Six years ago, Disney released Frozen, a new take on the classic fairy tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson. While there was no doubt that it was going to be another hit for the studio, no one expected it to be as big as it was. Surprising everyone, even the studio, with a massive $1.2 billion gross at the box office, the film almost instantly became another cultural icon from Disney.
So, of course, the studio became interested in cashing in on that success. Frozen immediately became the forefront of Disney’s merchandise, with several toys, books, and other products being produced. Also, despite not actively producing a full sequel, they did release a new Frozen-related short every two years, with Frozen Fever in 2015 and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure in 2017.
Now that Frozen has become a staple of the studio’s library of animated classics, the time has come for the official sequel, Frozen II. Despite being massively anticipated, the real question is; how will people take it? The reception for the franchise itself has gone from positive to mixed thanks to how much Disney has already mined out of it, and because of those theatrical shorts, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since the original.
There’s also the task of trying to meet the already massive expectations of the ones who are looking forward to it. It is any sequel’s job to try and live up to, or even surpass, the film that came before it. With the original already not so deep with its mythology, how was this film going to expanded on the world and characters we’ve been established to? In the end, how is this film going to live up to the legacy set by its predecessor?
Well, our journey back to the kingdom of Arendelle will attempt that very task. Three years after the first film, sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) hold a peaceful life along with their friends Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). But things aren’t as peaceful as they may seem. Elsa has been hearing a call, coming from the mountains above their home, and answering it may prove dangerous for her people.
Faced with the possible destruction of Arendelle, Elsa vows to find this voice and save their home. Accompanied by her friends and family, their journey takes them to an enchanted forest far in the north, guarded by the spirits of the elements. There, they must uncover the secrets of their pasts and fight to protect everything they love from a changing world they’re not sure they’re ready for.
This seems like the right direction to go for a sequel. After establishing us to the world, now the task is to expand it and make us see it in a whole new light, while giving us more of what we loved from the original, and the filmmakers are certainly up to the task. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee have crafted a story that takes their beloved characters and does something very different with them.
It’s true, Frozen II is not as good as the original. It features less memorable songs, jokes that tread the same line as the original, and a story that doesn’t really take full advantage of its own potential. It tries to take a political approach and give us a message on the dangers of colonialism, yet in the end, doesn’t do much with that to justify why its there. It makes the third act feel very mundane as a result.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a bad movie, but rather quite the opposite. Sure it’s weaker than the first film and, when compared to films like Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and Moana, it’s weaker than most of Disney’s recent endeavors. But there’s something about this long overdue sequel that most of those films don’t have: a story that requires time to sink in.
When the credits rolled, it was easy to just label it as “OK.” However, as the story began to really sink in afterwards, many of the decisions that seemed strange at first suddenly became clear. Most Disney films are just great from the start; a story that spells itself out within the runtime and you’re ready to label it good or bad right when it ends. Very rarely do their movies require thought to truly bring out their message.
And that seems to be the issue people have with this one. Many are not welcoming of the changes in story and tone. It seems like they didn’t want Frozen II, but rather Frozen Again. They wanted a film that is as light-hearted and cheery as the original, and this film certainly isn’t that. It boasts a much darker tone than the first, which does seem strange at first. But just think for a second.
The film’s main message focuses on the concepts of growing up and change. Anna and Elsa want to live in the peaceful life they’ve created for them and their people, but the world keeps changing around them. They have to accept the fact that nothing is finite, and that change is apart of who they are. This movie acts the same way.
It is a much more mature and well-rounded film than the first that grows darker as the characters begin to mature, which is perfect in representing their character arcs. It’s also easy to see why people aren’t quite fond of the ending, but (without spoiling anything) it represents how the characters have grown and matured by the end of the story. Change is apart of life, no arguments there, and this movie shows how important it is to accept, or else you’ll be lost in the wind.
Frozen II doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, or even the heights of the other films that came before it. It tries a little too hard to outdo the first film, and ends up having songs that aren’t as good and a final twist that feels very recycled. However, its more mature story, tone and overall message about change are enough to propel it above its flaws, while also being helped by great voice acting and stunning animation. Maybe people won’t relate to the message, or maybe it’ll finally help them see the importance of growing up. Either way, what this movie attempts is a commendable feat and another animated win for Disney.