*Spoilers for Frozen 2 below*
Looking back at the catalog of Disney princess movies from the past, you will find plenty of stories about a girl-turned Princess who finds her happily ever after. Sometimes she has to face the bad guy, and sometimes she is fast asleep for all of the drama, but the formula is usually the same.
In more recent years, Disney has changed up their Princess formula and has had the heroine facing the problems head-on, which we love. Frozen 2 takes that one step further and gives the characters a high stakes story-line AND lets them feel the weight of the emotions behind it all.
Frozen was great – there’s no argument on that. It showcased the power of embracing your true self and the power of love and family. What Frozen 2 does to set itself apart from the first movie is that they don’t just show the sadness and unease during the height of conflict, they let them sing about it and it’s such a refreshing and moving addition to a film franchise we were already in love with.
In Frozen 2 we see our heroes working together to fix a problem and get some long overdue answers. Elsa is eager to learn more about her powers and to understand who she is. Anna wants to protect her sister and to right a wrong that has plagued their lands for far too long. Kristoff wants to propose, but is struggling to find the right words and time to do it. And Olaf is contemplating how hard and wonderful growing up can be.
As the conflicts grow and the team works to find the truth (and each other) the movie takes a darker turn – Olaf and Elsa (seemingly) die. It comes after Elsa goes too far to search for the truth, and since Olaf’s life is linked to her and her magic, he fades away too. Most movies for an audience of that age have put their characters in such dire situations, but (Mufasa aside), they always make it clear that there is a way to save the fallen heroes – but not here. The loss feels real.
With Elsa frozen and Olaf gone in a literal flurry, Anna is alone and defeated. Rather than keeping her optimistic and forcing herself to carry on immediately, Frozen 2 delivers a raw and powerful song about grief and loss. “The Next Right Thing” let’s Anna feel the sorrow and crushing sadness of Elsa and Olaf’s loss without forcing her to slap on a smile.
“I’ve seen dark before, but not like this. This is cold. This is empty. This is numb. The life I knew is over. The lights are out. Hello, darkness. I’m ready to succumb.” – Anna, “The Next Right Thing,” Frozen 2
What stood out most in this moment was how real it all felt. Anna’s grief consumed her and this film made it clear that that was okay. It’s okay to feel like all is lost when something earth shattering happens and what Frozen 2 offers it’s viewers young and old is a message of comfort and of hope. The song conveys a way out of the darkness that is much more realistic and attainable for so many situations that it’s fans will face.
From a fight with a friend to the loss of a family member – this song says that it’s okay to feel how you need to feel and that you don’t need to have all the answers to fix it, you just need to do the “next right thing.” For Anna it’s finding a way to take down the dam, but it’s a “one step at a time” lesson that is applicable to so many situations. When so something goes wrong, you don’t have to know all of the answers, you just have to keep going. Just take one step.
Elsa’s journey is also a great lesson in self care. She loves her sister and she wants to stay with her and do right by her, but Frozen 2 allows her to chase down her answers and forge her own path without guilt. Elsa’s quest for the truth is something she needs to do for herself and that doesn’t mean she is selfish and that’s important to see.
Even Kristoff’s story is a vital one. He sings about wanting to share his life with Anna, but he also spends a great deal of the film talking about his feelings and his insecurities – which is so important. There is often such a stigma around men sharing feelings and Frozen 2 really lets Kristoff do that. Even Olaf – who is often the comic relief of the film has a moment where Anna lets him know that’s it okay to be angry and that he doesn’t need to ignore that feeling.
Frozen 2 manages to do all of these things AND deliver one of the most gorgeous movies in the Disney history. Frozen taught us that it was okay to “Let It Go,” and Frozen 2 makes it clear that you don’t have to. You can feel your feelings – big or small and still keep going. It’s a major step in the right direction for mental health and was beautifully delivered in a fantastic and gripping film. We can only hope that this type of storytelling continues for years to come.
Frozen 2 is now playing in theaters.