2019's Frozen II lacks the courage and thematic simplicity of its predecessor but it's not a bad film. Parts of it are quite lovely.
I always felt Frozen was "of the Devil's party without knowing it," that the runaway success of the song "Let It Go" meant the biggest aspect of the film's impact was opposite to the message Disney insists on constantly promoting. "Let It Go" is a song about personal liberation, about finding strength when you cease to be burdened by constant concern for others, but it's ultimately a film about family coming together. Frozen II is an attempt to make the quest for Elsa's personal liberation harmonise with Disney's mission about promoting family. The film never quite squares that circle nor does it confront the issue with as much boldness as the first film.
Character conflicts are front and centre in the first film; Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), live separately in the same castle after Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her powers. The idea of Elsa inevitably causing harm just by being her natural self is an extremely potent idea with dramatic potential, one that makes her liberation more interesting for how dangerous it is. Her liberation feels good but the alienation and isolation that seems to be the price of it aren't quite so nice. But some would say that's what it is to be an artist--in fact, David Lynch said it in an interview recently with The Guardian; "You gotta be selfish, it's a terrible thing."
Frozen II's plot is much more muddled, almost on the level of "The taxation of trade routes is in dispute" muddled. A dead grandfather for Elsa and Anna is introduced in flashback and a backstory for their parents--the role the parents played in Elsa's repression isn't addressed. Instead, a somewhat confusing story is presented about the slaughter of Elsa and Anna's people at he hands of a tribal, hunter-gatherer people, the story very quickly becoming obvious as an allegory about histories about native peoples being rewritten and distorted by white colonialists. The potential minefield around this issue is probably one of the things that led to the film getting so many rewrites.
Elsa's still not in complete control of her powers but it's never talked about as a real danger--it's even used for comic effect in her first appearance in the film. It makes sense that this crucial aspect of the first film would be downplayed considering how hostile the media environment is now for stories about toxic people who find acceptance or redemption.
One aspect of "Let It Go" the film embraces is a sense of adventure and wanderlust, exemplified by Elsa's song "Into the Unknown," which was nice, especially since the desire for adventure has been condemned by some in the media in recent years as inherently corrupt and male. This leads to a plot about elemental spirits and a burning salamander that's interesting but never as intimate as anything in the first film.
Visually the film is wonderful, reminding me of Skyrim and the werewolf land in World of Warcraft with its green and grey moorlands. I liked how Olaf's comment about water having memory, presented as a joke, takes on a deeper meaning as the film progresses. I loved Elsa's horse and how she takes her hair down as a sign that this is the next step in her process of liberation but it's not nearly as satisfying as when she just takes down her braid in the first film.
Twitter Sonnet #1308
In spiral cuts the bottles fit the box.
Disarming pacts occurred with branching trusts.
Eleven teams partook of lurid socks.
A sunken boat in grace profoundly rusts.
Behind a deck the cards were suited best.
Perhaps a second boat could pull the fish.
Recumbent fleets arrayed in ten abreast.
A choosy flood conveys a foamy wish.
The floating eyes return the dream to ice.
A ceiling cracked the woods to spill a tree.
Beneath sequestered lakes we planted rice.
The swimming eyes returned the yacht to sea.
A cloud of birds recorded air above.
The gauntlet never torments like the glove.