Updated: November 25, 2019 1:26:12 pm
By Sapna Khajuria
Frozen (2013) was a very big deal for little children all over the world. Not so much for hapless parents who got headaches after being forced to listen to “Let it Go” a million and one times, and had to buy all sorts of glitzy but useless Elsa merchandise. It was, for many reasons, a terrific movie and was always going to be a tough act to follow.
Frozen 2 is set three years after the events of the first movie (let’s call it F1 from now on, to keep things simple). While trying to stay loyal to the tried and tested Disney themes of kinship, loyalty and beating the odds; this film introduces a slightly darker storyline.
Cheers from an audience, comprising largely of little girls, started even before the first dialogue was spoken – that’s how beloved F1 clearly continues to be. The main characters are very much the same as those in F1 – the sisters Elsa and Anna; Olaf the lovable, funny snowman (now thankfully permafrosted so all those hugs he loves so much, won’t melt him); Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff; his reindeer Sven.
A flashback shows Elsa and Anna’s father tell them a bedtime tale of an old enchanted forest, protected by most powerful spirits – fire, earth, air and water. The indigenous Northuldra people who lived in the forest promised friendship to the girls’ grandfather (the king of Arendelle), who builds a dam in the forest for them. Sadly, the Arrendellians were attacked, the grandfather died, and the girls’ father was saved by a mysterious presence. The fight enraged the powerful spirits who proceeded to cover the forest in thick mist, and it’s lost to the world thereafter. Hearing the girls’ curious questions about the forest, their mother tells them (in song, of course – this is Frozen, after all) about Ahtohllan, the spirit river, that holds all answers about the past.
Once these tales and cutesy song about how happy and content the Arendellians are, is out of the way, Elsa starts hearing a haunting melody that convinces her she has to find the person who is clearly in need of help. Elsa, whose mantra in F1 was to ‘Let it go’, isn’t really at peace – she is not sure of her place in her world; she knows deep down that she is not where she is meant to be; she still doesn’t know how or why she has the powers she possesses. Her anthem in this movie is the song “Into the unknown”, which is beautifully sung but not quite as catchy as ‘Let it go’ – parents all over the world, rejoice.
Winds rage around her and the ice she conjures give her some clues – it shows her the four spirit elements – she figures that air is raging, water and earth may not be far behind in endangering Arendelle: she has managed to wake the spirits of the enchanted forest. This forces Arendellians to evacuate their homes. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and a very chatty Olaf head in search of the source of the melody. In the midst of all the drama, Kristoff has been unsuccessfully trying to propose to Anna, only to result in an epic fail every time.
Olaf’s non-stop commentary on random facts about animals and sleep and what have you, had the audience in splits, until the adventurers reached the scene of a thick fog hiding the enchanted forest. Thanks to Elsa’s magic, they manage to enter the forest, to discover that the dam from the story still stands, but there are no humans around. Air spirit tries to trouble them, and Fire tries to burn the place down, but Elsa works her magic again. They find a frozen statue of a Northuldra girl saving their father.
The funniest scene is right after they come across frozen Arendellian soldiers and members of the Northuldra tribe (subsequently unfrozen). Olaf proceeds to narrate the entire plot of the events from F1 in 20 breathless seconds – this scene is a laugh riot and I can see myself going back to watch this scene many times.
Moving on, it turns out that : (a) the Northuldra never attacked the girls’ grandfather; and (b) Elsa’s scarf (which was her mother’s) turns out to be of Northuldra origin; and long story short, she was from the tribe, and was the mysterious girl who saved their father. The scarf also tells them there is a fifth spirit- one that is a bridge between nature and humans.
Soon enough, earth giants show up – at points, it felt like there was too much going on- too many new plotline, too many characters being introduced (Honeymaren, a Northuldra, might be an important character if there is a Frozen 3).
Elsa and Anna leave in search of the melody, only to find their parents’ ship that supposedly sank in a different sea. They learn that their parents were looking for the river Ahtahollan, to discover the reason for Elsa’s powers. Shift to two parallel, fast-paced adventures – Elsa on a solo journey to find Ahtahollan, after pushing Anna and Olaf away, who have their own adventure. The animation in the scene where Anna tries to journey over the sea is pure magic – arguably the best visuals in the entire film.
Two tragedies take place in quick succession, but the story keeps moving on, with an edge of the seat sequence, the expected Disney happy ending, and a balance of all elements of nature. Whose voice haunts Elsa? What becomes of the people frozen in time? Who faces a tragic end? This and so much more will be answered in a span of less than 2 hours, which did feel about 10 minutes too long when the movie started to meander a bit.
In a nutshell, the parent and the preteens’ verdict:
Yay or nay:
A definite yes. Like I said, sequels are always judged more harshly than the movies that precede them, but this one has a whole new, interesting storyline, is visually breathtaking, has excellent animation, very good music (I still prefer the F1 soundtrack); and lots of nuanced messages, especially for adults and older children to think about. Sometimes it feels like there is too much going on – too many characters, too many things being flung about, almost to the point that you feel you would miss out if you looked away from the screen for even a second. Some of the intricacies of the storyline may be a bit confusing for younger children.
There’s no real swearing or inappropriate scenes here. A good dose of toilet humour, which is always a plus as far as my boys (and most children) are concerned. The basic theme of finding one’s places and how to move on from a wrong done in the past, is a notch higher than the theme of F1.
I have one word for the humour in this film: Olaf. He has the best lines, as expected. The narration of the entire story of the original film, is incredible. Do stay for the post-credits scene – it’s Olaf again, with…I shall not reveal any spoilers here.
Positives to take away from the film / talk to your kids about:
Adults and older children will understand the message about indigenous people, which is one of the crucial bits of the story. If you watch the movie with an older child, they may have questions about the treatment meted out to the indigenous characters in the film – no different from what happened throughout history, and is an excellent starting point to talk to them about this. A plotline of betrayal makes it slightly darker than F1 – there are family secrets, more nuanced ideas of right vs wrong, and most importantly, how to heal old wounds and be able to move on to find a happier new beginning. Of course, having strong, confident women in the lead is always a good thing for any story your children read / watch.
What the 12-year-olds said:
What they loved – Olaf’s fun fact commentary, with lots of poop related factoids that one of my boys, a collector of such random “did you know” facts, guffawed at. They enjoyed the twists in the storyline, after having predicted the very same twists in rather dramatic whispers, declaring that they were now old enough to see through some of the storyline. They found the animation top notch too. The only negative for them was the slightly meandering pace.
Go for it:
Is it necessary for you to have watched the first film? No, not really. Anyway, Olaf will give you a 20 second crash course in the middle of the film. The movie may not quite have the same magic as Frozen, but it conjures its own special version of magic.
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