In 2013 Frozen hit theatres like an unsuspecting blizzard. Children and adults alike were blown away by the film’s tale of love, acceptance and female empowerment. The film became a lucrative cultural phenomenon that spawned endless merchandise, short films and had thousands of kids repeatedly belting out the Oscar winning song “Let It Go” much to their parent’s chagrin.
In a perfect world directors Chris Butler and Jennifer Lee’s sequel Frozen II would be content to simply capitalized on that frozen moment in time.
The world has changed in the past six years though, and people are no longer accepting the status quo. The shifting climate, both socially and environmentally, is something that even this blockbuster franchise cannot ignore.
Set three years after the events of the first film, Frozen II finds Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Olaf (Josh Gad), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and trusty Sven all living a peaceful existence in Arendelle. Things are so good that Kristoff is finally ready to propose to Anna, if he can muster up the nerve that is. Unbeknownst to the group, the past has been awoken and it threatens to destroy Arendelle’s future.
Haunted by siren like calls that only she can hear, Elsa believes the voice may hold the key to understanding her powers. With the gang in tow, Elsa and Anna set out to find answers in a mythical magical forest that their parents once told them about. However, what they uncover will not only force them to confront the horrors of the past, but also challenge their bond as well.
Frozen II brings back many of the elements that made the first film so successful. The animation is stunning and the level of detail brings rich layers to the action sequences. The film’s irreverent humour satisfies all ages and openly takes a couple of comedic jabs at the previous film. The best of which being a mid-film recap that Olaf gives to a group who have been literally out of touch with the modern world. There are also plenty of strong musical numbers, such as “Show Yourself” and “Into the Unknown,” that will no doubt get stuck in one’s head.
Rather than simply rest on the laurels of its predecessor, this film attempts to tackle some complex social issues. Similar to Zootopia’s attempt to teach kids about racism through a child-friendly filter, Frozen II touches on colonialism and its impact on the environment in a gentle way. At one point the gang stumble across a indigenous tribe whose once harmonious bond with nature has been disrupted by outsiders.
To be honest a Frozen film is the last place one would expect to find pointed commentary on dishonourable treaties governments forced on First Nations communities. Yet here we are.
Of course, being a product of a giant corporation, Frozen II takes its wokeness only so far. Anna may scream “wake up” at one point, but there are limitations to the uprising. Just as each character fears change, the film itself prefers to take baby steps over giant leaps.
Change is presented as something both scary and necessary even when one is reluctant to accept the bigger picture. Frozen II is not so much about overturning the institution that cause the problems, but rather addressing errors of the past while simultaneously keeping institutions intact. A goal that will only be achieved when those guarding the door step aside and let the marginalized have some control.
On par with its predecessor, Frozen II will delight fans of the franchise. While the film provides several environmentally conscious nuggets to think about, its voyage into the unknown still travels the safe path.