Frozen II (2019)
PG! Don't be reading the Internet. I mean, seriously. Everyone's always paranoid about stuff. It's a PG Disney movie. Also, let's breathe out a little bit. It's a movie about an ice lady and her family. It's got some adorable jokes. It's super cute. The first one scared my kids more than this one did. I don't really think that there was a really scary moment. Sure, there's adventure galore and that can get kind of suspenseful. But the jokes are innocent and there's no real peril. Perhaps there's some dubious morality and that's as far as I can go with that.
DIRECTORS: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
This is irresponsible on my part. Yeah, my writing has slowed down to a crawl. I used to write all of the time. For those people who don't really know what it means to be in the second half of your 30s, it means that everything gets piled on. November and December have been absolutely crushing for me. Every single project you can imagine has taken precedence, so I'm sorry that I haven't written in a long time. But even more so, I watched this movie, like, three weeks ago. I went right after opening weekend. How on point can this analysis be? Probably not that much. The only silver lining to writing this so far after the fact is that I am not riding the high of just having seen it, so I can probably be a little bit more objective about it. But I'll tell you, this entire writing exercise is actually an irresponsible distraction from another writing exercise I'm trying to get done. Yeah, I have a lot going on in my life right now.
Jumping on a toxic bandwagon is probably a bad idea. This is a life philosophy to hold onto, regardless of what we speak. I know it is super cool to hate on Frozen. There were all kinds of comments that came with the original film, implying that parents want to drill holes in their heads to avoid hearing "Let It Go" one more time. Everything that I'm going to state about both the original Frozen, Frozen II, and "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" is with the understanding that, appropriately, that people need to "Let It Go." These movies are charming and fun. They are well made. The music, although overplayed, is actually pretty darned good. It may not be your cup of tea, but the Frozen movies have value. It sounds like I protest too much, but Frozen and its off-shoots are well made films that offer a fun adventure coupled with interesting characters.
It's just always weird to me that Elsa is the main character. I know that in the original draft of the first Frozen movie, the protagonist was Anna and that Elsa was kind of a bad guy. That's probably true. But directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee have almost extended the concept of Anna and Elsa being co-protagonists in a weird way. If I had to pick one person to be the protagonist and one person to be a foil, I have to give the points to Elsa. Elsa's story of chasing the...hallucinations (? I'm still a little puzzled exactly what to call the song that Elsa hears) is the inciting incident of the story. Anna is definitely there in reaction to Elsa's choices. She is there as support, which makes her a supporting character. But in terms of dynamic versus static characters, Anna is the one constantly changing based on her internal conflicts. Heck, there's an entire song devoted to the fact that she doesn't understand that internal conflicts are indications of change. Perhaps it is because I tend to relate to Anna as a character more than Elsa. Elsa is a really hard character to understand. While a likable character, her personality is often aloof. The entire thread of her first movie is that she wants to be left alone. Other people have to chase after her. The same thing happens to her character in Frozen II. She really hasn't learned from her choices in the first film. Instead of confiding with the people around her about her problems, she decides to conquer the problem kind of alone. She keeps the knowledge of the voices in her head until it is absolutely way too far gone to prevent the problem. (Is it her singing "Into the Unknown" that awakens the spirits? I don't know. That's something I'm going to talk about when I get the chance.) Admittedly, she is better about allowing Anna and company to help her on this quest. But she still suffers from the same issue.
Anna, on the other hand, is constantly growing as a character. Her fundamental personality traits are still there. She is a character that oversimplifies issues and that is usually masked under a veil of plucky optimism. However, her journey in Frozen II is one where she is in a committed relationship. She has learned to slow down and breathe in the moment. The same trigger mechanism that threw her into the relationship with Prince Hans, that impulse to assume her first instinct was right, encourages her to assume that everything will be the same. In terms of emotional growth, that is a smart move on the part of the filmmakers. Anna is still fundamentally Anna. Her personality type is the same and she will make the same kinds of mistakes. It is more along the lines that she will make different mistakes for the same reason. I have to applaud whoever is in the room planning out character arcs. Sequels far too often decide to do a lot of cut-and-paste when it comes to character development. I get straight up mad when a character comes to a major revelation through the course of the first film only to have the same thing happen in the sequel. Unlearning a life lesson minimizes the impact of the initial story. Instead, Anna's misunderstanding of a situation comes from a place of growth without sacrificing the character's worldview. It's pretty great.
