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Nov 23 2019

Review: Frozen II


Frozen, the 2013 feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios, is one of the decade's most extreme success stories: it's the highest-grossing film of the decade that's neither a remake nor a sequel, as well as the highest-grossing animated feature in history (depending on where you set the definition of "animation";this summer's all-CGI remake ofThe Lion Kingbumped it down a notch).Even given Disney's historical reluctance to produce theatrically-released sequels, it's not really much of a surprise that the studio has succumbed to the temptation to chase that blockbuster with a six-years-later follow-up.And so it is thatFrozen IIis upon us.

The biggest question facing the film is, of course, "does it live up to the original?" And I do wish that I had a less wishy-washy answer than "maybe." A lot depends on what you think aboutFrozen: for me, it's the third-best of Disney's three original princess movies this decade, behind 2010'sTangledand 2016'sMoana, largely because of what a shambling wreck it becomes as the story structure loosens in the second half.Frozen IIhas the same problem, but in reverse: the first half of the movie feels more like script notes than a script, scene after scene in which neither the stakes, nor the locations, nor the emotions, nor the narrative momentum seems to carry through.Then, at a particular point midway – the particular point depicted in the film's dramatic teaser trailer, no less – everything snaps into focus and the plot and mood suddenly seem like they make sense, more or less.Which is irritating, because it means that talking about everythingFrozen IIdoes well would bring us into spoiler territory, and thus this review is going to involve a lot more complaining than the film necessarily deserves...

To be fair, it deservessomecomplaining.Frozen IIdoes one of the worst things any sequel can: it ignores the character arcs of the first movie.As you may recall (make that "certainly" if you have young children in your house),Frozenwas largely the story of how Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), nervous and self-doubting new queen of Arendelle, learned to be confident in who she was and how she inhabited the world, while her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) was given a crash course in maturity and sisterly responsibility.Neither of those character journeys seem to have taken permanent hold: Elsa is right back to where she started, panicking over absolutely everything and suffused with self-doubt.Maybe that's realistic, but it's not very good drama.Anna, at least, isn't going through exactly the same internal crisis: now she's just a paranoid control freak who is convinced that Elsa will drop dead if she sets foot outside of Anna's sight.Not in so many words, but the effect is the same.

For the first long chunk ofFrozen II, we watch these two, as well as Anna's boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) move through a very busy plot involving the fog-shrouded magic woods just outside of Arendelle, where something very mysterious and bad happened more than thirty years ago.For reasons that are frankly a bit fog-shrouded themselves, the four characters end up in those woods, driven by a haunting voice that only Elsa can hear, where they discover the remnants of the Northuldra people (an indigineous tribe somewhat inspired by the Sámi of northern Scandinavia and Finland) and a ost regiment of Arendellian soldiers.They also start to uncover a whole lot of narrative lore involving the four elements of water, fire, air, and earth, and a rumored fifth element, family secrets, sins of old generations, and a whole bunch of other stuff that simply doesn't end up feeling consequential.Frozen IIis as excited as all get-out to expand the mythology of theFrozenuniverse, but it's kind of lousy at telling astory, in which our four main characters have goals and drives and wants.Kristoff,无聊的方式(t他的尴尬o ask Anna to marry him), and Olaf is having a kid-friendly existential crisis, but for a good long while, Elsa and Anna, the actual protagonists, seem motivated primarily be learning more about the backstory of the movie franchise they're inhabiting.Which is not, I'm sorry to report, an especially compelling character goal, especially for a movie that has elected to roll back the perfect satisfying resolutions those characters had six years ago (three years ago in movie-time).

While this is going on, the film has two major interests: songs, and a gravely somber mood of autumn leaves, old stones, and the inevitability of death.That's not a joke.Easily the weirdest thing aboutFrozen IIis what a profoundly gloomy film it is: visually gloomy, with its baseline of greys that the rest of the colors punctuate, but never disguise, and its reliance on horror-tinged scenes taking place in dark voids (the scene of Elsa fleeing from a horse made of water would absolutely have given 5-year-old me nightmares).

