After numerous reiterations about my strong opinions against sequels and the like, you’d think i’d avoid each and every one of them at all costs. Reality is i’ll still succumb to temptation once in a while… like how i bought advanced tickets for Frozen II and watched it the day it premiered.
Yes, the narrative of the original was tied nicely a sequel isn’t necessary. And it does seem that i never learn, but my justifications were that i enjoyed the two shorts of the franchise and the six-year gap between the flicks suggests that careful planning and plotting are involved to — hopefully — make Frozen II a decent sequel. Moreover, it looks darker and more adventure-y, which is quite different from the original’s trajectory. I also kept my expectations low by only checking out the teaser trailer.
And to be fair, the story is on the stronger and better side as far as animation sequels go, but again, the execution is the culprit for this cold continuation.
The ‘all is well’ ending doesn’t last long. A few years later, Arendelle is once again in jeopardy, due to Elsa’s power — again. A mysterious chant is calling the ice queen and she unintentionally awakens (or angers) the spirits of nature’s four elements at the end of belting one of her two power ballads, turning the kingdom upside down and sending the folks running for the hills.
Heeding Grand Pabbie’s advice, the sisters set off toward the Enchanted Forest to appease the spirits, which eventually becomes their journey toward discovering the truth behind the kingdom’s foundation as well as the origin of Elsa’s magic.
The setup lies a good foundation for an epic adventure into the unknown. And it does seem like we’re in for a ride in the beginning, the moment Elsa and the entourage arrives at the entrance of the mythical forest engulfed in mysterious fog that lets no one in or out of it. However, for the first time ever in my cinema watching experience, i got sleepy mid-escapade… even to my own surprise. I found the plot development quite okay, the animation stunning, and the nature’s rendering lifelike, but there are more elements that stopped me from being fully immersed in its universe.
First off: the songs. There are probably more songs featured here: Elsa has two power ballads, Kristoff croons two (one of which is a ‘duet’ with Sven), Anna and Olaf get one each, among others, but none of them is as catchy or memorable as the first’s. My favorite is Some things never change; i also think Show Yourself is THE more superior — meaningful and liberating — Elsa’s song compared to the already overplayed Into the unknown. Some of them are either ill-timed or lacking narrative to support the lyrics. E.g. Olaf who’s suddenly fretting about changes or growing up when he’s been a happy-go-lucky snowman, Kristoff who gets oversensitive about being left behind by his girl and their seemingly one-sided relationship when he’s merely lost in the woods, or Anna who breaks into a song after Olaf’s dissolution, which in turn suggests Elsa’s as well. Usually songs in animation movies drive the story forward, but here, it feels as if they’re inserted just for the sake of… the cast’s singing.
Another thing that made me not fully enjoying the singing was because for some reason, it’s subdued, especially in the higher register. The music was much louder i couldn’t catch the lyrics half of the time.
Secondly, the lack of conclusion or accountability of the arising issues. Yes, Frozen II is marketed for young audience, which may not need to make complete sense on the logical level in order to entertain, but you cannot throw questions and mysteries and not provide clear answers and resolutions to them. Even if it’s just a kids’ movie.
I was completely sitting back and leaving my critical cap outside the door, but still, some details went over my head. So who the mysterious voice belongs to? Why is it calling Elsa only now? Why nature ‘punishes’ the local tribe by trapping the inhabitants for 34 long years when they weren’t in the wrong? How could Elsa be the fifth element?
The truth behind the deal between the head tribe and Arendelle’s king is no mystery, but what’s the point of unearthing it when there’s no repercussions or accountability to be had? And why worrying too much about Arendelle’s fate when Elsa’s icy power is enough to save them all — from rushing water from the dam’s demolition to subduing the other four forces of nature.
The climax also doesn’t land well on the emotional level due to its confusing sequence as well as unoriginal crisis. I mean, what are gonna make of the fact that the ice queen who claimed to never be bothered with the cold actually gets frozen in this one? That after all of this time, she still feels out of place in Arendelle? Or that after all of the promises, she still lives apart from her sister at the end of the day?
And i can overly nitpick, there’s just a bit too much of Olaf’s antics. Not to the point of me finding him annoying, but enough to make nearly all of his ‘jokes’ fell flat on me.
In the end, Frozen II feels a lot less magical and a lot more superhero-y. The characters look maturer, which is probably to match the audience who have grown up since the original; the content does too, though some of the themes may still be too dark or deep for the younger ones. Overall, it isn’t terrible, but it fails to grip or thrill me. Because while the original left me warm and fuzzy, the sequel left me… cold.
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Screenwriter: Jennifer Lee
Production: Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2019
Cast/Voice talents: Idina Menzel (Elsa), Kristen Bell (Anna), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), Josh Gad (Olaf), Evan Rachel Wood (Iduna), Sterling K. Brown (Lieutenant Mattias)
Genre: Adventure, Musical, Family, Animation, CGI