to the Northuldras before the two sides went to war with Agnarr caught in-between it. And the mother, Iduna, had a crucial role in Agnarr’s and Elsa’s lives that I’d insist that you see for yourself.
The new characters were really neat. As a tribe, the Northuldras were very interesting, with their resemblances to typical Sami people and their mastery/worship of magic. One of the most notable characters I remembered was Ryder, who was a master reindeer whisperer, and I really wished that he and Kristof got to spend more time together onscreen. They both seemed to share a lot in common, and it would’ve been cool to see them make connections for both the Northuldras and Arandelle.
The group of Arrandellian soldiers who were trapped in the Enchanted Forest with the Northuldras, and against whom they went to war for quite some time, were just as interesting, especially Mattias. They established commitment in their duties as soldiers from the past, as well as someone who knew Anna and Elsa’s father, and when they, the queen and princess of Arrandale, came to settle things, it was interesting to see how they would've reacted to it and how they would've made compromises in such matters.
The elemental spirits were just awesome. They obviously embodied fire, water, earth, and air, and both their similarities and differences were very creative. They ranged from a gust of wind with scattered leaves that Olaf nicknamed “Gale”, an alluring yet slightly spooky horse made of water called the Nokk, a wisp of fire that turned out to be a cute little salamander named Bruni, and a group of earth giants. The last of the elemental spirits were especially cool because outside of blending in with the environment, they were intimidating and threatening compared to someone like Marshmallow.
Once again, just like in the last movie, there were four songs that stood out to me.
The first was Iduna’s song, “All is Found”. What started off as a lullaby to Anna and Elsa grew into a beautiful and cryptic song that poetically hinted at Elsa’s heritage, as well as the events about to occur in the movie. The setup and conveyance of its message gave a retrospective impression that it had elements of a memory as well as those of a prophecy underneath its soothing melody. It was very creative and very mystifying.
The second was the top-billed song, “Into the Unknown”. Besides the blossoming power of Idina Menzel’s singing voice and the grand, upbeat music, I was amazed by its play of emotions. It went everywhere with the expressions, from temptations, to denial, to uneasiness, and to bold acceptance, and they all jibed nicely with Elsa's complicated feelings about being called to seek the source of the voice calling out to her. While the song was not as powerful as "Let it Go", its complexity and emotions acted as its muscles, and they were flexed to great effect.
The third song was “Lost in the Woods”. This song was mellow and soulful, but also witty and hilarious, and the tonal balance was captured nicely through the visual and vocal performances. Kristoff, in his lovesickness over Anna, sang about the emotional spectrum he was going through...while Sven and a whole herd of reindeer sang as backup singers in his imagination. I noticed shortly after watching the movie that, according to the Lopezes, the whole number was inspired by the pop ballad music videos of the 1980s. In which case, the satire/homage played out nicely while still sticking to its focus on Kristoff.
And the fourth song was "The Next Right Thing". This had to be, hands-down, one of the most melancholy songs from Disney in years. I won't give away what happened in the movie that led to this song, but it started off with a contemplatively sad reflection on the travesties that occurred beforehand. Then, as the song continued, it encouraged the will to press on in spite of, or, arguably, because of, those travesties. After all, as it said, doing the next right thing is of the utmost importance. This gave the song a more bittersweet angle to it.
The only song that I thought was a little out of place, stylistically and thematically, was Olaf's solo number, "When I Am Older". In this song, Olaf sang about the strange events occurring around him, and that, as he saw it, it would've made more sense to him when he gets older, all while the elemental spirits started messing with him. Not all the lyrics being sung matched the environment Olaf was in, and because of that, part of this song felt like a missed opportunity. If the song went into his imagination like "In Summer" did in the last movie, while flipfopping back and forth between that and the real-world pranks being pulled on Olaf, maybe then the song would've been funnier and more substantial.
But that's only one stylistically misplaced song. In fact, as a collective whole, I seem to like the music in this movie better than in the last one.
It goes without saying, but the development in technology was super kind to the animation. The environments were much grander in scale than in the last movie, and they, as well as the seasons, were displayed in all of their natural beauty. You can also see many more details in the hair, clothes, armor, ground, water, and even skin; I remembered seeing some freckles on Anna’s face. And the tidal waves as Elsa was on the beach? They were some of the best that’s ever been put together in a movie. I can tell that Disney was doing its best to push the animation envelope with each passing movie, sequels included, and it shows through Frozen II.
