Six years ago, the Disney animated film Frozen took the world by storm, becoming the highest-grossing animated film in history until it was surpassed by this year’s remake of The Lion King. It spawned such a wildly successful franchise that the main characters, Elsa and Anna, have yet to be officially crowned as Disney Princesses because they can sell plenty of merchandise on their own. After a couple of shorts in the intervening years – Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – a full feature-length sequel is finally upon us. And happily, it holds up.
This time around, the film feels more story-driven than character-driven; we have Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven heading off on a quest, looking to investigate a hidden, enchanted forest and some mysterious magical forces that are threatening their kingdom of Arendelle. This is certainly a good approach to take, placing the established characters in a new scenario while also taking the opportunity for world-building, expanding upon the existence of magic in this world which we’ve already seen in the form of Elsa and the trolls – and the result is an exciting and engaging story. If this story-based approach to the sequel does have a weakness, it’s that it doesn’t provide quite the same emotional impact as the first film. Yes, the characters still have emotional arcs, but not on the same scale as those which were already resolved last time round. Fortunately, they’re not made to start from scratch and re-learn the same lessons all over again – as can happen sometimes with sequels – and I particularly liked what the film does with Olaf; still funny without being annoying, he experiences quirky moments of eloquence and wisdom as an apparent sign of growing up.
The settings are designed and rendered beautifully, and there are some scenes where the quality of the animation is nothing short of phenomenal, such as one where Elsa manipulates a large number of water droplets. And of course, you couldn’t have a Frozen sequel without a cracking soundtrack. While the songs can’t quite reach the wonderfully catchy heights of Let It Go, there are no real weak links either. Elsa’s new belter, “Into the Unknown”, is especially spine-tingling when it gets to the chorus; Olaf gets “When I Am Older”, a happy little song reflecting his innocence as he hilariously blunders through a scene of bizarre and increasingly hostile magical happenings; and Kristoff gets “Lost in the Woods”, sung in the lovelorn style of the typical Nineties boyband, with a herd of talking reindeer backing him up.
Frozen II, while not quite on the same level as the first film, is good enough to show that Disney have still got the magic touch where it counts. Rating: 4/5.