Some critics and theatergoers are of the believe the last decade has been a second Renaissance for Disney Animation, with critically-acclaimed and financially-coveted offerings like Zootopia, Big Hero 6, Tangled, and Moana bursting onto the screen to an outcry of good fortune. No film in the Disney catalog capitalized more than late-2013’s holiday juggernaut – Frozen. The animated film with the snowy landscapes and catchy songs achieved a very positive critical reception and acclaim from theatergoers, allowing it to achieve over nearly 1.3 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and a bottomless amount from merchandising and home video sales.
I was a mixed bag when the film first came out. I criticized the familiarity of its narrative and the lack of originality, while I wrote highly about the likability of its characters and the charm the cast brought to the film, complimented by energetic and enthusiastic music and animation. As over half a decade has went by, I believe I have lightened up a lot on my criticisms, reflecting back on the whimsical nature with more fondness. I don’t believe my opinion has changed enough to warrant revisiting the film on a future review, but I think maybe I came off more negative as a result of all the hype the film received. Something I have tried to be better at with shaping my reviews is reviewing things for what they are and not for what I assumed heading in or in-reaction to what I was told.
I was looking forward to Frozen II overall and, as you can expect, moviegoers showed up in droves for the opportunity to see Elsa, Anna, and friends again, with the film grossing over 1.4 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and received a generally positive reception. Most critics seem to carry the consensus that the film wasn’t as good or “fresh” as the original, but most at least found something to enjoy about it.
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (not unlike its predecessor), Frozen II is set three years after the events of the first film, and brings back our familiar cast of characters – Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven, as they leave Arendelle because of the mysterious voice that has been calling out to Elsa. The film sees the characters tackle their own individual plights, like Olaf and his apparent existential crisis, Kristoff working up the courage to ask Anna to marry him, and Anna and Elsa discovering the secrets of Arendelle and their family, and the origin of Elsa’s special abilities.
Personally, I think I enjoyed Frozen II more than Frozen, but it isn’t necessarily the significant improvement I would have liked. The subject-matter is interesting, if, perhaps, lightweight and inconsequential. I believed I would enjoy this film more than I did, because the trailers and the music I had heard had me anticipating a darker, maturer film. This isn’t wrong, necessarily, but it’s a surface-level sophistication I don’t believe transcends animation or challenges itself.
Kristoff struggling to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage feels like a direct-to-DVD subplot, even if it did result in a musical number that reminded me of a cross between Christian music and a boy band music video. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, however, unlike how a direct-to-DVD film would. It feels like they simply needed to offer him something to do. Olaf offers the comic-relief and earned a few laughs, I think. Sometimes I am a stickler when it comes to comic relief characters. For instance, as much as I loved How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, the only glaring criticism I had with the film was the Thorston Twins and how the humor didn’t gel with my personal tastes. I enjoyed Olaf’s character and even if it was a little ham-fist and lacking in nuance, I think they incorporating his subplot cleverly into the overall story.
The conflict and journey of Elsa and Anna is no doubt the meat and potatoes of the Frozen series. They are, for the most part, what I watch these films for. I believe this film masters the art of style over substance, and I don’t mean that as an insult. In retrospect, the dynamic isn’t very complex nor is it very profound or sophisticated, and yet, through dazzling, imaginative and, sometimes even, breathtaking imagery and animation, it feels grandiose and epic-scale. Certain scenes involving Elsa by herself can feel elegiac and haunting in their execution, with a visual pzazz that can make you feel in an abstract way despite the film’s narrative reach being short at best. It isn’t the harrowing journey of self-discovery between two sisters, but it can sometimes trick your brain into believing that it is, and that’s, really, half the battle.