A film that has everyone’s attention looks to have cold feet when delivering substance…
With Elsa established as Queen of Arendelle, everything seems well for our protagonists. But when Elsa starts to hear a voice in her head, calling to her, she risks everyone’s safety to discover an enchanted forest of legend. What truth will she find there?
2013’s Frozen was a phenomenal success for Disney. Not only did it win the two Academy Awards that matter for Disney (Best Animated Picture and Best Original Song) but it single-handedly resuscitated the Disney Princess brand. You have to have been living under a rock to have not heard “Let It Go” at least twice in your life. The movie became a sensation for children everywhere, but it also answered a lot of critics’ and naysayers’ opinions on the Disney formula, making for some surprising subversion to the proceedings.
With that all said, is it hard to imagine the Disney committee playing it safe with Frozen 2? Not really… and that’s what it is.
Frozen‘s sequel, like a lot of Disney mainline franchise sequels, does not live up to the original. Nor does it innovate like the original. From the moment the story begins, all audiences (even fans included) will feel a throb of uncertainty going forward; the story starts with a truly original premise, “the four elements” of magic. Snore…
We are then led into an eccentric mash of repetitive story beats, visuals and drive-by songs. It is easily the entire first act that feels artificially drawn out, if not into the second act as well; we have snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) who has dropped his love for Summer for a substantially less entertaining running joke about “maturity”. We also have Kristoff failing continuously to ask Anna into marriage, which is as sitcom as it sounds.
Elsa’s inner peace found from the previous film is quickly pushed aside as she hears a voice inside her head. This becomes the first example of the film’s problem with pacing. Sorry Elsa, you can’t be happy for long; you need to immediately screw things up five minutes in.
The film goes from there, brazen and overconfident that audiences have paid for admission regardless and will accept anything. Why did that happen? Where are we? There’s also several emotional moments and revelations that simply don’t feel earned, primarily due to the pacing of the story being so rushed. There’s also some colossal Chekhov guns, just… massive, so big that Dwayne Johnson would blush.
The film owes a lot to the original… and the sequel’s lack of original thought is no more apparent than in its few good laughs, which are direct riffs and references to its predecessor. Or when Elsa gets her big song. It isn’t “Let It Go”, not by a long shot, but you know that’s the intention.
Perhaps its strongest moments are those that could be found in other Disney movies of late. The graphics and animation are gorgeous, the visual look of the forests and trees are magical and bright (but then, you could watch Pixar’s Coco for even better visuals), the cute little lizard that Elsa befriends is utterly adorable (but Pascal in Tangled was ultimately better). Elsa and Anna probably come out on top; what little thematic devices at play for longer than 10 minutes are all working for them.
Although there is one completely bonkers song for another character that… really stands out. Not sure if it is in a good way, though.
The film never enters the realm of possibilities that the first film enjoyed. There are no surprises or subversions that you haven’t clocked within the first act. It also isn’t as daring as the first film; it wants to be… there is a particular moment that is quite dark, literally “succumbing to the darkness”… but audiences are too smart, and the Disney machine too afraid to damage their money-maker, for it to be believable as permanent.
It would be interesting to know what big fans of Frozen think of the sequel, because there is a definite drop in motivation and creativity here.