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Review: Frozen 2 – “A bolder, braver, ravishingly crafted sequel”

Six years ago, co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck unleashed a film which would quickly – and perhaps surprisingly – become a global phenomenon. 2013’s Frozen is unquestionably one of Disney’s biggest ever hits; becoming the highest-ever grossing animated film of all time, and causing parents around the world internal anguish as “Let It Go” repeatedly filled every home for months and months on end.

Suffice to say, very few sequels have as much as stake. We’re talking Star Wars levels of hype. Expectations have been through the roof, and Disney has a duty to follow up their icy epic with a work of equal power, impression, and longevity. Thankfully, you’ll be relieved to hear, they’ve somehow managed it. In fact, they’ve struck another stone-cold home run as Frozen 2 (stylised as Frozen II) is a bolder, braver, ravishingly crafted sequel.

Knowing its wide-scale audience will be inevitable, the film trusts their judgement and engagement as we voyage on a richer, darker journey – founded upon mature and compelling themes of family, colonialism, and the importance of preserving Mother Nature. Lee and Buck’s highly-anticipated second act affirms them as fantastic storytellers; brilliantly enriching the characters, the landscape, the politics, and the entertainment factor throughout.

Set some three years later after the first film, Frozen 2 sees our chilly gang of heroes – Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), loveable snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad), and equally loveable reindeer, Sven – residing happily in a peaceful, snow-free Arendelle. However, Elsa’s artic abilities continue to grow, and she soon starts hearing a ghostly, nagging siren call. Resistance to its command and presence is futile, leading her on a discovery of heritage as she ventures further North to uncover the truth of her past and power.

Amidst this voyage, a series of aggressive spirits are awoken in the Enchanted Forest which threaten the safety of Arendelle and its noble citizens. As their rightful Queen, the task of protecting the realm is cast upon Elsa’s frosty shoulders, but this mission is too great for her to complete alone; she’ll need her most trusted companions by her side.

Now a lot of early talk has centred around whether the original songs here slap as hard. Bearing in mind they’ve had less than a week to manifest, it seems a pretty unfair comparison. Will any of these new tracks bury themselves as deep into the mind’s recesses as say “Let It Go” or “Do You Want To Build A Snowman”? This author is unsure, but there is little doubt that a plethora of Frozen 2’s signature songs are major ear-worms. “Into The Unknown” – a rousing, moving power ballad belted by Menzel is triumphant, as is “Show Yourself”; a stirring call-to-arms which is punctuated by a breathtaking swan-song of ambient animation.

In fact, the animation on offer in its entirety here is absolutely marvellous – both technically and thematically. There are several sequences which truly push the envelop of effects; jaw-dropping in their artistry and craft. A central theme of the film is elemental, and a scene teased in the trailer which sees Elsa attempt to tame a stampeding water spirit by charging into a raging ocean is quite simply flooring. The mass of colour, the crashing of waves, the salty foam which spills from each thunderous lap; it all looks and feels incredible. We normally cite Pixar for their immaculate computer animation work, but Walt Disney Animation Studios are more than capable of matching them. One would go as far as saying Frozen 2 is the most impressive animated feature of 2019, and certainly among the year’s best films, too.

Equally impressive is Lee and Buck’s handling of the film’s more complex, challenging themes. Treated with intelligence and care, they enable their sequel to dive deep into the subject matter which, in less measured hands, could come across as unbalanced, or even worse, boring. The fact that viewers of all ages will be able to connect with the film’s approach to grief and sins of the past, in particular, is an almighty feat. Despite the BBFC rating this sequel a U in the United Kingdom (compared to the original’s PG certificate), there is a section around the midway point which delves into heavy and sad topics; just worth bearing in mind for very young or particularly sensitive children.

Frozen 2 also doesn’t pussyfoot around its iron-willed arguments on our ecosystem; an all-too relevant notion in our current climate, but somehow manages to filter such a dense taking point into bitesize, consumable pieces. The songs help of course, but the environment instills a vibrant, valiant heartbeat here – one with a commanding sense of urgency that’ll stay with you long after you leave the multiplex.

Fans of the original, (which is pretty much everyone, right?) will find immense pleasure in this forward-thinking, dynamic sequel. It reunites our beloved characters in a compelling, weighted setting; alive and vibrant thanks to the supremely beautiful animation. However Frozen 2 is much more than just a successful follow-up to a mammoth-sized debut – this is a robust, tactile and supreme feat of blockbuster filmmaking in its own right, which demands to be seen on the bigger, brightest screen you can find. Take that fateful step “Into the Unknown” and reap the infinite riches.

Frozen 2 is out now in UK cinemas in 3D, 2D and IMAX, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

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