Review: Frozen II (2019) and the Return of Epic Fantasy

Okay, hear me out. I know it’s weird to see something like Frozen II on a page devoted to horror and spooky stuff, but I also love fantasy. In fact, horror and fantasy share some solid roots — once upon a time, horror and fantasy were the same genre.

If you’re feeling skeptical, think about the fairy tales you grew up with. Now think of their original tellings. You know the ones. Cinderella, with her step-sisters slicing their own feet to fit the tiny glass sipper and later blinded by Cinderella’s bird companions. Little Red Riding Hood, in which a young girl unwittingly consumes the blood and flesh of her dismembered grandmother then being sexually assaulted by the wolf.

The biggest accomplishment Frozen 2 brings is a true fantasy film in a genre overrun with superheroes and action. And while it’s true Disney leans heavily on the MCU and Star Wars these days, Frozen 2 proves that their animation department isn’t out by a long shot. Embracing the mythology and legends in the tale’s Scandinavian origins lets the animation shine with creative freedom.

The “Into the Unknown” sequence is pure fantasy.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

The story picks up a few years after the first film, with Queen Elsa having settled into her role as leader, Princess Anna content with the love and close friendship she’s longed for in Kristoff and Olaf, and the kingdom at peace. Only a supernatural act forces the team to travel once again in search of a solution to this new threat. This opens the world for development beyond the kingdom of Arendelle, giving us a deeper understanding of the story’s ongoing world building and the conflicts that a queen must, by necessity, confront.

Epic travel is a hallmark of the fantasy film.

The gorgeous landscapes and sweeping vistas are essential parts of the epic fantasy thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Frozen 2 doesn’t disappoint. The fantastical also takes a psychological turn as the characters face their fears and work up the courage to combat them. Like the children in The Chronicles of Narnia, and so much other fantasy, each must overcome their personal trials in order to fully grow into adulthood. However, overcoming those trials only reveals further complications, and soon the sisters must face not just death itself but also the realization that the adults in their lives were in fact not only fallible, but ignorant of the lessons essential to rulership.

Elsa takes the mythic Nokk is a gorgeous sequence entirely without dialogue.

From an animation perspective, this film is stunning. The wave motion of the sea, the hair textures, the details in the clothing, everything is outstanding. Attention to detail is a hallmark of Disney animation, and this film is clearly a product of love and dedication. The animators have every right to be proud.

If you’re curious, the music is also impressive. Every song feels important and strong. Aside from a cut song on the deluxe soundtrack that should have made the film called “I Seek the Truth,” the soundtrack is wholly well-constructed. The songs are more complex than in Frozen owing to the characters’ growing maturity. I’ve already heard from both adult friends and their children about how much they loved it and how relatable those moments were. This owes a debt to the losses the cast suffered during the media blitz following Frozen‘s debut; “The Next Right Thing” is probably the most realistic portrayal of loss and grief that we’ve seen in recent family fare, allowing Anna to dwell on the temptation to succumb to her misery before realizing that she must forge ahead and making the decision to survive. It evokes the haunting imagery from The Lord of the Rings and makes it accessible for children. It’s refreshing to see those deeper fantastical elements on a large scale. The sweeping vistas and epic story line promise more adventures to come from these characters, and I’m here for it.

If you haven’t given it a chance yet, treat yourself to the resurgence of epic fantasy with Frozen II.

My rating: 5/5

Further Reading

Bryant, Taylor. “Costume Designs for Animated Movies is Ridiculously Difficult. The Team Behind Frozen II Explains Why.” Vox. 18 Nov. 2019.

Cohn, Gabe. “How to Follow Up Frozen? With Melancholy and a Power Ballad.” New York Times. 29 Nov. 2019.

De Witt, Alex Dudok. “Making Frozen II: Disney’s Team on How They Approached the Story, Design, and Animation.” Cartoon Brew. 16 Nov. 2019.

Hewitt, Zoe. “How the Frozen II Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation.” Variety. 9 Oct. 2019.

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One thought on “Review: Frozen II (2019) and the Return of Epic Fantasy

  1. Such a fantastic reflection of an incredible film! I agree that most people don’t understand how difficult animation is for these kinds of films. It really makes other CGI animated movies pale by comparison.

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