In 2013 “Frozen” took the world by storm becoming one of if not the most popular Disney animated feature of the last two decades. It was a phenomenon sparking spinoff specials, merchandise, a theme park ride and countless renditions of its beloved theme song “Let it Go” so we all knew there would be an inevitable sequel on the way. Enter “Frozen II” which serves as the 58th animated film produced by Disney Animation Studios. Featuring the returning cast of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad as Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf respectively, “Frozen II” picks up three years after the first movie as Elsa begins to hear a strange voice calling to her from a secluded kingdom outside of Arendelle. Soon Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf learn they must find the source of the voice and right the wrongs of the past in order to save their kingdom which has become the target of elemental spirits. After years of anticipation and with a fanbase that demands so much from the still-young franchise does “Frozen II” live up to the hype? Let’s take a dive into the unknown in my review of “Frozen II”.
“Frozen II” is a different experience from its predecessor and yet it’s also quite the same. The story of this sequel is very much its own and only occasionally calls back to the first movie’s narrative through plot-essential moments but overall I felt “Frozen II” had a more exhilarating, engaging and imaginative story than the first movie which found itself stuck in the rut of Disney clichés, even if it did them well. Don’t get me wrong the original “Frozen” was a fun movie ad I still very much enjoy it, but “Frozen II” for me ups the ante story-wise for almost all of the characters with Elsa and Anna’s relationship having matured over the three years, Olaf himself dealing with his own maturing as a sentient being and even Kristoff getting his own story about trying to work up the courage to profess his love for Anna in a special way. Everyone gets their chance to shine, but the core story never gets left behind as Elsa and Anna try to find the source of a mysterious voice that leads them on an adventure to right the wrongs of their kingdom’s past. To go into extreme detail of the story would probably give too much away because there are some fun twists and turns in the narrative that challenge our heroes and are much better handled than Hans’s sudden reveal in the first movie, but I’ll just say that for me this adventure felt more fun and more complete as well as more emotionally satisfying.
So what did I mean by “Frozen II” also feels quite the same? Well that’s not actually a bad thing. This sequel brings us right back into the world of “Frozen” very effectively, even despite the oversaturation of the property in the years since the first movie was released. It still felt good to see these characters again and see what comes next in their adventure. It maintains the same charm, atmosphere and personality as the first film, even building on it in a lot of ways, without copying the original. Like Elsa and Anna in the film, “Frozen II” charts its own path but it’s still the same property many of us have come to adore over the last decade. The returning cast is just as committed, charming and fun, in some ways even more so, and while it does follow its own franchise formula such as certain characters getting a song or Elsa and Anna having their sisterly spats the overall story is much more of its own idea than a formulaic fairytale. The themes shared in this movie are also a bit more diverse than the previous film focusing on the disastrous effects of prejudice, the need for us to constantly evolve as people both culturally and on a personal level, and the struggles that comes with maturity and expressing one’s true feelings. All are handled in subtle, but well-crafted ways that allow the power of these themes to shine through for older viewers but also allow the younger children to understand what they should be learning from this experience as well.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an animated Disney movie without music, and I will admit that the original film had the catchier soundtrack overall, but “Frozen II’s” music is also very solid…save for ONE song that really kind of stopped the movie in its tracks. Kristoff gets a song in this movie and it’s pretty much this film’s equivalent to the troll song that is nobody’s favorite from the first movie. Kristoff’s song was the one part of this movie I truly didn’t like as it felt like it halted the progress of the film and, frankly, was just plain annoying. Otherwise the soundtrack is solid in my opinion with the highlights being a pair of power ballads from Elsa, “Into the Unknown” which serves as the main song of the film and is sung by Panic! at the Disco in the credits and “Show Yourself” which is more of that “Let it Go” style show stopper. One song I actually enjoyed more than its counterpart from the first film was Olaf’s number, “When I Am Older”, which is a fun tune that serves to also teach young viewers about what its like to come to terms with one’s own maturity and growth. All the songs were written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez who also wrong the original’s music so the new songs due maintain the same general feel as the first film’s soundtrack, but each one stands out as their own number in spite of obvious comparisons to the previous songs.
Finally, there’s the animation which is absolutely breathtaking in this movie. It’s so cool to see how far Disney has come in bringing simple things like trees and rushing water to life. The characters themselves even feel more polished than they did in 2013, more lifelike and expressive. This is just a well-designed film with awesome visuals and scenery and a lot of thought and detail put into the minuscule elements of the presentation. There’s one scene where we see a large wave of rushing water making its ways towards the screen and I remember looking over at my friend and saying to her just how amazed I was at the beauty and detail put into making this water look so smooth and believable. The original movie was a well animated film as well, but “Frozen II” was even more awe inspiring. It really is cool to see how far this animation style has come over the last ten years and films like “Frozen II” continue to show why, from an animation aspect, Disney and its CGI animation partner Pixar are the standard bearers for the entire industry on how to create visual effects.
“Frozen II” might be a very different experience for a lot of fans when compared to the first movie, but for me that’s part of its charm. It tries to tell its own story while remembering the little things that made the original so popular. The characters are just as charming and a bit more grown up and the music is on par with the first soundtrack even if it’s not quite as memorable. The sequel does feel more polished and much more like its own entity outside of the basic requirements of the Disney structure. The filmmakers challenged themselves to take the story beyond the walls of Arendelle and they did a fine job giving us something delightfully familiar yet excitingly new at the same time. The visuals are breathtaking, the story is exciting and engaging, the themes are relevant and timeless and allow multiple characters more chances to shine. It will be argued probably for years whether this sequel lives up to the legacy set upon it by its predecessor, but for my money “Frozen II” is the kind of sequel fans deserved and for me personal was a much more enjoyable and memorable experience. I recommend you see it for yourself to make your own judgement because it’s absolutely worth it.