But it gets better. Remember what I said about the last Frozen and how I thought it did a nice job of balancing out the magical elements with hard-edged reality? Well, in this followup, both sides of the spectrum, and the stakes within, were completely raised to the next level.
To start things off, I really fell in love with the mythical approach this movie took. And when I say mythical, I don’t mean the fairytale oriented kind; I mean, the ancient, ancestral, native-settler oriented kind. The magical phenomena occurring in the movie were unlike any that I’ve seen in the last movie, where it was just the trolls and Elsa‘s ice powers. Here, the magic occurred within the Enchanted Forest as if it was a normality. And, the Northuldras looked upon it worshipingly, especially that of the elemental spirits, as if they were the work of gods. Because this discovery was just one of several major steps necessary for Elsa to uncover the origins of her ice powers, this added a level of ethereality to the movie.
And, as for the realism, this is where I’ll have to tread on spoiler territory, so skip to the end if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
As Anna and Elsa uncovered the past, they found out that the dam that King Runeard constructed for the Northuldras was made as a distraction while he set out to kill the Northuldras, starting with their leader. He did so out of fear from what their mastery of magic might have unleashed onto the real world, especially onto Arandelle, and that was what jumpstarted the war between the Arandellians and the Northuldras, as well as what compelled the spirits to close off the Enchanted Forest from the outside world. And this was all after Anna, Elsa, and especially Agnarr, thought of Runeard as a peaceful, negotiable leader.
This was fantastic for two reasons. One, even though there was a bad guy that caused the conflicts occurring in the movie, there was none in the movie's present. So for Disney to craft a compelling movie without the need of a villain, let alone an active villain, especially compared to the first Frozen, was a breath of fresh air. Two, much like how the last film discussed about being too open with other people vs. being too sheltered from society, this movie brings up an issue that, in this day and age, is actually very important for us to learn: learning from the sins of the past, and of our forefathers, to improve our future.
Why am I bringing this up the way I am?
Well, for starters, look at how many people across the country don’t believe that the Holocaust, the order Adolf Hitler gave to massacre thousands upon thousands of Jews, ever happened. Or how many Confederate statues have been taken down all because it aroused some angry outbursts and unnerving memories of a time when African-Americans, under bondage, were treated as nothing more than animals. Or how about, dare I say it, how many people wanted to destroy a freaking painting in San Francisco all because it depicted George Washington and his troops marching over the corpses of massacred Indians!
Yes, they were heinous acts of prejudice, and we are not wrong to feel ashamed of the atrocities we committed as human beings. But when we are confronted by these truths, is ignoring or rewriting them the best way to move forward and make the world a better place? Especially for future generations?
The simplest and most obvious answer is: never.
Whether we want to or not, we deserve to give our utmost acknowledgment to our true-to-fact histories so that we won’t be compelled to make any more mistakes. As George Santayana made perfectly clear:
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Frozen II encourages us to remember it with the conditions of the Northuldras and the actions Anna and Elsa took as princess and queen of Arandelle upon discovering the truth. This, consequently, added a level of epicness to the movie that even I thought from time to time was vacant in the first movie.
Altogether, while this movie was not without its flaws, it was undoubtedly a worthy followup to one of the biggest animated movies of all time. Frozen II benefited from a musical cohesion and a narrative strength, and as a result, this movie felt a bit better than the last one. At first, I thought the flaws that were most noticeable would have weighed this movie down to being on a lower level than the first Frozen. But as I let it sit, the flaws, while worth addressing, only grew to become more insignificant.
If the first Frozen was Anna's kind of movie, then the second Frozen was Elsa's kind of movie. Give it a watch, it'll be that worth the wait.
Frozen: B+ Frozen II: A-
Admit it. Over the past couple of years alone, we've had quite a healthy lineup of followups that managed to put the equal in sequel, haven't we? Think about it, we have:
Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mary Poppins Returns (to an extent)
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (again, to an extent)
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Toy Story 4
Spider-Man: Far From Home
And pretty soon, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.