If ‘Let It Go’, the Broadway-esque barnstormer that has lingered in the ears of every Frozen viewer since 2013, encapsulated the film perfectly, then ‘Into the Unknown’ – the new anthem by returning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – is the long-awaited sequel’s equivalent. Swapping themes of shame and self-acceptance for lines about risking one’s ‘happy ever after’ in search of something more, it never quite reaches the dizzying heights of its predecessor, but it comes pretty darn close.
The same can be said of the movie. Set three years after the original, Anna (Bell) is happy with Kristoff (Groff) and Sven, while Olaf – now permafrosted – spends his days relaxing in the autumnal sun. Elsa (Menzel) has settled in as queen too, but their bliss is interrupted when four elemental spirits – that were angered by something that happened during her grandfather’s rule – are awakened by her powers and threaten Arendelle. To save it, Elsa and the gang journey far from the kingdom to seek out an ethereal voice only she can hear, encountering cutesy flaming salamanders, an indigenous community and truths about their past along the way.
By expanding its horizons, screenwriter Jennifer Lee opens Frozen II up to more thrills and threats than the first, with inner conflict and slippery princes making way for a sinister-looking water horse, a hostile enchanted forest and a bunch of destructive, mossy-headed earth giants. The animation is breathtaking, as pink skies backdrop shadowy mountains and Frozen’s snowscapes are replaced with blackened seas and copper-tinged tundras.
The film also uses Elsa’s newfound confidence in her abilities to get experimental with its visual storytelling. One standout sequence sees her surroundings disappear – her light dress, blonde hair and bright blue eyes dazzling against the blackness – as she conjures up ice figures that dance around her mid-song.
The narrative, however, buckles under the pressure to be grander and more mystical. Numerous questions go unanswered, obstacles are overcome too easily, and character beats become repetitive as mythology-building takes precedence; Kristoff – whose 80s-inspired rock ballad is the film’s only major hiccup – just can’t seem to find the right time to propose, while Anna doesn’t have much to do until the final act other than hype up her sister. Olaf (Gad) – due to him always having been one-note, perhaps – is fantastic though, earning laughs aplenty with his innocent observations and one-snowman reenactment of the first movie to bring a new character up to speed.
Frozen II may not be perfect when compared to the previous outing but it’s so charming and fun, it’s easy to forgive it that. All-in-all, the flaws never bothered us anyway.