When I saw the first trailer for Frozen II drop I felt one part entranced by the visuals, one part curious on where the story could go, and two parts nervous that this movie would be a cash grab with no substance. Although Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee don’t reach the same heights as they did thematically, musically, or story wise in Frozen, there are still more than enough gorgeous and fun moments in their sequel to satisfy the fans and entertain kids.
The story picks up some time after the ending of the first movie and follows our makeshift family unit of Elsa (Idina Menzel) , Anna (Kristen Bell) , Olaf (Josh Gad) , Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) , and Sven. They’re domesticated and having fun, but Elsa has been hearing a call beckoning her to leave her homeland and find her true calling. If the story sounds weird that’s because it is. It feels lazily written and almost feels like a series of excuses meant to guide characters from one set piece to another. It’s frustrating because the movie is supposed to be dealing with Elsa and her powers and had a real potential to explore the lore in interesting and philosophical ways to help develop the themes from the previous movie. Instead, it focuses on hashing out these really basic character arcs that either feel like they were better resolved in the previous movie or they just feel out of place overall.
Thankfully, the set pieces in this movie are absolutely breath-taking. Elsa has a lot of amazing action moments that serve to demonstrate how mind-blowing her powers are. Even though I thought the plot was absurd, I was left stunned with how cool and gorgeous a lot of her moments ended up looking. The color palette is distinct and vibrant and makes these moments that much prettier. There are gorgeous autumn leaves and amazing snow effects. The water looks and feels alive and fluid. The lighting is immaculate and everything feels imbued with vitality. There are a few scenes where the background felt like it was actually straight ripped out from reality. It all comes together to create one of the most stunning movies I’ve ever seen. I already know I’m going to re-watch the movie to see some of these moments again. If nothing else, this movie knows how to look near perfect.
The music is also good, even though it doesn’t reach the heights of the first movie. The title song is incredible, however, and I loved how it was incorporated throughout the movie. Into the Unknown probably won’t get as many plays from me as Let It Go did, but it’s a great song and I know I won’t be able to get it out of my head for a bit. Menzel and Bell are also still great, and each of their characters had at least one musical solo scene that I enjoyed. This film more so than the last felt like it had a few too many songs. In particular, Kristoff’s song felt misplaced and actually ended up making me like his character less. I appreciate how funny the song is supposed to be and thought the editing and feel of it was great. However, it makes him feel like he’s less mature than we’re led to believe and also interrupts the action in an non-ideal way.
Thematically, the movie attempts to do cool things but just falls on its face. Certain ideas are explored on a surface level which is a shame because of how interesting they could have been. There’s a lot of discussion about growth, but we rarely get to see it explored because the characters don’t feel like they actually change that much. There’s also this really neat idea of water in relation to time that feels Taoist in nature but outside of a cool visuals and interesting thoughts never reaches the potentials of what it could have been.
TLDR: Frozen II is gorgeous and breath taking, even if it feels like its lacking in substance. It never reaches the same heights of its predecessor, but is still entertaining and sure to give you some fun moments.
Final Rating: 7.5/10. I’ll watch the movie again – it’s beautiful and has some amazing scenes. Fans of the original should check this out, but be wary – the story leaves a lot to be desired and may be disappointing to some.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!