When Frozen hit in 2013, it would be safe to say that Disney didn’t expect much out of the film. Projects were for grosses in the neighborhood of $170 to $185 million, its early trailers were described as “pallid” and Disney hedged it bets with a modest merchandising rollout to support the film.
Of course, we all know that those early expectations were wrong. The film made almost $100 on its opening weekend alone, leading to a $400 million domestic gross and $1 billion worldwide. It became a global phenomenon. So much so that, and this is me speaking as the father of a then 4-year-old Frozen head, the struggle to find Frozen merchandise was real, as demand far outweighed supply.
Now we are six years later and Disney faces a different set of expectations for Frozen 2. Because the first film wasn’t just a financial windfall for the studio, but it was also one of the best films of 2013, animated or not. Could Frozen 2 top the first film in quality? The answer is yes.
This films joins Queen Elsa as she enjoys her rule of Arendelle. Her powers are well under control, she spends quality time with her sister Anna and seems content for the first time. Then she hears a voice, singing a siren call to her, drawing her away from Arendelle. What does the voice want? And what does it have to do with survival of Arendelle and the recently discovered and totally mysterious Enchanted Forest?
Frozen 2 is more complex and more intricately crafted film than the first one. It has confidence that everyone and their daughter knows who these characters are, so they create an adventure that is a bit darker and a bit more mature for the second go round. Don’t expect a carbon copy of the original here. This film keeps true to the themes of the original but goes in different and unexpected directions.
All your favorites are here and characters who might have gotten the short end of the stick get more time here. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) get his own song here, and it’s delivered with cheesy, Solid Gold-esque visuals that are a hilarious highlight of the film. And even Olaf (Josh Gad), who was, let’s be honest, an annoying bit of comic relief in the first film, get fleshed out a bit more this time around. He still gets to be the film’s comic relief, but adds far more than that to the story.
But the film once again belongs to the sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). The film plays off the sisters reestablished bond from the first film and grows from there. This film makes Elsa more of the active protagonist as she drives much of the action. The is an improvement from the first film, where she took a bit of a back seat to other characters. But don’t worry, Anna still gets enough screen time to play the hero.
As far of the songs go, well, they’re good, but a step back from the first film. There’s no “Let It Go” this time around. The closest we come to that is “Into the Unknown,” an Elsa song that allows Menzel to belt out as she does so well.
As I said above, this is a more mature, slightly darker film. It’s a sequel that grew up with the fans of the first film. As such, there are action sequences, monsters and themes that might be too much for younger film fans. But regardless of how old you are, bring tissues. I needed them, and odds are you will too.
Frozen 2 is a rare sequel that builds on the original rather than copies it. While some of the simple charm of the original is lost, I feel that it is more than made up by the bold, challenging direction the franchise goes in. It is one of the best films of the year. I highly recommend it.