What do you do when your four year old loves Frozen and wants to hear ‘Let It Go’ every time you put her in the car? You take her to a theater to watch Frozen 2. Luckily, a lot of things go over her head at her age, or it would have been a very… interesting experience.
A quick word of warning first. There are some spoilers in here. Personally, I wouldn’t worry. I doubt it’ll ruin your movie experience, but it might help you evaluate if you really want to bring your child along. Or skip it entirely.
The Frozen plots
If you have children, or like Disney movies, you will have seen the first Frozen. If not… well, the short of it is: there’s two sisters, Elsa and Anna, they’re princesses, and Elsa has magical ice powers. In the first movie, their parents die, Elsa becomes queen and learns how to control her powers, and Anna finds a boyfriend Kristoff. Oh, and Elsa creates a living snowman called Olaf who dreams of lying on a beach.
So. Frozen 2 continues the tale. Elsa starts hearing a voice, and the city population is chased out of their homes by magic. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf set out after the mysterious voice. This leads them to a magical forest inside a dome of mist. The same forest where their grandfather died, and an old wrong — tied to their parents and grandfather — has to be set right.
Oh, and Olaf worries about the future. And Anna doesn’t want Elsa to do everything alone without involving her. But wait, there’s more. Kristoff wants to propose to Anna, but stuff gets in the way. And there’s a tie-in to what happens to their parents in the first movie.
Confused yet? Imagine if you’re a four year old. She got the gist of the first movie, but this second one… not so much. But it gets worse.
You may have heard of the term Noble Savage before. In this day and age it’s a bit problematic, to say the least. It’s pretty patronizing to whatever ‘savage’ peoples are portrayed as noble yet ignorant, and in need of saving by the great white man.
Frozen 2 decided they’d just walk right into this one anyway. There’s noble savages living in the magic forest, in tune with nature and untainted by city life. As the story progresses — spoilers incoming — they are saved by the blond white girl. There’s two saving graces here. First off, as it turns out, Anna and Elsa’s mother was actually a member of this savage people. Secondly, the story partially resolve around Anna and Elsa’s grandfather being a bigoted colonialist prick.
You can argue whether or not this makes it okay, or not. In any case, the story’s a mess, and this shallow cliché doesn’t help.
Before going into more story-related stuff, let’s talk about something else entirely. The visuals.
I’ve dabbled in 3D animation myself. I used to play with 3D studio R3 back in the day, and I’ve been fiddling around with Blender. If nothing else, it has given me a better appreciation for good 3D art. And Frozen 2 is gorgeous.
The scenes all look pretty, and the way the characters are animated is lifelike on the one hand, but on the other, it doesn’t veer into uncanny valley territory.
The scenes on the dark sea are very mesmerizing. I can barely understand how you can make something like that in 3D. It’s pretty brilliant.
The acting is good, even if the character arcs are crap. The problem is, as is often the case, the writers were apparently more concerned with steering the cast into specific scenes to show off the visuals — which again look beautiful — than to actually tell a good story. As a result, the characters are puppets and the wires are showing.
Elsa is apparently not comfortable in her role as fairy tale princess, surrounded by the people she loves. It never really becomes clear why that is. In the end, though, she settles down with the savages.
Anna is constantly worried about her sister, until… she no longer is. Maybe I missed the pivotal points of their arcs, but they seemed to be missing.
Then there’s Kristoff’s mess. Stuff gets in the way of him proposing to Anna. Until — oh, gosh, spoiler — things don’t. Yeah, but for variety, there’s a milk-curdling eighties power ballad in there somewhere as well.
Then there’s Olaf. Again, I’m just gonna spoil things. Olaf dies! Gasp. Oh wait, it’s Disney, so he doesn’t, really. So, my wife pointed this one out to me a couple of years back. Over the years, Disney has been stretching their fake death scenes across all their movies, from Shrek 3 to Frozen.
In Frozen 1 it lasted a little too long, and in this one: a quarter of the movie Olaf is ‘gone’, until Elsa conjures him back at the end. Oh, and Elsa also fake dies. Good going, Disney. F*ckers.
I’m going to keep talking about the songs to a minimum; I don’t know music. My daughter now sings ‘Into the Unknown’ in the car instead of ‘Let it Go’, so I guess it’s a win there. Personally, I feel the song falls flat at the chorus, but I’m no expert.
I did notice there where a lot of songs. Like a whole lot. I’m not a fan of musicals, personally. I find it jarring and tension-killing that characters spontaneously burst out in song. But again, music isn’t my area of expertise.
If you love Frozen, or your child does, you’re probably going to want to see this one too. Keep in mind, though, the story is not really child-friendly. Well, your four-year-old might not even get it, but you could end up having to explain colonialism and cultural appropriation to your six-year-old while they’re still crying over Olaf’s death.