And tonally gloomy, with designated comic relief Olaf constantly fretting about his feelings of losing control and being terrified of growing old, on top of Elsa and Anna feeling the presence of their dead parents weighing down on them.It's admirable, in a way, that such a safe company as Disney would let something this morbid out into the world, especially with this brand name attached.It doesn't mean that the film always knows what to do with this (it figures out a good strategy right about the same time it suddenly decides on a character arc for Elsa).But it's there.

As for the songs: seven of them, and not a "Let It Go" in the bunch.Not even a "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman", for that matter.Undoubtedly, opinions will be split on which are the best (though I have a hard time imagining the viewer who wants to fight for Olaf's number about growing up);my feeling is that the film's designated "Let It Go" successor, "Into the Unknown", is given no time at all to develop, a persistent problem with several of the songs.Musically, the morbid (that word again!) lullaby "All Is Found", which serves as a leitmotif throughout the film, is the most enjoyably layered and complicated song;Elsa's second big showstopper, "Show Yourself" is at leat more developed than "Into the Unknown";and Kristoff's enjoyable but out of place '80s rock tribute "Lost in the Woods" is far and way the most visually inventive.

All of this adds up to a movie that has its strengths, heavily back-loaded, but never tops or even matches Frozen, except in one important sense: it's unbelievably gorgeous.The reliance on the four elements as a plot device translates to a great deal of effects animation, and it's all superb, especially the tangibly ice-cold water that dominates many of the film's most visually elaborate scenes.There's a fine line between realism and fairy tale cartoon fantasy thatFrozen IIstrikes over and over again in its purple fire, diamond-shaped ice crystals, and thick slabs of primordial rock, and purely as an exercise in creating a wonderfully rich world to stumble through, it's one of Disney's finest achievements of the 21st Century.It would perhaps have been better for it to succeed more thoroughly at crafting a tight story around psychologically rich characters, but given the presence of enough overwhelming mood, it sort of feels okay not to have those things so much.

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Reader Comments (4)

"Show Yourself" is the queer anthem I didn't know I needed but YES ELSA GET IT.

Also this...

"While this is going on, the film has two major interests: songs, and a gravely somber mood of autumn leaves, old stones, and the inevitability of death."

...is probably why I REALLY liked the film.Talk about catering to ALL my interests!

November 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

"Frozen II does one of the worst things any sequel can: it ignores the character arcs of the first movie."

I disagree with this.One thing I really liked about this movie was how it organically progressed the relationship between Anna and Elsa and challenged it in a new way.Elsa is no longer nervous about being queen and being in danger in this one, she's restless about something calling her and torn between her duties as queen and the feeling that she's being called to do something else.And yes, Anna being overprotective of Elsa is a progression of her relationship, because now that she has a relationship with her after so many years in which they didn't speak, she refuses to let go.

I do, however, agree with a lot of your criticisms.我对电影的感受总结说at there's greatness whenever it focuses on Anna and Elsa, particularly their relationship, but it loses me when it focuses on any other character (I didn't find Olaf annoying in the first film, I very much did here, and even Kristoff's weird but cute running gag of talking for Sven gets ruined here somewhat).

November 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I have little nieces who are going to see this but too me this is just greedy Disney going after money- there is no reason why this film needed a sequel.

November 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I saw Frozen 2 yesterday with my 21 year old daughter.The cinema was full of millennial mums maybe just a little older than my daughter and their 4 and 5 year olds who would not have been born when the original was released.The film had something for us all.

I don’t agree that character arcs from 1 had been ignored.Rather, they were reflective of the ebb and flow of life that of course doesn’t stop with “happily ever after”.Anyone with anxiety knows that it never really goes away, no matter what you achieve or how successful you become.Something can trigger an attack.Here it was the voice calling to her.She was scared and confused but the trust in her power we had seen develop in 1 gave her the confidence to go in search of the source...into the Unknooooooooowwwn...

Anna was content with her role of support for her sister, creating and nurturing the family atmosphere they missed out on as children.When her sister needed her help, she threw herself into the role with her usual gusto.They were both were where they should be for us to catch up with them and follow them on this new adventure.

November 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

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