After months of anticipation and careful avoidance of spoilers, I finally saw Frozen II last night. And as I watched the second installment of some of my favorite Disney characters, I expected to be wowed. Instead, I was overall underwhelmed. While I enjoyed watching the movie, I was never sent to the edge of my seat in excitement or concern.
There were definitely strengths to the storytelling, but the weaknesses made the experience of the movie less exciting than I’d expected. Even so, the core message of the story is a powerful one, and a great reminder for our daily life.
At the start of the movie, Elsa is restless, hearing a voice calling to her. When she answers the voice, she awakens the spirit of the Enchanted Forest. Angered spirits push the people out of Arendelle, and it’s up to Elsa to set things right. She, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven travel to the Enchanted Forest, where they must discover the truth about the past in order to save the future.
3 Strengths of Frozen II
1. Visually speaking, the movie is stunning. Birch trees and autumn colors fill the landscape of the hidden forest; ice and purple fire flash through the air. Everything from the clothing to the scenery is attended to with detail and beauty, which makes the movie well worth watching.
2. Aside from the visuals, the story is given an added layer of beauty through the addition of the Northuldra people and Ahtohallan. These new characters who live in harmony with nature, along with their songs about the river of memory, make Frozen II feel steeped in folklore. Elsa’s magic is suddenly explained, transformed from a mysterious power to a mystic element. Her gifts connect her to ancient powers protecting the forest, making her powers something rich and deep.
3. Despite the new additions, Frozen II stayed true to the characters we loved in the first movie. The music was lovely, especially Elsa’s song “Into the Unknown,” and humor still wove through the story. (Olaf’s ever-growing concerns about growing up popped up consistently and consistently made me laugh.) As with the first movie, the bond of sisterhood proved stronger than adversity. The best parts of Frozen were kept in tact, which is not always true of sequels.
2 Weaknesses of Frozen II
1. As the story progressed, I began to realize that Frozen II lacked deep conflict. Don’t get me wrong; there was obviously a high-stakes problem that had to be solved, or else it wouldn’t have been a story at all. But the conflict shaped itself in such a way that there was never any real tension for the audience. The characters experienced sadness, worry, and fear, but as an observer, I never experienced it with them.
The only true antagonist of the tale was in the past; the only real danger was for Elsa. And while Elsa’s sacrifice was very real (and perhaps the strongest part of the conflict when paired with Anna’s reaction), it didn’t affect me as much as expected. I never feared that she wouldn’t escape the danger. Even the possibility of Arendelle falling was lessened in tension by the fact that all of the people in the kingdom had already evacuated.
2. Part of what weakened the conflict is that it never led to any strong character development. There is a moment in the movie where Olaf says, “I still don’t know what transformation means but I feel like this forest has really changed us all.” Honestly though, I don’t think any of the characters changed. So much growth took place in the first movie, that here in the second one, there wasn’t much growing left to do. The characters stepped into new roles by the end, but they already possessed the qualities needed for those roles. They understood more of the past and healed a wrong, but still, essentially they were the same. Their growth was more ordinary, day-to-day maturing than deep development.
1 Take-Away from Frozen II
Despite my feeling underwhelmed by the movie overall, I found one of the messages in the story simple but extremely powerful. This take-away is a single line that kept resurfacing: “When you can see no future, all you can do is the next right thing.” -Pappi
Anna repeats this bit of wisdom to herself throughout the movie. She uses it to remind herself to keep going when everything seems lost, and because of that, I think she’s really the hero of the story. Both her and Elsa do everything they can to find a solution, but Anna finds the strength to keep stepping forward despite her greatest fears appearing before her. The closest the movie comes to deep conflict and growth is during Anna’s song “The Next Right Thing.”
The power of this message lies in its applicability to everyday life. So often, we fall into uncertainty. Our plans fail, the world is turned upside down, or we simply finish one path and don’t know what comes next. When we aren’t sure what the future holds, all we can do is “the next right thing.” All we can do is persevere and move forward, to live in this present moment and make the most of it. It can be hard to keep going when so much is shrouded in mystery. Focusing on the next step, the one thing that is known, makes life manageable even in difficult times.
So with all of that said, I would give Frozen II five out of seven snowflakes.
Part of my disappointment with the movie could be due to my extremely high expectations. Considering the beauty of the story and the great take-away, I would still recommend watching Frozen II. (Although, I will say, I didn’t like Kristoff’s song “Lost in the Woods”. Too boy-bandy for me. 😉 )
Have you watched Frozen II yet, and if so, what were your thoughts?