Where to start with 'Frozen 2?' I think the better question is how we even got to this point? The continued blend of Pixar and Disney animations in the 2010s, Disney's own cultural expansion throughout the industry, the 2013 original that, for better or worse, became a cultural phenomenon for over a year - goodness, it's been a long six years.

Oh, what's that? You've blocked that period of November 2013 to mid-2015? Well, fair enough, the millions of pop culture references and misguided karaoke attempts speak for themselves. But I think it's also worth remembering that the film struck a chord with critics and audiences alike, and for an entire generation of kids, this was the greatest thing to happen to film since sliced bread (or 'Snow White' in animation terms).

For me, I remember enjoying the film a lot actually. I don't know if it lands in my Top 10 Disney films, but I was invested in the stunning visuals, the fun characters, the interesting twists and turns from Disney's own pantheon of archetypes, and, honestly, I liked the songs quite a bit (minus the kid version of 'Do You Wanna Build A Snowman,' I'm sorry, that was just never for me).

Then last February came and we got the first teaser for 'Frozen 2,' and it seemed like that overexposure was suddenly dust in the wind. The visuals, the tone, the scale - everything about 'Frozen 2' looked like it was going darker, more introspective, yet still trying to build up some of the fantastical elements foreshadowed in the first film, and ever since (terrible pun incoming) I've gotten chills from the marketing we've gotten.

With all that recap and unnecessary background in place, the wait is over; what do we get with 'Frozen 2?' Well, I tried to give myself as much time away from my initial viewing as possible. I've overhyped Disney and Pixar sequels before and wanted to let some of the film I may have ran by too fast settle in. But you know what, to hell with the fatigue: 'Frozen 2' is amazing! In fact, I'm confident in saying that 'Frozen 2' surpasses the original, in more ways than one, upping the stakes and scale for something truly epic, yet still giving us clear reasons for wanting to revisit these characters. Yeah, this is another raving positive review, deal with it.

Three years since the end of the first film, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is coming into her own as Queen of Arendelle, with her sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) at her side. Things seem to be going well for the two until a mysterious voice begins to call to Elsa, with her being the only person who hears it. On top of that, a series of natural phenomena force the citizens of Arendelle to evacuate the city.

Consulting with Pabbie the Troll (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), Anna and Elsa believe the truths they seek can be found in the Enchanted Forest, a region to the north of Arendelle locked off by ancient spirits, and where their father, the late King Agnarr, journeyed to as a child. Together with Anna's boyfriend, Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), the snowman, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), and Kristoff's reindeer, Sven, the sisters journey to the Enchanted Forest, where they encounter fantastical creatures, new truths about Arendelle's past, and even the origins of Elsa's abilities.

The thing that hooked me the most about 'Frozen 2' is that it's taking itself seriously as a sequel. Aside from the obvious example of financial gain, sequels are usually made for one of two reasons: a desire to see characters interacting again or a desire to expand the fictional confides that those characters inhabit. 'Frozen 2' is a sequel with both in mind, and I loved so much of it for managing to balance both of those goals. There's a scene early on with all of our main characters in a room together, and moments like that in the first 15 minutes were a good refresher in getting back into what made the original special.

After the first 15 minutes with getting us set up with those fairy tale staples (which arguably may put some people off), the film shifts gears into full-on fantasy mode, and from here, the film never lets up. The main angle of Elsa and Anna's sisterhood is still prevalent here, and it's just as fascinating for both.

Elsa arguably has the more to do, and it is legitimately thrilling to see her journey framed as entirely her own to chase. Those insecurities we saw in the first film haven't gone away, but we see Elsa dealing with them in more mature ways (surprisingly mature for Disney I would add). But Anna is never left out either; she's learned a lot from the last film about what she can bring to the table, and her parallels to Elsa only make the two feel more fleshed out and relatable, maybe even more than the first film.

Between them, there's also a lot of great visual storytelling, and directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck use every opportunity to allow the characters room to soak in the visual atmosphere around them. The film winds up having this amazing sense of mystery to it, very reflective of the spirits that drive the world-building and stakes. I won't go into spoilers, but let's just say the spirits and what they represent for the world of 'Frozen' aren't what you might expect at first glance.

Speaking of which, let's talk about the music, and how you should probably prepare for the Disney karaoke groups quick, for better or worse. But if it makes you feel any better, I think the songs are just as good as the first one, and that's after listening to the soundtrack a few times. Like the first film, all of these songs are effective in driving the emotions of the characters, and Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are a welcome return here as a songwriting duo.

'All Is Found' is a haunting folk tune (sung by newcomer Evan Rachel Wood in a flashback sequence), 'Into The Unknown' is bound to be a fan favorite with it's ethereal, bone-chilling backing vocals from Norwegian singer AURORA, and 'Show Yourself'....well...I don't want to spoil it, but going back to that point about the visuals, it's probably my favorite scene in the film. Even Kristoff gets what I can only describe as an REO Speedwagon-adjacent power ballad that works pretty well.

(Also, this is a bit nerdy of me, but I appreciated how Christophe Beck's score feels a lot more prevalent this time around, quite underrated in my eyes)

As far as negatives, there's a few and, unfortunately, the more I think about them, the more they started to show themselves (haha, another pun). One of these is Kristoff's arc in the film. I might be unfairly contrasting him against how much I loved Anna and Elsa's stories (and even his storyline in the first film), but I felt his storyline was pretty one-note in the film. He wants to propose to Anna, things keep coming up, and that's pretty much it. There's even a whole stretch of film (again, dedicated to the sisters) where he's basically non-existent. Even Olaf has a more interesting arc in this movie, and that's not a sentence 2013 me would think I would utter.

But the other is the bigger issue that my mind just wouldn't let me get away from. I was ready to give into my hyperbolic excitement - "ONE OF THE YEARS BEST I TELL YOU" - but, as sometimes happens, my conscious came knocking. Were people who either didn't like the first film or who were bored too many times by the first film's overexposure going to be as invested in this movie as it wants them to be?

I couldn't help but feel that this would be exactly the case because, as a fan of the first one, I wanted to see these characters and their world evolve, but is it THAT unique enough to bring in people who weren't on board with the set up from the first film. Again, I have to reiterate: I love this film, all I'm saying is that I have a feeling that those ecstatic reactions I had walking out may not be shared by a lot of movie-goes who maybe won't see this as any more than a cash grab with a darker color scheme (as unfair as that is).

I know it sounds ridiculous to say, but 'Frozen 2' is probably one of my favorite sequels I've seen in the last number of years. The years of prep have really paid off in delivering a film that is both satisfying and thought-provoking, and there's so much more I want to discuss about this film (despite my already ridiculous word count). It's a sequel that is fully committed to expanding the building blocks from the first film, while offering, what I consider to be, real legitimate development that form into a film I couldn't help but be impressed by.

Again, if you can't stand the first one or the culture around it, fair enough, you probably won't buy into this. But if you were like me and even mildly curious about where a 'Frozen 2' could go, this is more than worthy of your time and a great watch in time for the holidays.

Overall, I give 'Frozen 2' 8.5/10.

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