It’s rarely a good sign when you start hearing voices. It’s even worse when you have a kingdom to run.
And Elsa really wants to be a good queen to the tiny city-state of Arendelle. Who could blame her? It’s her duty, plus she went to all the trouble of saving the kingdom in the last movie. How can she let it all go to waste?
But there is a persistent singing voice that seems to be calling her to a mysterious, magical forest—a land that her father told her and Anna about long ago.
That territory, Northuldra, isn’t exactly a vacation spot in Arendelle lore. Long ago, Elsa and Anna were told that their grandfather went up to make peace with the people there (even giving them a shiny new dam). But he was betrayed. What followed might’ve been the shortest war in Arendelle history: A fearsome battle broke out, but then the forest’s nature spirits got involved—sending many an Arendellian scurrying and sealing the whole place away behind an impenetrable wall of magical mist.
Could the voice be calling Elsa into that mist? And if so, for what purpose?
Elsa needs to find out quickly. Because even though the mist is still firmly in place, the forest’s magical spirits have begun causing havoc beyond that foggy perimeter. Arendelle is under attack not by the Northuldrians, but by these elemental forces themselves, magical manifestations of earth, air, fire and water. Soon, the city’s citizens are forced to flee to the countryside.
Elsa is determined to save her kingdom, but she’s also determined to find the source of this mysterious voice. Could it be trying to help her better understand the source of her own magical powers? Is it related to the elemental attacks on her kingdom? She doesn’t know for sure, but she tells Anna, “I believe whatever is calling me is good.”
Anna’s not so sure, and she’s determined to protect her big sister at any cost. She’s going with Elsa to the fearsome north, and Anna’s beau Kristoff and his hulking reindeer, Sven, volunteer as well. And Olaf, the talking snowman? He promises to bring snacks.
Yes, Elsa’s ready for another adventure: to investigate the voice and further explore the nature of her own fearsome powers. But this time, she knows there are people in her life that she can’t let go.
What’s stronger than Elsa’s fearsome freezing powers? Why, the love of two sisters, of course. Both Elsa and Anna are deeply committed to each other’s well-being, and the sacrifices that Anna is willing to make for her sister are at times, profound.
But on some level, Frozen 2 is about (ahem) letting go—about the separate paths that we sometimes must travel to pursue what we’re meant to do. Elsa knows that Anna can’t follow her all the way to where she needs to go, despite her sister’s loyal determination not to be separated from her again.
But it’s not easy. And at one pivotal point, Anna falls into despair. But she perseveres and does what she can do to help both Elsa and Arendelle itself. She realises that her next step, though it seems as if it might destroy everything, is still the right choice for her to make.
The film reinforces this one-step-at-a-time approach to decision-making with a song called “The Next Right Thing.” Though desperation threatens to overwhelm her (“Hello darkness/I’m ready to succumb”), Anna makes the brave decision to trust “a tiny voice [that] whispers in my mind” that tells her, “‘You are lost, hope is gone/But you must go on/And do the next right thing.’” And so she does.
Kristoff, incidentally, is still completely committed to Anna (despite some rough patches here and there). And Olaf, now gifted with permafrost that heat can’t melt, is growing up and growing more thoughtful. He mulls a number of existential questions and laments the changes he sees going on all around him. But eventually, he realizes that there’s one thing that’ll never change: love.
Frozen 2’s only romantic subplot advances in the form of Kristoff and Anna’s relationship. Kristoff really wants to ask Anna to marry him, though he struggles to find the right opportunity to pop the question. Nevertheless, they’re still clearly an item, and we see them both hug and kiss repeatedly.
When they’re riding in a Sven-pulled sled, Anna asks Kristoff what he’d like to do—hinting that she’d like to make out (which, the film suggests, is something that’s happened before).
Elsa, meanwhile, is still very much wedded to her duties and the exploration of her powers—still shunning any explicit romantic attachment at all.
In flashback, the sisters’ father recounts that when he was a boy, the people of Northuldra betrayed his own father. We don’t see the act of betrayal, but we do watch as sword-wielding Arendelle soldiers battle with the forest’s human inhabitants.
Olaf insists that water can remember things, and it turns out that’s true here. Using her powers, Elsa conjures up “memories” (in the form of icy sculptures) that seem to point to the moment right before someone died. She sees two people about to be drowned in a shipwreck in one instance. And later, a sculpture materialises of a man about to murder another.
The nature spirits we see can be quite violent and, at times, dangerous. Fire races through the forest, and while Elsa tries to extinguish the flames with her ice, Anna’s still nearly overcome by the smoky fumes. A watery avatar pushes Elsa under as if in attempt to kill her; a flood threatens to engulf a city. Rocky giants galumph after people, tear up trees and throw titanic rocks. Several characters are yanked up in a pretty frightening tornado.
We also hear references to death and dying.
The original Frozen, released in 2013, was something of an animated revelation. Beyond its long and storied run at the box office and its iconic song “Let It Go”, it purposefully upended Disney’s “true love’s kiss” trope and turned it into an inspiring statement on familial love.
Six years later, messages about family, friendship and love are still present, but the characters are now dealing with issues such as loss, grief and betrayal. The movie’s exhortation to do the “next right thing” when things look hopeless is deeper than it might first appear. For those who suffer from their own struggles, this message may resonate powerfully.
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This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.