Frozen II: A sequel with a purpose

A scene from "Frozen II." (Disney/IMDb/TNS)

By Lea Killian

A&E Editor

“Frozen II” film review

On Nov. 22, 2013, “Frozen” released in theaters. Written and directed by Jennifer Lee, with Chris Buck co-directing, the film follows the story of two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), after their parents perish in a shipwreck.

When Elsa was born, her parents discover she has the magical ability of creating and controlling elements of ice and snow – an ability Elsa’s parents decide to keep secret, closing the castle gates of Arendelle, ultimately isolating their children.

When Elsa becomes queen after the death of their parents, she accidentally reveals her powers to the world – and to Anna. In an effort to live a life in which she no longer has to hide who she is, she abandons the kingdom and flees.

The film resolves itself with Anna and her friends, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven (also Jonathan Groff and Olaf (Josh God) going after Elsa and attempting to repair the damage that was done.

“Frozen” was an enormous box office success as the highest grossing animated film at the time. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Let It Go” and two Grammy Awards for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media.

In 2014, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that Disney had no interest in forcing a sequel to “Frozen,” as doing so would risk creating something that wouldn’t live up to the first film.

Only a month later, Disney gave Lee and Buck permission to explore the world of “Frozen.” They wanted to create something from scratch that didn’t falter in the way that so many sequels do.

Over the last six years, Lee and Buck developed a brand new storyline separate from the first film. They kept all the original characters, focusing on opportunities for character development. By taking this approach and striving for something completely original, the creators of “Frozen” did something that is nearly unheard of: Creating a sequel that surpasses the original.

“Frozen II” released in theaters Nov. 22, 2019, and takes place three years after the first film. Audiences meet Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf back in Arendelle with the castle gates wide open and the sisters finally getting to be a part of their kingdom. While Anna is thrilled with her new life, something still plagues Elsa even though the kingdom now knows and accepts her powers:

She hears a voice calling to her.

This conflict reveals itself in the film’s two opening songs, “Some Things Never Change” and “Into the Unknown.”

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote all the songs in the film, and Christophe Beck composed. This team of artists remained the same from the first film, more than likely feeling they had a title to defend since “Let It Go” from the first film was such an enormous hit.

The entire cast performs the first song, “Some Things Never Change,” and the lyrics serve as an upbeat, familiar sound in a brand new film:

“Yes, some things never change / Like the feel of your hand in mine / Some things stay the same / Like how we get along just fine / Like an old stone wall that will never fall / Some things are always true / Some things never change / Like how I’m holding on tight to you.”

Elsa begins to express her doubts in the following song, “Into the Unknown,” in which she sings directly to the voice she hears (played by AURORA):

“What do you want? / ‘Cause you’ve been keeping me awake / Are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake? / Or are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me / Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?”

Elsa responds to the voice and accidentally awakens the spirit of the forest when it attacks their kingdom. This revelation serves as the first plot point of the film, as this is when Elsa realizes she must journey into the forest to find the voice that is calling her. She hopes that in doing so, she will save Arendelle and find the answers she needs. Anna insists that she, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf must accompany her.

Additionally, there are two subplots that balance the more serious elements of the film with a bit of humor:

Kristoff continually tries to propose to Anna, as they have been dating since the ending of the first film, but fails in quite spectacular ways over and over again. This creates a bit of tension between him and Anna, which leads him into one of the best songs of the film, “Lost in the Woods,” in which the entire theme of the film briefly changes to mimic a 1980’s music video.

The scene might be a little over the top to some, but it was nice to see Kristoff come out of his shell a little bit.

Secondly, Olaf becomes a bit too aware of his own mortality, often saying things that only an adult viewer would understand. This theme appears several times throughout the film, even presenting itself in Olaf’s song, “When I Am Older,” in which Olaf sings about how everything will make sense when he is older. This, obviously, is a naive, hilarious concept to adult viewers who know just how false that statement is.

            The film also plays with symbolism involving Elsa’s hair, a common tool in film and literature often used to represent self-reflective journeys. When we first meet Elsa, her hair is tied back into a tight bun that is meant to symbolize how strictly she must live her life in order to keep her powers a secret.

During “Let It Go” in the first film, Elsa takes down the tied knot and forms her hair into a braid that cascades down her back, representing the freedom she finds in refusing to conceal herself or her powers.

In the second film, as Elsa begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the voice she hears, her hair changes yet again. This is a beautiful element of the film that should not go unnoticed as Anna and Elsa’s story comes to a close in a profound and truly unexpected way.

Much like the first film, “Frozen II” tosses out the traditional Disney tropes and replaces them with empowering messages of self-discovery and perseverance.  

“Frozen II” perfectly represents a duality in animated films that is so often overlooked. Yes, these films have the innate ability to take complex issues and make them understandable for children. However, in doing so, these films create a much-needed space for adults to be open about the very same issues that plague them.

We are much more like the children sitting next to us in the movie theater than we realize.

We need movies that unabashedly celebrate the magic found in owning one’s individuality. We need movies with songs that remind us of our own strength and resilience. We need movies that bring us clarity about the complexities of our own world by telling us a story that is just beyond the realm of our imagination.

“Frozen II” does all of this and so much more. I give the film 10/10.

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