When Disney announced a sequel to its smash hit Frozen, everyone scratched their heads wondering why on earth you’d risk tarnishing a modern classic (dollars aside – the original made $1.29bn).
Rarely does a sequel come close to the original and if anything, it taints the magic, but Frozen 2 is that rare treat – a sequel that bests and blows away its predecessor.
Elsa sports a wardrobe that would make any drag queen jealous (though they’re wearing trousers now) and Olaf reaches levels of wise maturity you’d never expect from, well, a magical snowman. Add catchy songs and visually stunning animation, and you have a winner.
It would have been easy for producer Jennifer Lee to rehash the original’s story but instead, the creative minds behind the original waited six years to find a story worth telling.
A fresh story
Perhaps taking such a long time to settle on the story is the formula other sequels have been missing (see Pochahontas 2, Return of Jafar etc). Or perhaps it’s being brave enough to step away from what could have been a ‘paint by numbers’ rehash.
Frozen 2 takes an icepick and cracks open the past, tackling Elsa’s origin story and explaining her parents’ history to create a fresh story. If fans are looking for a re-telling then they’ll just have to Let It Go.
We pick up the story in a peaceful Arendelle. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is on the throne, but there’s something calling her – specifically, a Siren’s Call. She continues to ignore the call until it sends a supernatural blast over her kingdom, forcing her to follow it and find answers.
Ensuring their people are safely out of the way, Elsa and Anna (Kristen Bell), followed by loyal Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven, head off to the Enchanted Forest. Remembering a lullaby and story her parents told her as a child, Elsa believes the Forest holds the key to their problems.
If this sounds like a more complex story, that’s because it is. Disney has moved even further from the Hans Christen Andersen inspired fairytale. There’s no Hans-like villain here, but there is a message about Climate Change, how we treat each other, and facing up to our past.
Growing up with the audience
This Anna and Elsa still refuse to be defined by romance, and their sisterly bond is just as strong and inspiring. Once again, Elsa’s restless search for her purpose is more relatable than a princess sitting around waiting for Prince Charming. This Queen takes her destiny into her own hands.
As the story and sisters mature, so too does Olaf. His steady stream of wisecracking one-liners continue but the film acknowledges that, just as the fans of Frozen have grown up, so must he.
Of course, waiting six years also means the kids who once dressed up as the sisters and the cute snowman are now off to secondary school. The bigger kids may have kids of their own. Warm hugs and slapstick jokes just won’t cut it anymore.
This older, wiser audience demands more and Frozen 2 delivers. Parents and long-term Disney nerds will get just as much pleasure out of this, don’t worry.
Darker – but packed with laughs
Cue a darker plot, though Disney has never been one to mollycoddle its audience. Expect tears as much as laughter – and there’s plenty of both.
Frozen 2 isn’t scared of gently mocking itself, and makes plenty of jokes at its own expense. Look out for two particular genius moments, one with a nod to Bohemian Rhapsody in Kristoff’s pop parody. (Yes, you read that right.) The other comes as Olaf recaps the original film in an effortless 60 seconds.
That’s not to say Frozen 2 is perfect. The film takes its time getting started. The first hour is spent reminding us that, “The past isn’t what it seems”. Disney obviously wanted to make it clear where the sequel positioned itself in relation to the original, unlike their recent Toy Story 4 that leapt right in.
Do Frozen 2’s songs live up to the hype?
A lot of the extra start time is packed with songs. There’s an ensemble piece as well as Anna’s The Next Right Thing and Olaf’s When I’m Older.
While there’s no song quite up to succeeding from Let It Go, Into the Unknown is surprisingly catchy and induces just as many goosebumps. Show Yourself, Elsa’s duet with her mother, also packs an emotional and musical punch making it arguably the stand out track.
Frozen 2 may not satisfy everyone, especially those expecting more of the same empowering acceptance from the first film, but don’t be so quick to dismiss this new take. Frozen 2 manages to achieve something most sequels don’t: it grows up with its fans.
In a world where we’re being force-fed remakes, Frozen 2 proves Disney doesn’t need to look to the past to create magic – perhaps it should take its own advice to Let It Go and step Into the Unknown.