Frozen II takes us into the unknown

Follow our familiar heroes as they desperately attempt to do the next right thing to save Arendelle from destruction

Frozen II

Starring Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad

It’s 2013. A Disney film hits the theatres. Within the first ten minutes, you are sat in your movie seat crying: Their parents are dead? Elsa won’t let Anna in?? These poor, poor girls! A Disney film that made a cultural tidal wave. Let It Go haunted many parents’ nightmares, while simultaneously becoming an LGBTQ+ anthem. Idina Menzel rocketed back into popularity, even performing on the Oscars, as well as scooping up two. It was a movie that spoke to me, personally, in the way that it represented familial relationships. It felt so familiar to me, in the way that I have often felt with my middle brother, when looking at Anna and Elsa.

The excitement that I felt upon learning that there would be a Frozen II was only dampened by the concept that it might not be as high a quality that the first one was. My fears that it would be a cash grab opportunity, however, were quietened principally by the six-year gap that came between the two instalments. Clearly, Disney are as protective over the franchise as the fans are. In my view, I believe that Frozen II more than matches up to the original, if not surpassing it.

In the eyes of the critics, Frozen II holds a 76% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while Frozen received 90%. Comparatively, however, fans have gifted Frozen II 93% compared to 85% for Frozen. The criticisms levied at Frozen II have been a convoluted plot, or some people viewing the songs as not equal to the quality of the first one (however, considering the myriad inconsistencies in that review, I’m choosing to ignore the blatant negativity bias).

Frozen II follows our familiar characters as they go on a quest to save their kingdom. Elsa has been hearing a mysterious voice, which leads her to accidentally awaken the magical elemental spirits of earth, wind, fire and water that drive the citizens out of their homes in Arendelle. This reminds Elsa and Anna of a story that their father told them of an enchanted forest called Northuldra, in which the indigenous people are at one with the spirits. Years before, in their father’s youth, the entire forest was sealed off from the rest of the world by a mysterious mist, following a bizarre confrontation between the Arendelle forces and the native Northuldra. The quest takes the group on an epic journey that leaves all of them changed. In particular, it provides us with a satisfactory answer to where Elsa’s powers originated, and plays to the strengths of the first film. The film continues to put Anna and Elsa’s relationship centrally, giving Anna agency and purpose even though she is not the superpowered sister, providing Olaf with plenty of opportunity for hilarity (a particular highlight is when he retells the story of Frozen to the inhabitants of Northuldra), and further develops Kristoff’s character.

The animation within this film is spectacular. The depictions of nature are stunning, and the ambition of the creators is evident. The new setting of the forest, with masses of autumnal silver birch trees is a refreshing change from the relatively white-washed icy scenes of the first movie. The depictions of the angry elemental spirits is also impeccably achieved, through the use of erratic, spitting purple flames and a fluidly moving water horse to depict the water spirits.

The music nicely adds to this. All of the songs in this soundtrack sound much more tonally consistent compared to the original. Personally, I found the songs in the original quite eclectic in their offerings, while Frozen II sonically sounds more like a Broadway soundtrack. Into the Unknown is the most similar to Let it Go, but all of the songs in the film have the potential to be a break-out hit. Driving and inspirational, both Into the Unknown and Show Yourself are hugely emotive and push the story forward with a real punch. Kristoff is also given time to shine on Lost in the Woods, in a rare moment of Disney poking fun at themselves, while Anna’s solo The Next Right Thing is simply heartbreaking.

Bringing the action to new locations during the course of this second instalment does mean that we miss out on some fan favourites, such as Oaken, and Marshmallow. However, the reduction of the cast to focus mainly on Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff is certainly the right move, as these characters are the main reason for the enduring appeal of the first film. There are also some really quite dark scenes, which made me sob not just once, but twice. (And I very rarely cry.)

As for the criticisms levied against the convoluted nature of the plot, any concerns I had about the legitimacy of Frozen II were dispelled within the first five minutes. The storyline does not seem superfluous or money grabbing. It feels thoroughly earned, and this matches with the intent of the filmmakers that this film served more as a Broadway Act 2. Frozen and Frozen II definitely feel like one story, but Frozen II feels more emotionally mature and grounded. It has more security in what it is trying to achieve, and doesn’t feel the need to strike the audience in the face with it. It is a quiet and assured confidence, which helps it to succeed and – in my view – surpass the original.

I don’t want to spoil too much, as I want as many of you as possible to go and see it. Exactly what Disney should be: enjoyable for the children and also a delight for the adults who can appreciate it on a different level, with a killer soundtrack, and stunning visuals.

Frozen II is showing in cinemas now.

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