Friday, January 17, 2020

Green Phoenix - Frozen 2 Review

Frozen 2 poster.jpgIt's the sequel to Frozen. A sequel to one of Disney's highest grossing and most critically and commercially successful film's of the past decade.

Normally I would use this introductory section before the post cut to give the viewer and overview and history behind the production of the film in question and its significance (if any). If you have somehow managed to avoid Frozen and its incredible cultural impact on the 2010s and the Disney Company as a whole, then I would love to take a nice long look at that apparently spacious rock you've been hiding under.

With that out of the way, Frozen was an adaption of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (the same author behind The Little Mermaid). Following its release in 2013, the film was a monstrous success and quickly became over-saturated in terms of merchandise and especially music (LET IT GO! LET IT GO!).

With such a hit, a sequel was less of a possibility and more of an inevitability. We all knew it was coming. But for the past 7 years, Disney was perfectly content to release the occasional Frozen short in place of a full length film. Many of these shorts were fairly well received, though Olaf's Frozen Adventure did receive a great deal of criticism for its length and its position ahead of 2017's Coco.

But then we saw that first trailer. And we knew that Frozen 2 was coming. So now the question is, does the sequel live up to original? Does it continue the story effectively and reach the same emotional and toyetic potential of the first?

It took 7 years to make this sequel, was the wait worth it?

***
  • Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
  • Produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Running Time: 103 Minutes

***

SUMMARY

Three years after Frozen, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna have been moving on with their lives in Arendelle. Anna is in a loving relationship with her boyfriend Kristoff, who is planning to pop the question, and Elsa has begun to hear a mysterious voice whispering to her.
But when magical forces begin to threaten Arendelle, it will be up to the sisters along with Anna's boyfriend Kristoff and their snowman Olaf to save Arendelle by following Elsa and the mysterious voice to the north, uncovering an ancient magic forest and make amends for a transgression committed by the sister's ancestors.

***

REVIEW

I very much enjoy the original Frozen. While I do feel it was overplayed and over-saturated, and it made a couple of narrative calls that I would've done differently (wait for next week's editorial for that 😉 ); on the whole, Frozen was a narrative treat from Disney that really signaled to me that Disney was on its way to a decade of high-quality entertainment from so many of its various different franchises, properties, and subsidiaries.

With that in mind, I still knew that the potential for Frozen 2 to be a terrible, soulless cash-grab was exceedingly high. Unfortunately, Disney does not have a strong track record when it comes to sequels to their most popular franchises (and none are more popular than Frozen). Couple that with the past few years worth of awful or vapid short films associated with the Frozen property, and I came into Frozen 2 absolutely terrified that it was going to be either a tremendous bore, a shallow cop-out, or tremendously unforgettable.

Thankfully, those low expectations allowed me to take off rose-colored glasses and see a film that, while under no circumstances as grand or as incredible as the original, is still a beautifully animated story with compelling themes and dramatic moments; whose only major failing is an incessant need to top its predecessor, at the expense of drama and time. A need it never quite fulfills, but will still leave the audience satisfied, even if it perhaps might've been better as a direct-to-DVD.

VISUALS - 9/10

This movie is absolutely beautiful to watch. Historically, Disney sequels tended to be sent over from their motion picture animation department to the company's television department, which almost always resulted in a sharp decline in animation quality. Films like The Lion King 2 and the Hunchback of Notre Dame 2


Image result for frozen 2 into the unknown
This film is beautiful to look at, especially the "Show Yourself" sequence
But those were in the Michael Eisner era. Nowadays, Disney seems to be much more cautious in terms of the animation quality of all of their films. The original Frozen was a beautifully designed CGI film, with effects and character designs that were exceptionally toyetic, as it was those designs that pervaded the zeitgeist of the early 2010s like a plague.

