'Frozen 2' Film Review
It’s well known at this point that 2013’s Frozen had a turbulent production. The original script saw Elsa as the film’s main villain, and she remained as such until Disney executives heard ‘Let it Go’. The smash-hit song is still played incessantly worldwide, and studio heads decided after listening to it that their Ice Queen should become – at minimum – an anti-hero.
Last-minute rewrites and script changes left the production process crippled, and while audiences fell in love with Frozen (along with its soundtrack), many were baffled by unanswered questions and plot-holes that littered the final product. Where did Elsa’s powers come from? What actually happened to her parents? And, most controversially, is Elsa gay?
The good news, for Disney at least, is that these questions provide ample footing for the development of a sequel; a film which makes history as the first ever ‘Disney Princess’ follow-up to snag a theatrical release – Beauty and the Beast 2: The Enchanted Christmas eat your heart out.
Before Disney can even start to answer these questions, significant world-building needs to be done; the original film was, after all, surprisingly self-contained. The first fifteen minutes of Frozen 2 are bogged down with jarring exposition; audiences are informed, for example, of an ‘enchanted forest’ that seems far too fundamental to our heroines’ childhoods to have evaded mention in Frozen 1. Regardless, this preliminary history lesson is a necessarily evil, and it sets the scene nicely for an enjoyable, quest-driven story-line.
When Frozen 2’s teaser trailer dropped back in February, many compared the film’s aesthetic to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This comparison stands after seeing the complete film, and the narrative’s main adventure feels heavily inspired by the Zelda story. Even Arendelle’s new and improved Castle Town is reminiscent of Zelda’s ‘Kakariko Village’, complete with rocky hills and pumpkin patch.
This isn't the only way that Frozen 2 can feel slightly derivative. One comedic sequence is directly ripped from Shrek 2, for example, while multiple beats from the first Frozen film are repeated in this sequel's story. Both films open on a young boy's flashback, and both films see Elsa perform a dress-changing power ballad within their second act. Still, the notable shift from Frozen 1's palace-drama to Frozen 2's forest-based quest fantasy is enough to make this film feel fresh overall.
The new soundtrack pales in comparison to Frozen 1's, but there are a few decent hits. Olaf has transitioned from the original film's most irritating character to the sequel's pride and joy, and his new song 'When I Get Older' offers one of the film's funniest sequences. Disney have also finally given Kristoff a (brilliant) solo number, a song that's long overdue considering the character is voiced by Jonathan Groff - a renowned Broadway icon.
It's also worth addressing the gay elephant in the room, and I don't think it's unfair to suggest that Disney dropped the ball with their handling of Elsa's sexuality. Since the release of the first Frozen, Elsa's sexuality has been the subject of loud and resonant debate. She was the first 'Disney Princess' to not be given a love-interest, fuelling some of the public-curiosity, and her song 'Let it Go' was admittedly packed with queer-allusion. Many millions of people considered Elsa's struggle to accept her inner 'magic' as a metaphor for something deeper, and even cast-members of the original film have expressed their support for the idea of actualizing Elsa as gay on the big screen.
The House of Mouse have struggled over the past few years with their poor LGBT+ representation. The directors of the last two Avengers films have admitted to queer-baiting audiences through their...charged depictions of Captain America and Bucky Barnes, while 2017's Beauty and the Beast caused controversy when Disney falsely promised audiences that their first openly-gay character would be featured within. Disney haven't helped themselves with their promotion of Frozen 2; just a few weeks ago, the main voice-cast were sent to London's 'Heaven' (the city's largest LGBTQ+ venue) to advertise the then-upcoming release.
While the script fails to explicitly comment on Elsa's sexuality, Frozen 2 introduces a new character (Honeymaren, voiced by Rachel Matthews) who essentially acts as the Ice Queen's girlfriend. Honeymaren's brother Ryder is also introduced to audiences in the Frozen sequel, and ironically appears to be coded-queer as well - that's if his overt flirtations with Kristoff are anything to go by.
In an interview with Refinery29, Frozen 2's co-director Jennifer Lee had this to say on whether Elsa would ever have an on-screen love interest; "maybe one day in another incarnation or another sequel, who knows. But I think it's important for our audiences to realize that this is someone that's an independent thinker". It seems clear that Disney are trying to appease both the homophobic and LGBTQ+ markets, but the reality is that neither camp ends up entirely satisfied.
This isn't the only way that Frozen 2 drops the ball with social commentary. The film attempts to highlight systemic violence towards indigenous communities, but strangely fails to deliver any final proclamation. Disney also tries to highlight the terrifying impacts of climate change, but by presenting Elsa's magic as the answer to global warming they undercut their own conversation.
The first Frozen was successful because of it’s bold feminist statement, and political messages have been at the heart of this franchise since its conception. Disney had the chance to continue challenging audiences with this sequel, and for a brief moment it looked like Frozen 2 would openly tackle racism, homophobia and climate change all within one movie. Ultimately, the studio's refusal to do...well...much at all with the ideas they introduce leaves the film feeling remarkably hollow; Frozen 2 must now rely on its underwhelming soundtrack to withstand the test of time.
I may be coming across too harsh here; Frozen 2 is honestly a good film. This Zelda-esque sequel will have adults and children alike feeling contented, and there’s nothing like a new Disney flick to warm the soul in the lead-up to Christmas. It's just becoming more and more evident now that Disney's unrelenting attempt to appease every market in the world is harming its creative output. Despite its great jokes and gorgeous animation, Frozen 2 remains a remarkably vanilla tasting snow-cone; perhaps it should have been so much more.
Written by James Green