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Frozen II – Film Review

Things I’d Tweak 🔧

1. Elsa’s Arc

Elsa has this inner conflict whether or not to answer this call but abandon her newfound family. After all, you can’t marry a man you just met. But she starts to say the throne is not where she belongs, fair enough. But then she starts drifting from Anna and from then on, she never had any doubts at all about going “alone and free”. All her conflict is just driven by Anna, but that doesn’t challenge her mind one bit.

So Elsa pushes Anna away and goes far away to an ice structure to discover who she really is, and pays the price for it. Sounds similar. Difference is, in F1, that’s the anti-lesson: that brings her further from her Need of “true love”. But in F2, Anna’s the antagonist for dissuading Elsa from achieving her destiny and if Elsa didn’t push her away and “go too deep”, then the curse would never be broken. It’s correct for Elsa to break her promise to stay together.

Elsa’s arc is regressive and antithetical to the first movie. Female empowerment yay, but not at the cost at forgetting that the Frozen story has always been about the sisters coming “together”. Elsa longs for Anna more than anything in the world. That is the core of her character. Some things change, but must never contradict. Biggest gripe, because it’s so fundamental.

I’ve come up with an extremely simple tweak that completely recontextualises the entire story. In Ahtohallan, instead of seeing their mom, Elsa could see memories of Anna. Young Anna, teen Anna, adult Anna always there knocking at her door, Anna climbing up mountains for her, Anna giving up her life for her. Anna and Elsa are proof that magic and non-magic can coexist without fear but in true love. They succeed to love where King Runeard failed: they are Arendelle's second chance at redemption and reconciliation with Northuldria. Plus, since the Forest/Ahtohallan/whatever knows that Arendelle would be flooded if someone breaks the curse/dam, they bestowed Elsa with the power to hold the flood when the dam eventually must be broken.

2. Physical Antagonism

2a. Stakes: Investment

Antagonism, or its force, is lacking in presence and in strength. Even though in F1, Hans was only revealed to be a villain towards the end, we still felt antagonistic force throughout the story with each rejection from Elsa, the world becoming winter and Anna’s frozen heart threatening to freeze her.

The elemental spirits presented an antagonistic force, but this movie is a case study of the weaknesses of forces of nature as antagonists. They felt too impersonal to the characters and too plot-heavy — attacks are coincidental, and they never develop throughout the story. The consequence of all this is that our protagonists don’t get challenged in the best ways possible.

For what it’s worth, there is tension between the sisters (which is a little one-sided but ok), but the climactic fate of Arendelle could be handled better. For one, patriotism hasn’t been established to be a big thing, while personal stakes hit closer (as in F1). The audience doesn’t care if Arendelle lays in eternal winter or got flooded. The audience cares about individuals, that eternal winter means that Kristoff’s jobless, or that a frozen heart means Anna’s literally turning to ice, or that a flood means that the sisters will need to manage a kingdom without a land.

2b. Stakes: Urgency

An antagonism shortcoming could be ascribed to a lack of urgency. I mean, Arendellians need a home, but how desperately? The dam needs to be broken, but why NOW? What’s the pressure? We call this the “or-else” factor: objective must be achieved before event or-else punishment.

A very simple fix is coined, “a ticking time-bomb”. In F1, the biggest example is Anna getting frozen in the heart: she must receive an act of true love before her hair goes all white or else she will freeze forever. What if the "spirits" were dying due to the dam being built? Symbolically cause of injustice, and literally cause it holds back the water from the forest and restricting life. The curse must be lifted before they grow too weak or else the the Forest becomes disenchanted (hah) and Elsa will be frozen (and Olaf will melt) cause she's a forest spirit. Just like that, there's so much pressure on both sides.

2c. Human Opposition

A physical villain/antagonist who embodied the idea of lies and selfish-nationalism would be great. He would be a great opposite-extreme villain to Hans, who represents danger when you open your doors too wide, versus someone who represents danger when you close your doors tight shut. Then came an amazing tweak that I read: a review article by Erik Kain fantastically suggested, what if King Runeard survived?

8 projects/whatsthestoryabout/wtsa/assets/img/f2r/frozen-ii-erik-kain-review.png

Imagine: the Forest trapped King Runeard and his men, and he wants a way out. The Northuldrians know to break the dam to break the curse. He tells his soldiers, the dam would flood Arendelle regardless of the wall of mist, so they've been guarding it. 30 years later comes our gang who meets both parties. It goes mostly the same way except King Runeard whispers to the gang that all this history is proof that magic is more dangerous than good, and why we should keep the past locked up in the past, then convincing them to keep things the same.

Later, King Runeard may find out his son married a Northulda; Elsa being a spawn of the "evil" Forest and the mist, Runeard commands his soldiers to kill her to break the curse. Mattias, the king's guard, has his loyalty and character tested. Runeard doesn't have to be another plot-twist villain; he could be obviously manipulative but spits real facts that, hey, Anna, you actually DIED last movie because of Elsa — are you really okay with that?

3. Kristoff

Objectively, Kristoff’s subplot weighed the story down. I get where they were going that Kristoff’s love for Anna “is not that fragile”, and that his love never changes. But if you can cut a subplot, you cut it. It doesn’t really contribute. There was a lot of distracting and uncharacteristic dialogue and conflict for the sake of conflict between Anna and Kristoff. The proposal felt VERY out of place in the climax; it could be saved after her coronation.