And as crazy as it sounds, Frozen 2 is even better looking than the original. The character designs have remained largely the same, but have become more detailed in terms of texture and the movement of those assets is incredibly smooth, natural, and dynamic. While I do feel that there are a few scenes where the staging of a musical number isn't quite as effective as the original (I will go into more detail in Soundtrack), but all in all, I found myself entranced by the sheer technological quality on display in this film.

Disney really did seem to care where the animation was concerned, and I think that it easily stands as one of Disney's most beautifully animated films.

SOUNDTRACK - 8/10

Of all the aspects that led to Frozen dominating the cultural zeitgeist in the early 2010s, the music is easily the strongest reason. You could not escape Do You Want to Build a Snowman, Summer, and, of course, Let It Go.

God, there was so much Let It Go for a few years. Even now, I bet that you are humming or singing it right now.

So, from a soundtrack perspective, Frozen 2 had a tough act to follow and surpass. How do you make a soundtrack even more grandiose and culturally ubiquitous than the original Frozen. Well, if this movie is any indication...you can't.
Image result for frozen 2 into the unknown
LET IT GO! LET IT...WAIT, NO! INTO THE UNKNOWN!

But you can give it a damn good try.


I do feel that it needs to be said that the music in this film is, under no circumstances, bad or unforgettable. While I enjoy Into the Unknown and Lost in the Woods is pants-wettingly funny (especially if you are familiar with the 90s boy band music videos stereotypes), the music seems desperate to achieve the same level of cultural infusion as Let It Go did.

Throughout Into the Unknown and especially Show Yourself, I noticed numerous moments where the animators clearly attempted to merge the visuals and music to evoke the same emotional pathos that Let It Go achieved.

But a key element that Let It Go possessed was that the music was incredibly good at standing on its own, outside of the accompanying animation. When you heard that song, the visuals popped into your mind (or even other visuals) and the emotional strength was just incredible. Although I will admit that the song was WAY to overplayed, which I think has spoiled the song's overall reputation.

In an effort to achieve that same musical ubiquity, the marketing for this film pushed Into the Unknown as the Let It Go for this film, and while it is certainly not bad, I feel like the triumphant anthem of self-discovery that is Show Yourself is a SO MUCH BETTER representation of this film!!!!

I love listening to Show Yourself so very much and I feel like it is so much more effective as the "Fuck Yeah!" moment in the film. It is the closest that the film gets to reaching the original's musical level. However, as previously stated, this song is like the rest in the soundtrack and incredibly dependent upon the visuals to aid in the emotional connection. Where Let It Go could stand on its own apart from the animation, Frozen 2's soundtrack gets close but still relies to heavily on the stellar animation to gain the emotions that the music ought to evoke on its own merits. I will still rate it high, but I can't quite give it the 10/10 that I would easily give the original Frozen.

It's close...but not quite close enough.

CHARACTERS - 4/10

As much as I enjoy the visual and audio elements of this film, as far as the character's go; this film is unfortunately lacking. Leaving aside Anna and Elsa (and perhaps Olaf), almost none of the characters (in a film that is already pretty slim in terms of characters) have absolutely nothing to do. It really is a shame because there are moments in the story where every character has a chance to make a big impact on the story and...they just don't.

Sven and Kristoff perhaps more than anyone else, just have nothing to do in this movie. They are effectively transportation to the magic forest and then do nothing once they get there except sing a really cheesy musical number. That musical number is great and had me rolling on the floor, but I wish that the film didn't have so much waste in it. It's sort of the same issue I had with the My Little Pony movie when that film came out several years ago.

Preferably, all of the film's characters should either possess a narrative or thematic connection to the overall plot, or are, in some other way, undergoing their own arc which can act additionally to that primary arc. While Sven and Kristoff have an ongoing arc of their own, it is almost entirely independent from the overall narrative of the film. You could remove the two of them from the story and it would change fundamentally nothing.

As for the side characters, many of the first film cast are gone and the newer cast has a conflict that lasts all of 10 minutes before the characters resolve it to get back into their story. The truth is that the character's issues, and the story's issues are one and the same and I really ought to continue on the story section to get a better grasp of the issue.

