Water Has Memory, and It Ain’t Good
The first Frozen film falls within my top 5 Disney movies and in my top 10 favorite films of all time. The heartwarming yet chilling story of an enchanted queen that freezes the kingdom but yet saves it due to the power of her love for her sister brought me to tears in 2013 and gave me a more positive outlook on Disney films. It was beautifully made and still holds up to this day, containing a succinct, powerful, and visually stunning story with fantastic music.
It is unfortunate then that Frozen II is exactly the opposite of what the first film is. The simple and succinct plot is traded for one that is overly complex and confusing. The catchy and memorable tunes are exchanged for forgettable and mundane show tunes. And the investing characters and themes are reduced to one note caricatures and throw away one liners. While the scope is certainly ambitious and the visuals are jaw dropping and awe-inspiring, Frozen II is a dull sequel that has lost the magic and heart of what it once was.
When a mysterious voice begins calling to Elsa and the kingdom of Arendelle is threatened, she must embark on a journey North with Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven to uncover the secrets of the kingdom. Along the way they realize that their once beautiful kingdom may very well not be what it seems, and the secret of Elsa’s powers draws them dangerously close into other powerful entities.
The film’s plot aims to be bigger and expand upon the mythology of its world while also giving its characters something meaningful to do, but the story doesn’t do anything interesting or intriguing to justify its complexity. There are so many instances where things are explained and new terms are thrown around that it confuses the audience about what this movie is actually about. Is it a search for Elsa’s powers? Is it a mystery of what happened in Arendelle’s past? Is it an adventure to expand the world? Or is it the tale of the bond between two sisters? The plot tries to have its cake and eat it too with overly ambitious ideas and no idea how to execute them.
That shows within our main characters who have become hollow shells of their vibrant personalities that we fell in love with in the first film. Elsa is needlessly morose and serious for most of the film, continuing to be too broody in spite of “letting it go” from the first film into a more optimistic and happier person. Anna still is the bright optimist of the group with such a wonder and charm to things she discovers, and yet she becomes so serious in her quest to make sure that Elsa isn’t alone. This isn’t done in a heartwarming way, however, but in much more of a nagging way instead of one that stems from love.
Kristoff really gets the short end of the straw here, with his heroic and realist personality being dumbed down to a bumbling idiot. His entire character is fixated on achieving one thing and he becomes sidelined for most of the movie. Olaf, however, remains a bright spot in the movie with his joyful wonder and naivety still intact and providing plenty of laughs. With Olaf growing up and becoming older, there are some funny moments of existential crisis that happen and yet it starts to tire out and feel too dark by the film’s end.
The new characters aren’t even that memorable either, and aren’t given enough for us to care about. We are supposed to care about this enchanted forest and the people that live there, but nothing ever amounts to who they are or what their purpose is. The film doesn’t give its new setting and characters identity, and that’s a poor choice considering the amount of time we spend here.
What’s even worse is that I’m not really sure who to care for during the movie. I don’t really feel like Arendelle is in danger considering I never see the kingdom or its people outside of the first act. Elsa is stoic and practically invincible, Anna cares about Elsa but its hard to feel that love in this go around, Kristoff is basically useless, Olaf is unnecessarily existential, and the goal of their journey is muddled with complexities.
The music is nothing special this time around, with a multitude of dry and forgettable songs that don’t really enhance anything of the movie. There is only one song in which I liked that is performed yet again by the beautifully talented voice of Idina Menzel, but there it hails in comparison to the dazzling and showstopping heights of Let It Go. The tunes aren’t catchy, and I am not even sure the songs had much to do with what was going on. There is literally a song with Kristoff singing with a whole bunch of sentient reindeer about his love for Anna. What even is this movie?
The biggest offense of this movie is that it constantly references, both musically and direct scenes, the first film. There are flashbacks to the events of the first film, the powerful theme is sung by the indigenous people, there is even a scene where Olaf reenacts (although rather humorously) the entire plot of Frozen. The movie is trying to rely on your love and nostalgia of the first film instead of expanding upon its foundations and being something new. It will attempt to trick you that they have carried everything through from the first film, but really they just dropped the ball.
One of the few saving graces of the film is its visuals. Frozen II is a spectacle to look at, from the use of Elsa’s powers to the new environments our characters traverse to. There were so many scenes where I would think “wow” and it truly is stunning. The unfortunate thing is one of my favorite scenes visually was in the trailers, completely depriving me of seeing that experience fresh and with wonder.
Yes, this movie is as bad as I am saying it is, and that is heartbreaking for me to say. I wanted to love Frozen II, heck I even thought it would be in my top 10 this year. But alas, this movie is dry and forgettable and would have done better as a direct to DVD sequel instead of a full feature film.
While I do appreciate that the filmmakers trying to be more mature and expand the universe of Frozen, it completely misses the mark in every way. On paper, these ideas seem like intriguing and successful themes but it completely fails its execution. The story that emotionally moved me and paved a new way for Disney is still intact in its first film, but the second one is simply just a cash grab built off of your love for Frozen. I do not recommend seeing this film in theaters and waiting for the DVD. But even then, I would recommend just staying home and watching the original and you will have a far better and more enjoyable time than wasting your money at the theaters.
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