Frozen II's mythology is probably the thing that gets most in the way of the film being truly outstanding. I will defend this movie if challenged (please, don't. I just get depressed and stop writing.), but Frozen II kind of acts like Predator 2, despite the fact that I've never actually seen Predator 2. A first film introduces a pretty intense concept. With Frozen, Elsa was born with powers. The rock trolls seem to have some ancient knowledge about Elsa's powers. But the first film isn't all that interested with world-building. If anything, the first film likes the concept of Elsa's powers being outside of the norm. Arendelle thrives on normality. There is a loose political structure with neighboring Weselton. Weselton's only personality is the fact that it is greedy. But Elsa's powers come from something other. The rock trolls are considered to be something of a myth, much like talking about Bigfoot in America. The filmmakers had a choice. There had to be a danger in leaving the world of Arendelle as simply a kingdom with political problem in light of the first Frozen film. Instead, the political climate actually takes a backseat to the mythology of the world. Instead of being a world where Elsa is the exception to the rule, magic is far more commonplace than previously thought. Stranger Things season 2 did the same thing. We had to find out how deep the magic went, thus complicating the story. It's in that worldbuilding and mythology that the story gets far too complicated for any good. I like the idea that there is a race of people who harbor these powers and commune with nature. But in introducing these characters, we get this ambiguous tribes of magic users and it becomes quickly unclear how these different magic users know each other, if they know each other at all. I left the movie enjoying it, but like Star Trek Into Darkness, I had no idea how to exactly summarize the film or how to explain why certain elements were happening. On top of all of this magic stuff, there is a connection to Anna and Elsa's parents that puzzles me. That seems to be the filmmakers' intent, as if leaving these breadcrumbs would have audience members whispering theories about them, a la Rey's parents in The Force Awakens. Instead, it is a complicating factor in a pretty complicated movie.
But there is a silver lining to all of that complexity. I will always take too complex over too dumb. (Okay, that's probably not true.) The complexity of the plot and the setting never gets so bad that it pulls away from the tone or the enjoyability of the movie. But it also allows for other characters to develop in complexity. Because Frozen II takes itself so seriously, the movie allows the characters to explore deeper elements of themselves that the first film doesn't really allow. One of my favorite characters of 2019 has to be Olaf. Olaf is a funny character. People who don't like him probably pride themselves on not liking the character. But the smartest move is to take Olaf from being a lovable idiot into a child-like existentialist. He's still funny. Like with Anna, Olaf has grown but is still the same person / snowman. There are hints of self-sacrifice in the first movie, like his choice to melt for Anna. But he instantly retreads on that offer when he realizes he doesn't need to do that. My jaw dropped with the death of Olaf scene. The movie cleverly reverses that death, but the death of existential Olaf is heavy stuff. Besides the fact that it might traumatize kids, it reflects the character's journey. By having Olaf so obsessed with understanding the "why" of life, he has to also has to begin to come to grips with that ultimate end to life. That death, shy of allowing him to understand his place in his own life, has an effect on others. That self-sacrifice in the first movie, while objectively noble, has more consequence than the melting of snow. Olaf has affected the people around him. He is more than comic relief, but rather a friend on the journey. His childlike behavior reflects his innocence and selflessness. It's a bit of a cop out that he survives, but I was thrilled that he did. Somehow, the movie got what it wanted. It got its cake and ate it too. I normally would fight against this attitude in a film. Death should have finality. But Olaf and his very unique character was able to come to grips with death while learning the lessons that accompany that.
Frozen II, for a kids' movie, is far more complex that it probably has any right to be. But in terms of building a franchise, Frozen II is following the path started by the Toy Story franchise. It allows characters to grow and to change. It doesn't allow for the same plot points to be followed. Yeah, it's a little more complex in terms of fantasy than it probably should be, but that allowed for true character growth. Also...the music is still pretty good.
Leave a Reply.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.