Movie Review | Frozen II
Movie summary: Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa's powers in order to save their kingdom. (IMDb)
I really liked Frozen after seeing it for the first time, an impression which remained the same after more viewings. I particularly liked the fact that the two leads were not only both women, but were sisters - and the central love story of the movie was their love for each other. The fact that this remains true (to an extent) of Frozen II meant it was almost inevitable I was going to like this movie too.
That comparison to the original is all the more deserved considering that this feels like a second part of a single story rather than a brand-new adventure that happens to feature the same characters and settings. While I do think you'd be able to watch this movie without having seen the first, Frozen II will feel much more 'complete' if you already know the characters from their first outing.
The reason that is particularly important is because the characters don't really have any arcs of their own in this movie. They're pretty much exactly the same people at the end of this movie as they were at the start of it, even if their personal situations have changed. While character consistency can be good to an extent, don't go looking for any growth from the cast here.
That isn't to insult the cast or their performances, with them all sounding even more perfect in their roles thanks to having experience of playing them before. Elsa and Anna (Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively) sound and feel even more like sisters than before, with their casual, natural relationship surely the result of the actresses knowing each better.
This confidence definitely helps balance out the lack of character development, but it is that familiarity with the first movie that truly seals the deal. As much as the cast are more experienced, so are the audience - and while Frozen II does enough to sketch in the details for newcomers, there are a lot of links back to the original that fans will enjoy seeing.
There's some really good world-building here, developing the environment and the history of Arendelle and the lands around it that help to add more depth to the story, including a couple of twists that I got just before they were revealed each time. I'd have to watch it again to see if there were any clues earlier on that I missed, but I was pleased that the movie did enough to signal where it was going without being too overt about it.
Then again, I imagine more fans will be concerned about the songs in the movie more than anything else and Frozen II doesn't disappoint. There's nothing that will break out like Let It Go - which is heard again briefly in a nifty callback that isn't just for fan service - but they're all at least enjoyable. The highlight for me was the Eighties power ballad given to Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that both sounds and takes visual cues from music videos of 30 years ago.
For me, the highlight was the visual brilliance on display, with Frozen II providing an often breath-taking reminder of how far CGI movies have come since the original was released. Honestly, there are moments when the lighting and environment design here surpasses VFX in live-action movies in terms of realism and fidelity.
The only issue with this is that incredible natural-looking world only serves to make the highly-stylised characters stand out as a little odd. It's the faces more than anything, which do serve to get across the emotions needed at any point, but feel very cartoonish at times in comparison to the same characters' bodies, clothing and the world around them.
There's also a none-too-subtle theme about climate change here, with the movie revealing that it was a previous generation responsible for the worsening conditions in the present day and it's up to the younger generation to fix the mistakes of the past before civilisation as they know it is ruined forever. It'll be interesting to see how many fans of the series notice this and follow the trail currently being blazed by the likes of Greta Thunberg - life imitating art which is already imitating life could become a reality (even if it is a confusing sentence to read and write).
Frozen II is a great movie and a fantastic sequel, although it does rely a little more heavily on plot to drive things forward rather than character work. Fortunately, the plot and world-building is excellent, providing some stunning visuals and setting up sequences - both short and long - to keep you interested. As for the songs, there was no stand out like 'Let It Go', but plenty to keep you humming after the movie is over.