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. (from IMDb)
After the phenomenon that was 2013’s Frozen, it’s really no surprise that we’d get a Frozen II. However, the real surprise may be in how long it’s taken to actually get a sequel to the beloved animated Disney film. Six years after fans young and old were swept away by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, we’re finally returning to Arendelle to see what the further advetures of this ragtag bunch is up to. The end result is a surprising follow-up that feels like an unplanned sequel, but offers a more mature adventure for sisters Ann and Elsa and their friends.
By now, many either still love the Frozen characters, or they see red at the very mention of the song “Let It Go.” So Frozen II is either one people welcome with open arms, or shutter at the mere thought of. As someone who really enjoyed the first film before all of the hooplah surrounding the film stifled my enthusiasm, I had only mild interest in the sequel. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the buzz around the sequel seemed to be very positive, with the unbridled excitement toward the film being much more reined in by fans this time around. What was most surprising to hear about Frozen II, however, was that it reportedly was a much more mature and even “darker” film than its predecessor. While I probably would be a little hesistant to deem Frozen II as “dark,” I’d have to say it’s definitely much more serious and, at times, even somber. It’s unexpectedly heavier in themes as well, being more directed at the older fans.
The first movie touched on magic as a reason for the more fantastical elements in the film’s plot. Elsa has this unexplained power to turn anything she touches to ice, but there’s no real explanation as to why. The other main magical creatures in the movie were a group of rock trolls that appear to have their own magical powers. However, in Frozen II, magic plays a very big part. The filmmakers dug deep into the Norwegian / Norse mythology to hone in on the belief in elemental spirits; turning fire, water, earth and wind into mysterious characters in the sequel. It also takes a page out of the handbook for making a sequel, in which characters that seemed completely normal or ordinary in the first film are suddenly given a deeper, more fantastical background in order to explain part of the plot–whether that part of the plot is something established in the first film or something completely new. I usually have mixed feelings about this approach, but Frozen II handles it pretty well, and it does lend some explanation as to why a certain ice-throwing queen might have magical powers in the first place. For the most part, though, the story aims to develop all of the central characters, test them, give them new challenges, and ultimately help them change further by the end of the second adventure.
I revisited the first movie before watching Frozen II, and I had forgotten just how quirky and funny Frozen was. I absolutely loved the wacky humor of The Emperor’s New Groove, and even thought Tangled was a blast, so when Frozen proved to have some of the silly DNA from those movies (Like Anna drooling on her pillow, Kristoff providing the voice for his reindeer-best-friend’s inner voice, and pretty much any of the crazy things Olaf did or said? C’mon!), it felt refreshing. Frozen II takes a very big step back from that tone; it’s there at times, sure, but even Olaf just isn’t as funny this time around. He remains sweet and lovable, but there’s something missing this time. Even Olaf is ruminating on everything changing and what it feels like to get older. Elsa is just so dang serious, too, and with the plot involving the evacuation and a catastrophic threat on Arendelle, there is just a lot more at stake here. Still, there are some funny moments, but they actually usually happen during musical numbers. Kristoff gets a rousing solo in “Lost in the Woods” that is not only catchy, but it’s quite funny. It’s a much-needed moment of comic relief. Olaf gets the next brilliant song, “When I Am Older,” in which he writes off a series of scary, intimidating, or confusing happenings around him as things he’ll just naturally understand when he’s older. Kids might nod in agreement along to this one, while the parents are likely to laugh out loud or slink down in their chairs in embarrassment–because it’s true! What kid doesn’t assume everything will all make sense when they’re grown up? (Meanwhile, the grown-ups are still wondering when it will all make sense!)
With the heavier themes and slightly darker tone to the movie, Frozen II may feel more ominous to the younger viewer. The opening scene has a little bit of sword action, but it’s nothing too serious, while the scenes where the elemental spirits attack or overwhelm people are likely to unsettle the more sensitive ones. The fire spirit uses bright purple flames, and the water spirits manifest as spooky “water horses” (AKA “Nokks”) that eventually become allies, but first appear threatening. (There’s even a sequence where they fight and wrestle with Elsa underwater.) The scariest things in the movie may be the rock giants, though, which are big, looming beasts that the people familiar with them are terrified of. Again, they also turn out to be less intense before the film’s end, but at times they’re likely to scare the little ones. (My 9-year-old son didn’t watch Frozen II with me, but as I watched it I kept thinking “This would probably scare him… and this…oh, that too.”) Also, those sensitive to the “magical” aspects of the story might find the elemental spirits kind of New Age-y. Because the whole nature of the story is steeped in fantasy, it feels less New Age and more fantastical, but I realize everyone’s feelings and sensitivity on this kind of subject matter varies. (Even regarding Star Wars, my son has had to ask me if “The Force” is real, which I had to frankly explain that it’s not; it’s just fantasy. Ha.)
If you liked the first Frozen, you’ll probably enjoy Frozen II. With just one viewing under my belt, my initial takeaway is that it’s a lot less “fun” than the first movie. Again, that’s not to say it isn’t fun, but the lighter nature of the 2013 film feels lessened here. The theme of change and getting older/growing up is a big one in Frozen II, which also seems surprising given the fact the film is supposed to be geared toward little kids. It may play better for adults than the first movie, and some of the songs–while less memorable–may be better, but all in all, Frozen II remains a decent sequel and a fine continuation of what the 2013 movie began… even if it’s probably not what many fans might expect. Oh, and there is a post-credits scene that is worth checking out if you can!
