'Frozen 2' review: Sequel ramps up sense of myth, spectacle, and tackles complex issues for a fandom that's grown up with it
The sequel's many plotlines weave in and out of each other, and the movie's visuals reach a state of mythic proportions.
When ‘Frozen’ first came out in 2013, it was an unexpectedly huge smash hit. Its themes of sisterhood and female empowerment resonated with scores of young girls and was a welcome break in the tired Disney trope that had every Disney princess focused on finding her prince. Six years later, with the release of ‘Frozen 2’, the generation that fell in love with the first movie has had time to grow. ‘Frozen 2’, while still being a movie for children, tackles more complicated themes of identity, growth, responsibility, and harmony. It’s grown along with its fans.
The movie begins with a flashback that establishes the larger world, as Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are told a story of a battle that happened between the royal forces of Arendelle and the tribe of the enchanted forest of Northuldra. Back in the present, we see that Elsa, Anna, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad) have established a rather cozy life for themselves as a family in the three years since the events of the first movie. A voice calls to Elsa, though, and in following it she wakens the elemental spirits of Northuldra. The spirits are not happy, and Elsa and her family need to make a trip to the enchanted forest to set things right.
This is a movie about growing up. ‘Frozen 2’ is ambitious in the way it attempts to cover the concept, looking at from multiple facets. Each of the movie’s four main characters - Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf - experience growth in their own very unique, and complicated ways. There are no retreads from the first movie, Elsa’s self-actualization finds her exploring unknown territory, finding out just why she has her power, and what she can do with it. It’s a lot for one movie to handle in the space of 103 minutes, but the movie handles its arcs deftly. Storylines and themes weave in and out of each other, harmonizing in places, diverging in others. The movie is a symphony of writing.
Some might find themselves a little lost, however, the arcs of the four main characters aren’t the only things the movie covers. There are larger themes at play here, encompassing faith, responsibility towards colonized lands, living in harmony with nature and how to deal with overwhelming pressure. The movie has a lot to unpack and undoubtedly will benefit from multiple viewings.
That shouldn’t be too tiring, though, as ‘Frozen 2’ takes visual spectacle to new heights. Between the inventive new uses of Elsa’s powers, the four new elements of Northuldra, and a general stronger bent towards the magic of the world of ‘Frozen’, there are a great many truly breathtaking scenes that are worth the price of admission alone. Disney infuses this movie with a sense of mythic proportion, and regularly invokes feelings of bedazzlement and awe.
No songs quite hit the high, high bar set by ‘Let It Go’, but the film has a great soundtrack nonetheless. The songs aim to hammer home the ideas the film attempts to convey. “Some Things Never Change” reassures Olaf that change isn’t to be feared, while Anna’s “The Next Right Thing” is a powerful anthem about dealing with overwhelming pressure. Even Kristoff gets to sing, with the amusing, and heartfelt 80s rock ballad, “Lost in the Woods.”
The first ‘Frozen’ works just fine as a standalone movie, but it did leave one big unanswered question - the source of Elsa’s powers. ‘Frozen 2’ dives deep into answering that very question, and in doing so shifts the franchise’s paradigm in a major way, paving the way for an even bigger sequel to cap the trilogy off with. ‘Frozen 2’ grows the franchise, and its characters, in a lot of ways. It’s a complex film that won’t have quite the impact of its simpler predecessor, but it is a sequel that is well worth the wait.