“Warmed-over Frozen” is how I described the first Maleficent five years ago: another revisionist take on a classic fairy tale about the relationship between an innocent princess and a rehabilitated witch-villainess ending in true love’s kiss subverted. (For the many other parallels, see my review of Maleficent.)
Now Frozen II comes out on the heels of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil — and, lo and behold, the tables have turned.
Like last month’s Maleficent sequel, Frozen II offers a complicated tale turning on political intrigue and conflict between the leaders of a European “kingdom” (really just a royal capital city) and the denizens of a nearby magical hinterland inhabited by indigenous tribal folk and nature spirits.
In both sequels, treachery on one side leads to armed conflict, and there’s a plot to ambush or sabotage the other side through advanced technological know-how. (Sorry, I guess that kind of spoils which side the treachery is on.)
So, two politically correct Disney fairy tales in as many months about corrupt European powers oppressing noble tribal folk living in harmony with nature. (Despite the closeness of the release dates, Maleficent 2 clearly has a prior claim on this thematic material via the first Maleficent.)
There’s more: Both sequels position the older, magical heroine — here the frosty-fingered snow-queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) — as an all-important key in the volatile relations between the human and magical worlds, sending her on a quest to discover her true nature and the source of her power.
Both films develop the incipient romance between the young princess and her appealing but dramatically sidelined love interest, who is determined to propose to her — in this case, optimistic Anna (Kristen Bell) and rugged Kristoff (Jonathan Groff).
Finally, there’s a climatic death-and-rebirth motif in which one character helps to bring another back, and they may or may not be the corresponding characters in both films. (Look, I am trying here.)
The good news is that, such resonances aside, Frozen II is very far from the punishing slog of Maleficent 2, a grim parable about literal genocide.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.