Upon release, Frozen was an absolute phenomenon, ushering in a new era for Disney animation and especially the Disney musical. Its sequel, Frozen II, is unlikely to reach those same heights, but its spectacular songs and moving story make for a very satisfying experience all the same.
Frozen II catches up with Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf some years after the events of the first film. It’s been a prosperous and peaceful time for Arendelle, and each of our main characters are living their best lives. Of course, this harmony is soon broken by a mysterious voice that only Elsa can hear, luring her to discover the truth about herself. Venturing into the unknown comes with risks, but it proves necessary to save Arendelle from magical spirits Elsa unwittingly unleashes in accepting the voice’s call. Together, they travel to the nearby enchanted forest to get answers and save their home, an action Olaf predicts will lead to transformation even if he doesn’t quite understand what that may mean.
Frozen is a perfectly good, self-contained film. A sequel to it was by no means necessary. But one look at the colossal cash cow Frozen became and it’s pretty obvious why Disney wanted one. Thankfully, directors Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) and Chris Buck have crafted a story that feels like a natural progression, exploring what is really the only lingering question from the first film – why does Elsa have powers? Along with answering that question, Frozen II includes interesting arcs for Anna, to a lesser Kristoff, and even Olaf.
Change is a central theme of the film and through its characters, Frozen II imparts important lessons to its young audience about being unafraid of the change that comes with growing up. It also examines the ramifications past sins can have on the present, forgoing an actual villain and instead creating conflict from misunderstanding. Frozen II doesn’t get especially critical in this regard, but for Disney, it’s a start.
The sequel is a surprisingly darker and more complicated movie than the first, but its heart remains the love between sisters. Elsa and Anna find their relationship tested in new ways, and it forces them both to assess what they want in life and from each other. Where they end up is sure to delight fans, creating new possibilities for the inevitable Frozen III. In addition to great story arcs for Anna and Elsa, Kristoff actually interacts with someone other than his reindeer or girlfriend or his girlfriend’s sister or the sentient snowman created by his girlfriend’s sister. It isn’t much, but it does offer something new. Olaf, too, is incorporated into this more mature story well and is even funnier than he was in the first Frozen. Mostly because he isn’t overused, a trap sequels can often fall into with their comedic relief.
The songs in Frozen II are a great bunch, and pretty much all of them are on equal footing in terms of quality. There isn’t an obvious stand-out as there was with Frozen‘s “Let it Go”, though “Into the Unknown” is clearly being pushed as its successor. The songs this time around are more Broadway in their sound, with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez using each to propel a character’s arc or narrative instead of just fill time with a catchy tune. Frozen II has doesn’t have a song for the trolls, for instance. There’s sure to be debate over whether or not this sequel is better film than the original, but there’s no question it’s a better musical.
Visually, Frozen II is quite possibly Disney’s most impressive animated movie to date. Everything from the landscapes to the costumes look sumptuous. The sequel also includes more elemental effects than just ice, and these allow for some truly next level sequences. The full scenes of Elsa trying to cross the sea, for instance, as teased in the trailers, are just spectacular.
Frozen II certainly wasn’t necessary, but the sequel is a very enjoyable film that manages to justify its existence by deepening its own lore and characters.