Disney Sequels. Two words which conjure up a slew of childhood straight-to-VHS or DVD extravaganzas, sporting worse animation and subpar storylines (except the Cinderella sequels, which were surprisingly better than the original). But Frozen II is no cheap add on. The animation is stunning, the voice work is impeccable and the soundtrack is stellar. But this is to be expected. The question is, does it live up to the hype of the original?
Set three years after the events of Frozen, Anna and Elsa are living their ideal lives. The Kingdom of Arendelle is flourishing, Kirstoff plans on proposing to Anna and all of the citizens have come to love and respect their icy queen. But something is missing. A voice calls out to Queen Elsa, beckoning her to the shadowy, mist-cloaked forest of the North where nature spirits lurk and a secret past will reveal itself.
All in all, I enjoyed the story. It felt like a natural place to pick up after the first film and the mystery of the Forest was intriguing. But the narrative does fall apart and, tonally, Frozen II is all over the place. Certified for Universal Viewing, Frozen II often felt too dark in places. This isn’t to say that Disney films can’t be darker than the usual affair; as a child, I often preferred stories which hinted at real menace, but when a creative team makes the decision to go darker, they should stick to it. Frozen II didn’t.
Growing up, accepting change, and death are major themes which the writers push into the narrative – all of which are important lessons children should be exposed to. And, indeed, these are issues Disney has successfully tackled before in films – Bambi and Lilo and Stitch are stellar examples. But where those films soared on the subject, Frozen II falls flat. There’s the usual happy ending affair in which any and all serious character deaths or decisions are reversed, ensuring the happily ever after. This in itself would not be a bad thing if the writing had not so aggressively preached the importance of accepting permanent change and loss.
These themes are simply abandoned at the conclusion of the film, and, as a result, make many of the events feel pointless and insincere. Not to mention that after the light-hearted romp of the first film, the above-mentioned deaths may prove a little bit too intense for younger children to handle, if the sobbing children near me in the cinema were anything to go by. Appealing to an older audience is fine, but with the magic-it-right ending, it feels like Disney wanted the best of both worlds and the revenue guaranteed by a Universal certification.
Another issue which I feel is too important to ignore contains spoilers for the film. If you want to see Frozen II completely unspoiled, skip this paragraph. There is a revelation halfway through the film that Anna and Elsa’s mum belonged to the Northuldra tribe of the North, a tribe which is visually, plainly indigenous. But Elsa’s mum, as well as her two daughters, visually do not represent this fact. Racial-coding in films is important, and the lack of visual connection between the sisters’ mother and the Northuldran tribespeople results in a disconnect.
With all of this in mind, however, the film is undoubtedly enjoyable. The score in particular is astoundingly good, with two of the songs, ‘Into the Unknown’ and ‘Show Yourself’, quickly becoming two of my favourite Disney songs of all time. Your Spotify playlist will thank you for adding them, trust me. The humour is also spot on, with a genuinely hilarious summary of the first film delivered by Olaf and Kristoff’s solo song – a delightful parody of the glam rock aesthetic, equipped with everything from dramatic split screens to a chorus of stylised, singing reindeer.
So, does it live up to the hype of the first film? I would say no, but despite its flaws and confused tone, it’s still an enjoyable ride, mostly because of the incredible voice talent, vocals and stunningly beautiful animation.
Frozen II gets a solid three out of five stars from me.
– Charlie Wrigg