A glittering year of Disney remakes and sequels comes to a wintry end with Frozen 2. Six years after we were first introduced to ice Queen Elsa and her bumbling yet devoted sister, Princess Anna, we return to the Kingdom of Arendelle to rejoin their journey of self-discovery. This time around, Elsa sets off in search of a mystical howling voice, beckoning in the wind, along with Anna, and returning favourites Kristoff, Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman in tow. As they encounter age-old enemy tribes, the secrets of their past and the mystery shrouding Elsa's powers, come to light.
In Frozen, we followed Anna, through her highs and lows, as she tried to understand the reason for her sister’s withdrawal from the world. The character of Elsa seemed only to exist as a vehicle through which the creators explored ideas of self worth, identity and being true to oneself, she was never a wholesome, relatable character. And that is crystallised further in this film, where we witness her wield and garner the full extent of her considerable powers, yet she goes from regal, reserved Queen to action woman within one lithe leap. There is no discernible character arc. Conversely, Anna has more of a natural development and is therefore closer to the traditional Disney princess that we’ve come to adore.
The magic of the original film lies in its unique subversion of Disney stereotypes and tropes, with two female leads, and a Queen who doesn’t need or indeed want a King. Here we’re bereft of that. It's set up like an origin story, but one that is somewhat safe and unsatisfying in the end. The creators nobly go to great lengths to stress the themes of sacrifice, doing the right thing, and righting the wrongs of the past. And with the introduction of a native tribe living across the border, which is foe at first, then friend, one cannot help but make the connection with the US-Mexico border, and the current political climate of distrust. The film equally celebrates different peoples coming together, all inhabiting the same world, as well as the glory of the natural world.
The emotional pull of the themes in the first film was balanced by humour, which was mainly delivered through Anna’s naiveté and silliness, reaching its height in the memorable “Love is an Open Door" sequence. The sequel doesn’t come close to such brutally self-deprecating awareness. We don’t have any of the humorous side characters either; Duke of Weselton is sorely missed. So, it is left to Olaf to provide almost all of the comic relief, which allows him to come into his own in this film. A rather odd comedy number is given to Kristoff, who looks lost in a 90s music video, of which Boyzone would be proud - it is however a jarring segue.
Although a weak and forced plot, nonetheless there are some visually fantastic scenes. Elsa fighting with the elements, particularly her battle with the ocean, is thrilling - a scintillating sequence of girl power, showcasing her magnificence. The centrepiece song “Into the Unknown" is the natural follow-up to the smash hit anthem “Let it Go". Although a catchy tune about not being afraid to follow one’s heart, it doesn’t hit the heights of its predecessor. The film moves from one forgettable song to the next, which almost mirror the original. The absolutely fabulous outfits of Anna and Elsa, however, most enviable, their numerous coats and boots combos could complete a comprehensive autumn/winter look-book.
Up until now, in deference to the legacies of princess films, Disney has respectfully made any sequels straight to video releases. The questions left unanswered in Frozen allowed fan theories to thrive, which is all part and parcel of Disney’s ability to capture and nurture the imagination. Here, some of that is undone. No doubt kids will love it and Disney will certainly achieve repeated success, but something precious has been lost with this release, as we witness the dawning of an era where even a Disney princess film is no longer immune from the taint of sub-par sequels.