(Spoiler: The salamander isn’t in it for very long! Buy a toy of it anyways!)
Written by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee & Mark E. Smith
OMG it’s AMAAAAAZZINNGGGGGGGGGGGGG everyone go see itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!
Disney Sequels stopped being a thing during John Lasseter’s run as Chief Creative Officer, but with the runaway success they were having with their New Renaissance, it was perhaps inevitable that a couple would come out. Curiously, it wasn’t Disney’s BIGGEST recent hit that got the honors, but its predecessor Wreck-It Ralph– nonetheless, Frozen II followed it the next year. Now HERE was a seriously difficult prospect- though two animated shorts had come out in the preceding intervening years, they were more akin to cute asides- here they had to come up with an actual THREAT again. And where do the characters go from here? Naive Anna, Grumpy Kristoff and the Terrified, Insular Elsa underwent complete character arcs the first time around. The story was complete and “Happily Ever After’d”. What do you do now?
WELL, what happens is the writers combine an Origin Story (it irked some that we never DID find out where Elsa’s magical powers came from) with kind of a “Hearing The Call” story, while the characters trying to keep the status quo. To that end, we start out with the characters literally SINGING about how rad the status quo is, at which point we kind of get the “new normal”- playing family games with their weird family unit, Olaf making goofy asides (he assumes he’s maturing rapidly and everything will make sense), Kristoff wanting to take things to the next level with Anna, and Elsa being… Elsa. Always a bit distant and introverted, she’s still not your standard “Outgoing Disney Princess”- I think part of what made Frozen (and Elsa) so big was her quirky, oddball nature making her a truly unique figure.
We get a flashback to the girls’ younger days, and their father tells them the story of when he entered the Enchanted Forest, found a mysterious battle going on with his father’s army and the Northuldra people (Inuits, sorta), the battle makes the Spirits angry, and he wound up back in Arendelle, with his father and others lost behind a barrier nobody can bypass. This, obviously, is explained later. Back in the present, Elsa starts hearing this mystical call, and when she pulls a Let It Go by belting out a showy song about how part of her “LONGS to go… into the UNKNOWWWWWWWWN!”, sure enough, bad things start to happen- this awakens Ancient Spirits, and immediately Arendelle is threatened. The Trolls from the first movie arrive, and Grandpabbie does his usual “Speaks In Metaphor” stuff with a scary light-show, and we never see them again. And so the Main Cast is off to the Enchanted Forest.
Elsa naturally breaks through the barrier, and we’re thrown into the issues with the past already- the Arendelle Army has a few soldiers left, they’ve been trapped there all this time, along with the Northuldra clan, and they still aren’t friendly- each blames the other for the battle in the past. Then the Spirits attack, and Elsa has to use her magic to fight them… and then I won’t share any more spoilers until I’m done my Disney Series and do a proper full review.
-The movie is EPIC-looking. Almost the best overall part of the movie is the depth of the scenery, the incredible graphics, and the set-pieces created. Elsa’s twin songs get these gorgeous “bright lights to all-black backdrops”, coming off like the Northern Lights come to life, showing great images. The various Spirits have terrific-looking powers, and Elsa comes off as a huge bad-ass. Olaf’s random trivia thing is meant to come off as annoying for the others while being funny for the viewer, and that works, and best of all- IT PAYS OFF. REPEATEDLY.
The emotional moments are done very well, but often you’re like “Hey, hold that scene a little bit more”. Elsa’s character is largely maintained through the original film by keeping bits and pieces of the old flaws in her personality- she keeps things to herself, is overwhelmed by guilt, and has powerful emotions. The unbridled joy at losing herself in magic is the same as the first movie, as both her big songs feature bits and pieces of “Holy crap this is so awesome”, especially the second one.
The acting is quite top-notch, as usual- Elsa isn’t as fascinatingly-quiet as the first movie, and Anna isn’t as dumb, making them a bit less “extreme”, but they’re still very well done (“You can’t just follow me into FIRE!” “Then don’t RUN into fire!”)- close, but occasionally still frustrated by each other. Elsa’s recklessness and diving into magic worry Anna, and Anna’s constant leaping into danger to help Elsa worries HER.
The songs are interesting and quite good- I don’t think anything will prove as Ear Worm-y as In Summer, Love Is An Open Door, or especially Let It Go, but there’s at least three real bangers, a sweet Mother-Daughter song, and a truly HILARIOUS song featuring Kristoff and a backup band. Their probably won’t be anything quite as epically-repeated as the dialogue in the first movie, though- nothing really rolls off like “Do you wanna build a snowman?”, “I don’t have a skull. Or bones.”, or Some people are worth melting for”. The lines here are fine, but workmanlike and often just get the plot rolling along.
The movie takes some risks, but ultimately walks back a bit from them. Standard Disney Plotting, or “we want to keep the young fans buying stuff”? I dunno.
-The only real issue I take with the movie is its rapid-fire pacing, which kind of makes some things have less impact than they possibly could. The plot moves VERY quickly, much like the first, and oftentimes I think later “hey, what ELSE is going on there?”. This was also an issue with Frozen, in which the plot was so tight that they had to rush through EVERYTHING, often leaving potentially important things unexplained (the castle gates are closed so Elsa limits her contact with people, leaving Anna in with her, but we never really learn if they’re never allowed outside or what. It’s just glossed over, leaving endless wondering about “Why was ANNA trapped there, too?”- things that could be figured out, but aren’t even given a bit of exposition). So expect a bit of “hey, wait…” once you get home.
Another issue is the side characters that are barely written at all. I swear we know more about OAKEN in Frozen than we ever found out about the three named Northuldrans, and Captain Mattias is similarly given only a tiny bit to humanize him. It comes off a little like “HEY LOOK WE HAVE MINORITIES NOW!” because Mattias is black and the Northuldra are Inuit-looking, but like… Honeymaren and Ryder barely DO anything, aside from providing some exposition and comedy, respectively. Mascotty the Fire Spirit, Gale the Wind Spirit and even the Water Nokk (which is NEVER NAMED) are run through rapidly as well, and most are irrelevant to the plot later on.
-Oh, Jesus. First off, there’s like four new characters named- expect to see Honeymaren & Mattias repeatedly in merch, despite a lack of lines. Elsa & Anna get a TON of new outfits to attach to dolls, as well- criminy, I didn’t even realize it until I got home, but they never wore their clothes from the original movie ONCE. Elsa literally never wears her ICONIC ICE DRESS AT ALL!
Elsa gets four outfits in total here (they actually sneak in an extra one!)- the pastel purple dress is hilariously only used for a single scene and you never see it again, yet there’s a doll of it. Her shiny, velvety nightgown is one of the most beautiful things Disney’s ever animated (it looks SO SOFT!), and at least lasts a while, but then it’s the outfits you see in most of the merch.
Oh, plus there’s the Water Nokk, which can sell horse toys (there’s now plush AND standard toys for it), the ridiculously-cute Fire Spirit, which has plush for it too, and hell, maybe the Earth Giants will show up in stuff. A cynical person might assume that this ENTIRE movie was created just to sell toys, but obviously our mouse-eared overlords would never do anything so blatantly greedy, would they?
SUMMING IT UP:
-It’s a great sequel, and I think most people who saw the first will love it. At times bittersweet, it’s funny, charming and has a TON of amazing scenery that makes Arendelle and the Enchanted Forest look beautiful, and Elsa comes off as the hugest badass in Disney’s arsenal, fighting wind, fire, and a GODDAMN OCEAN to right the wrongs of the past. And also make Disney money.