It’s shockingly been six years since Disney’s animated take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen became a worldwide phenomenon, breaking the mold on the studio’s true love narrative. The fresh take on the Disney princess tale undoubtedly became a box office hit, generating an acclaimed broadway show which brought to life the popular soundtrack that’s haunted parents ever since! So inevitably Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee are back with their long-anticipated sequel, Frozen II, which is a bigger, bolder and more heartfelt sequel that’s a rare improvement on the first.
Opening with a bittersweet flashback to the sister’s childhood, parents King Agnarr (Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood) tell them a bedtime ‘story’ about the enchanted forest in the North which mysteriously became clouded in mist. Flash forward three years after the events of Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) coronation and Arendelle is now a peaceful Kingdom, with the Queen happily controlling her powers, protecting the realm and living an idyllic life playing charades with Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven. That’s until she starts hearing a song from the North calling her, followed by elemental forces that threaten the Norwegian kingdom. Elsa, Anna and co. must embark on a journey to the same enchanted Forest from their childhood stories to unlock the mystery of the Queen’s powers and save the kingdom.
Frozen II is a much more magical and mature outing than the original, as the directors opt to explore the sister’s family history and the origins of Elsa’s power in a fantasy-esque quest, inspired by Arendelle’s Nordic mythology and folklore. More emotionally mature themes such as growing up and change, as well as righting the wrongs of the past are explored along the way, with the film much more in the vein of Moana than the fairytale original. Yes this narrative may be a little lost amongst the younger viewers, thankfully Olaf helps with his musical number ‘Some Things Never Change’, but I found it a much more expansive tale than the by the book original. To help balance the more mature themes, there are a number of fun side plots and scenes that will definitely bring a smile to your face, particularly Olaf hilariously reciting the first film in a matter of seconds and Kristoff repeatedly messing up his proposal to Anna.
The fantasy elements are wonderfully brought to life by dazzling animation that’s well advanced over the six years, breathing life into epic earth giants and elemental spirits. Elsa’s attempt to tame the horse of the Nokk in the heart of the sea is spectacularly staged, along with the bold imagery of opposing ice and fire as the Queen comes toe to toe with the ever consuming purple fire of the fire spirit. The beautiful cinematography also reflects the narrative theme of change, with a seasonal shift from the ice and snow of Winter to an autumnal glow highlighted by fiery silver birches of the enchanted forest.
The second outing also offers a much more well rounded and musical-esque soundtrack from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, with plenty of new hits that will delight audiences. Thankfully the wonderful Idina Menzel is gifted two new belters this time round, with “Into the Unknown”, the obvious spiritual successor to “Let it Go”, as well as the more mystical “Show Yourself”. Thankfully Hamilton’s Jonathan Groff is finally gifted a song, with slightly silly 80s soft rock ballad ‘Lost in the Woods’, while Kristen Bell get’s the most West End-esque tune with the heartbreaking ‘The Next Right Thing’. As much as I thought this was, on the whole, a more complete soundtrack, unfortunately the Lopez duo haven’t replicated the delightful “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”
Frozen II is a much more heartfelt outing than the first, expanding upon the intriguing Nordic-esque mythology and folklore of Arendelle in a magical quest. Olaf will once again steal your heart, along with newcomer Bruni the fire spirit, but thankfully the sisterly bond still proves to be the main soul of the film. It’s unclear whether there’ll be a third instalment in Disney’s record breaking franchise, but with such a beautifully satisfying ending, I wouldn’t be disappointed if they let it go.