STORY - 7/10

At the center of Frozen 2's conflict is an exploration of the consequences of colonialism and a nation's reconciliation with itself over past cultural mistakes, which I feel is an incredibly important topic to discuss, especially in American and children-targeted media. The Northuldran people are clearly inspired by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia (surprisingly making Frozen 2 the second film this holiday season to feature an element of the Sami people in its narrative, the first being Klaus).

Image result for frozen 2 the truth about elsa and anna's parents
The Northuldran are such a great opportunity, poorly explored.
Despite this incredible narrative and thematic opportunity, the story fails in part to the bulk brought to it by a lot of pointless characters. The film has to give something for Sven and Kristoff and Olaf to do, and that slows down the true plot involving Anna and Elsa. That overall plot is just fine, but I feel like it could've been made stronger had the Northuldran-Arendelle connection been explored further.


The film builds up in trailers and the early story that this feud between the two people will be a major element of the film, but when you actually watch the film, the feud lasts all of 10 minutes before a single secret of Anna and Elsa resolves the feud and fixes everything. The feud is then barely mentioned as an active threat, but rather a remnant of an older threat now gone.

It makes the film feel like a roadtrip movie, but the overall driving force to push the plot along doesn't feel all that strong of a connection. It doesn't truly feel like anything was sacrificed or lossed in the heroes quest of self-discovery. Elsa got to have her cake and eat it too. Learn her past, find her purpose, and save Arendelle.

I spoke at length with many film-goers and many of us agreed that the film might've been better if Arendelle had been destroyed at the end of the film, so that the Northuldran and Arendellean peoples would have to unite and rebuild, with Elsa's magic to help. That ending would have built upon the theme of reconciliation and repairing old damages. As the old Arendelle was built on lies and betrayal, the new Arendelle is built on hope and collaboration.

As it stands, the story isn't bad, just unpolished and in desperate need of a diet. They needed to cut some of the unnecessary sub- and side plots, and place a greater emphasis on the connection between Elsa's magical quest and the Northuldran-Arendelle rivalry and feud. We could've had a much more tragic and emotionally complex film had those elements been focused on, even we maybe lost out on some of the funny songs (though new ones could've replaced them).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sequels always have a more difficult task than most films. Not only must they live up to the expectations of their predecessors, but they must also surpass them while remaining loyal to the original's memory. It is a troublesome dance that is raised all the higher the more successful the preceding film was.

And few IPs have been more monetarily and critically successful as Frozen. I honestly feel bad because this film had a terrible weight and expectation placed upon it to match and exceed its predecessor, whilst at the same time not dropping into the pitfalls of the numerous shorts that were released between Frozen and Frozen 2. And it doesn't quite match its predecessor in the overall.

While the animation is superbly crafted and easily surpasses the original in terms of quality, the soundtrack and story are above average at best, with the occasional moment of brilliance, and the rest of the story is bogged down by a lot of fat from the unnecessary characters that unfortunately slow down the film and leave a bit of bloat.

I do enjoy this film and will absolutely watch it again without hesitation, it just doesn't possess the same emotional connection that the original achieves, though I honestly think that there is very little that could've been done to this film to reach that level of cultural ubiquity. Frozen came out at a very particular time in modern culture and, like Star Wars before it, that good timing allowed it to establish a permanent place in the cultural hierarchy.

Frozen 2 isn't groundbreaking or Frozen's version of The Empire Strikes Back, but it is a well-crafted and lovingly produced film that does a good job of continuing a great story. It's flaws are noticeable and numerous, but not enough to take away from the final overall enjoyment. Definitely check it out if you get the chance and see if it lives up to your expectations for a sequel to Disney's massive hit of the early 2010s.


VISUALS
  • 9/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 8/10
CHARACTERS
  • 4/10
STORY
  • 7/10

 FINAL SCORE - 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment