Few movies are more fiercely anticipated than Disney's FROZEN 2. The first film was a phenomenon. It captured the zeitgeist through and through, winning Academy Awards and selling millions of dollars worth of retail merchandise. The songs permeated teen culture; just think of how many YouTube covers of "Let It Go" there were. And FROZEN was released a whopping six years ago, so the appetite for a new adventure in Arendelle is positively ravenous.
All these factors mean there are serious expectations for the new movie. The good news is that the sequel is more than able to deliver. Whether you're a new fan or someone who is deeply invested in the Ice Queen, her plucky sister, and their garrulous snowman sidekick, FROZEN 2 rules. Among the film's many triumphs is the way it builds on where the original movie ended. It creates a whole new world while staying true to the familiar elements we know and love. Here's how that works. Note: No spoilers follow; we'll mention very light plot points that have already been revealed in trailers.
At the conclusion of the first film, things were pretty much right in the sleepy, vaguely Norwegian world of Arandelle. With sisterly love, Anna (Kristen Bell) had melted the heart of her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), who had accidentally frozen the kingdom and sequestered herself in a palace made of ice. The villainous Hans (Santino Fontana) had been vanquished, following his gambit posing as a love interest for Anna. It doesn't matter if you finish each other's sandwiches if you're a bad guy, Hans.
Thankfully, the sweet-natured Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) was there for Anna, along with his loveable reindeer sidekick Sven. And while the enchanted snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) assured us that some people were worth melting for, he was also saved and brought back to full bluster. The castle even got some nifty sculptural ice embellishments, symbolizing the harmony that Elsa had found within herself and with the people of her kingdom.
FROZEN 2 picks up directly where the original film left off. There is peace in the kingdom. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and a newly perma-frosted Olaf, are happy and united as a family of sorts. There's even a new musical number expressing everyone's contentment, which was previewed by the cast at the D23 Expo this past summer. Of course, a movie where everyone is happy and content doesn't make for much of a story. So when Elsa starts to hear a voice beckoning her to adventure, she heeds the call, hoping to uncover the secret of her powers and the history of her kingdom.
It should also be noted that the theatrical short "Frozen Fever" and Christmas special "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" don't have much bearing on the sequel, save for a post-credits Easter egg you'll want to stick around for.
There are a number of new characters in FROZEN 2. One sequence offers the chance to get to know Anna and Elsa's parents, voiced by Alfred Molina and Evan Rachel Wood, who replace Maurice LaMarche and Jennifer Lee from the original movie, a little bit better.
Perhaps the biggest character in FROZEN 2 (literally) is Arendelle itself. We got to see the place in passing in the original film, but here it feels like a living, breathing kingdom, full of fascinating characters leading rich, full lives. This reintroduction to Arendelle means that when the kingdom is imperiled, as it has to be for the new story to take flight, we care about what happens to the land and the people living in it. We get to know individual shopkeepers and townsfolk, giving the land personality and adding dimension to the danger. When they're on their quest, our main characters are introduced to some displaced soldiers from Arandelle, who refer to the kingdom and those who live there. In the first film, Arendelle was a symbol; here it's a living, breathing place.
FROZEN 2 filmmakers Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the film) and Chris Buck have said that the question, "Where did Elsa get her powers?" came up more than any other on the press tour for the first film. They set out to answer that question, and in doing so went out of their way to establish the land of Arendelle and the kingdom's relationship with the more mystical world.
Thanks to their efforts, FROZEN 2 moves away from storybook fairy tales and into something more mythical. The story of an enchanted Snow Queen and her virtuous sister are replaced with more complicated, elemental concerns about our relationship with nature and our ability to run away from our past. It's exciting to see the filmmakers genuinely expanding the boundaries of what FROZEN can be; this adventure is an exciting, surprising journey that fans new and old can fall in love with all over again. Better yet, FROZEN 2 is just as rewatchable as the first movie — come experience it again to enjoy all the little details the directors nestled into the story!
All images courtesy of Walt Disney Animation.