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/25/20)
4K UHD / Blu-Ray Special Features Review
The 4K UHD combo pack of Frozen II includes the feature film in stunning 4K UHD, the standard Blu-Ray disc and a digital copy, along with the following Extras:
Frozen II in 4K UHD – Frozen II is a really beautiful film, and in 4K, it’s gorgeous! The animation technology has come a long way in just 6 years, and the Disney Animation team pulled out all the stops for this sequel. The higher definition presentation not only pumps up the color, it also makes the tiniest details in things like water, ice and snow that much finer and crisp. This is a great one for the 4K UHD format.
Meet the Lopezes (8:37) – This featurette centers on the husband and wife team who wrote the music for both Frozen movies. Here they talk about their writing process and how they came up with some of the songs, including writing Olaf’s song while ice skating alone, for example!
Deleted Song: Unmeltable Me (2:49) – Josh Gad sings this fun little song about how Elsa had made him “permafrost,” therefore he can’t melt. Olaf sings this as he entertains guests waiting for Anna and Elsa.
Outtakes (2:27) – This is a batch of in-studio vocal recording outtakes. It shows the vocal talent goofing up lines and having fun with them, sometimes adlibbing. They also took some of these goofing-around lines and show them in the animated footage being said by their characters. It’s a cute montage.
The Spirits of Frozen 2 (12:03) is all about how the filmmakers tapped into Norse mythology to employ the elemental spirits. They cover them as characters here: the wind (AKA Gale), the fire salamander, the Scandinavian Nokk water horse and the Earth giants.
Did You Know??? (4:28) This fun little featurette takes cues from Olaf to tell facts about the movie — like how Sleeping Beauty inspired the enchanted forest in this movie, or how Dumbo, Baymax and Snow White appear in the snow figures that Anna and Elsa as kids play with at the beginning.
Scoring a Sequel (3:50) – Composer Christophe Beck talks about scoring the film and the evolution of the sound for this more mature story.
Deleted Scenes (17:58) – There are five deleted scenes told in storyboard form with introductions to each from directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. The first is an alternate version of the “Prologue,” which shows a different version of Elsa’s and Anna’s parents meeting. “Secret Room” has the sisters finding a secret room in their house which has them believing their father practiced magic… and then they realize it wasn’t him, but someone else! “Elsa’s Dream” shows how, as she dreamt, Anna saw frosty figures moving above them representing what Elsa is dreaming. But as Elsa’s dream turned sour, it got more intense. In “Hard Nokk’s,” the water horse tries to drown Kristoff until he admitted he’s unhappy living in the kingdom (which is different than how he feels in the finished film). Finally, “A Place of Our Own” is a really sweet scene that probably should have stayed in the film. In it, Elsa shares a memory of their parents with Anna which shows them saying appreciative and nurturing things about Anna (helping ease her mind about them keeping Elsa’s magical secret from her).
Deleted Songs (11:46) – There are two deleted songs. “Home” shows Anna going around town, singing about life there. (It reminded me of Belle’s song in Beauty and the Beast a little.) And “I Wanna Get This Right” is another cute Kristoff song where he agonizes over how to propose to Anna. (Except in this one, she proposes to him which ruins the point of him trying to propose the whole movie.)
Gale Tests (3:02) – Here is a test they did using finished animation of Elsa’s and Anna’s parents, as kids, interacting with the wind.
Hand-drawn Gale Test (0:54) is a very brief little animated moment.
Music Videos – Here you get two music videos: “Into the Unknown” by Panic! at the Disco (3:17) and “Lost in the Woods” (3:06) by Weezer.
“Into the Unknown” in 29 Languages (3:06) – Elsa’s song plays in 29 different languages!
Finally, there are Photo Galleries for character art and the World Premiere in Hollywood, Song Selection, and a Sing Along Mode on both the 4K and Blu-Ray discs and the digital copy.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/25/20)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Anna and Kristoff kiss a couple times; While riding in a carriage, after Elsa is asleep, Anna suggestively asks Kristoff what he wants to do and then puckers up to kiss him, but he only has proposing to her on his mind (nothing happens between them); Kristoff complains about his formal attire and Anna tells him that she prefers him in leather anyway.
Violence: During the prologue, we see people native to the forest attacking soldiers of Arendelle with swords and spears. Then the elements attack with water, wind and fire spirits trying to break up the fight; The elements fill the sky as ice diamonds. They then fall and shatter on the ground. Fire, water and wind start going crazy around Arendelle. The road then ripples as people flee the town; Some creepy things happen to Olaf as he sings a song while walking in the forest; A tornado spins around and grabs the Anna, Elsa and their friends. She sees a snowy echo of the prologue events in the process; They meet two groups of people in the forest with spears and swords; Olaf tells the story of the first movie in a silly dramatic way; The forest catches on (purple) fire. They struggle to get out as Elsa fights the flames. She follows the fire and finds a little salamander is the cause of it all. It shoots a flame burst at her. She picks it up and briefly reacts to the heat in pain; We see a memory of a couple holding each other and wrapped with a wave of frozen water, hinting that they drowned; Elsa makes a boat of ice and pushes Anna and Olaf into it and they slide out of control through the forest. They end up on a river and past the Earth giants and down a waterfall; Elsa runs up a glacier and falls back under a wave and wrestles with water horses. She ends up wrangling one and riding it till she tames it; Elsa causes a snowy statue of Hans to break up into pieces; (SPOILERS from here to the end:) Elsa struggles with the cold and then completely freezes solid; We see a snowman dramatically fade away; Soldiers bang their swords on their shields to rally the Earth giants. The giants chase Anna and throw rocks at the dam. It collapses and water fills the valley. A shield of ice stops the water from crushing a town.