But there’s other ways Kristoff can contribute; he’s such, such a complex character. He fits better with the Arendelle soldiers who are skeptical about magic, just as he was once skeptical about love. You could also meld Ryder with Mattias into one character: make them/him very stoic and distant at first, being the king's guard, like Kristoff initially was in F1. But Mattias loves reindeer too, and Kristoff can use that bond between man and reindeer to show Mattias his love for Anna, and by extension, the love Arendelle should have for Northuldria.

4. Deaths

The deaths could have been set-up better. Olaf’s was okay, because from the very first movie it was a forefront problem that he melts under heat, and the false safety in the start of the second that Olaf now had permafrost. In fact, Olaf’s death gave good weight to Anna’s character. Only suggestion is to show in the beginning when Elsa awakens the spirits, she could lose her powers for a moment — and Olaf could start to fade — but he recovers as her powers come back. Then there's the ever-looming threat and the setup where the audience knows, if Elsa dies then Olaf dies. That way, when Olaf's time comes, it's not as sudden. But that’s no big deal.

What bothered me more was how Elsa’s death was (not) foreshadowed. You’ve got the “not too far or you’ll be drowned”, and a reminder again with Honeymaron about warnings. For others it’s okay, but in my first viewing, I didn’t get that complete emotional payoff. Set-ups to deaths are like prophecies of doom. First, all that can’t be the only foreshadowing for a major death. Second, if anything, it led me to believe she would drown in water.

I have to compare Elsa’s death with Anna’s death in the first movie: we knew Anna was always in danger of getting frozen™, and we’ve seen it nearly happened at the start of the movie when they were children. All throughout Frozen 1, we hear the trolls explain (to us) very specifically, twice. At least both deaths were fitting for their character arcs. What if, for Elsa's death in Frozen II, the deeper Elsa went into Ahtohallan, the more she loses her magic (shown by how she can't make ice constructs anymore), and the more she paradoxically feels cold. If anything, it makes her sacrifice to find the truth even heavier because she gets to deliberate for a long time that she must pay the price for it.

5. Avatar Elsa

Nitpicking: the whole Avatar-Elsa-master-of-all-four-elements is not really touched on and is distracting at best. Just keep it simpla la and have only one water spirit because it relates to Elsa's ice and the whole water-is-memory and we see Elsa memory/water-bending and it makes sense. The other spirits can just be just normal Forest creatures who are angy. We still see the plot reveal of Elsa's-power-is-from-the-forest from a mile away — we don't need a hint that requires a whole I'm-the-fifth-element and other things to be part of the lore. We could still fit in a post credits where some girl in some other kingdom wakes up bending fire or smthn.

Things I Liked ❤️

1. Matured Character Development

One moment that hit me was near the start after Elsa walked out of charades and into her room; Anna knocked on her door and Elsa said “Come in,” which says a LOT, in the context of the first movie.

Our ever-optimistic Anna was broken down all the way to barebones and she’s tested for who she really is, and Olaf became “sadder and wiser”, finally going through what all snowmen have to.

They’ve learnt in the first movie how you can’t simply throw your heart around to anyone; they’ve learnt that love is free but comes at the greatest cost. Now they have to learn what happens when seasons change and all is lost.

2. Mature and Dark

I mean, don’t have grim for the sake of grim; but for a sequel whose predecessor was aimed at a young audience, they were willing to express mainly about loss and change and grief. Death of childhood figure (reminiscent of Bing Bong’s death from Inside Out) hit hard, that one. Olaf’s death was real, and meaningful. We jump from Anna cradling Olaf, to a wide shot of the forest, and then back to the cave, Anna’s arms now empty. That was good.

Then there’s war crimes and national secrets. on the one hand it feels a little too big-scale, but they do run a kingdom now.

3. Very Different Theme

I was really confused at first at how different the themes of Frozen 1 line up with that of Frozen 2. I had many expectations and theories for sure, based off what has been established, like something about the theme of love vs. fear in family. Sequels need to develop the themes of the prior movie, with varying success across Kung Fu Panda, Toy Story, Wreck-it-Ralph, HTTYD, all the direct-to-video Disney films etc. Some stories just rehash the old theme with the same characyters going through the same character arcs. Other stories go off the opposite extreme deep end, cancelling out whatever they tried to say from the first movie.

But coming in, the first two songs set the tone and theme of change and truth in love. I had to drop everything I thought I knew (heh, which is what one of the movie’s messages) and just let myself enjoy the movie. Which was good, otherwise I would’ve been too intellectual all the way through.

And now in hindsight… the themes do relate strongly to the original, a development of he original, even — while still standing very apart on their own. I could never have predicted how it would develop. It’s not clear at first, but it’s a very tight, waterproof choice of theme.

4. Visuals

Interesting camera action/perspectives. The colours were really bold and vibrant. Orange landscape to contrast deep blue water and bright blue ice. Purple to represent fire, and also royalty. Costuming was a really nice change from the first movie too, which helped me to acclimatise to the new themes. There was this post on the significance of characters’ costuming, which was purposeful.

5. Musical motifs

There were familiar musical and thematic motifs from the first movie, even if I wished they were more frequent and apparent. In just Some Things Never Change alone, you could hear parts of First Time in Forever (both songs mirror each other). The intro of Into The Unknown seems like a reordered and minor key-ed intro of Do You Want To Build A Snowman. Olaf melting, being frozen, Vuelie (From “Frozen”/Score). But this level of familiarity is probably a good thing was probably a conscious choice to not milk the nostalgia of the former hit as sequels are prone to do. They were similar but not repetitive. There was lots of new ground.

6. Self-awareness

Okay Olaf and his recaps and Samantha was pretty funny tbh. Other than Kristoff’s interactions with Anna, the movie’s comedy is great. A lot of self-referencing, which I enjoyed as a whole.