Frozen II was a good sequel, and one of the most beautifully animated feature films of all-time. That’s not to say that this movie isn’t narratively problematic, because… it is. Small changes could have echoed big differences to both the scope of the movie and the characterization of Elsa and friends. Read along as I mull over a flurry of ten suggestions. These are mostly small plot points that could have been enhanced to up the quality or emotional value of a scene. My goal is not “let’s rehash half a film to create a different film”. Frozen II is fine as is. Consider this my solution in moving the meter even closer to ‘perfect’. Not trying to come off as… cold, just critical (in a good way).
1. Open With the Parents
As precious as it was to see small Elsa and Anna again, we spent a lot of frivolous time watching them play together. Instead, an opening surrounding their parents, keeping their names mum, could have allowed audiences to get attached to these ‘new’ characters. Later into the story, when the revelation finally occurs these two would grow up to be the King and Queen of Arendelle, and that Iduna saved Agnarr, we’d be like, I genuinely care about them. Their deaths would hurt more, their backstory would mean more.
Additionally, being introduced to Agnarr’s father (Anna and Elsa’s grandfather) early on as a kind leader would have resulted in a more shocking revelation when he’s unveiled to be the villain of the film. Instead, it all feels irrelevant. The story bones were there, though. These characters just begged for more screen time and instead it was given to the water horse. And a cave full of memories that sing.
2. Make The Trolls Caretakers
The trolls hold quite a bit of weight in the original Frozen. Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf go on a lengthy adventure to hunt them down in hopes they’ll rectify the ice in Anna’s heart. I guess the trek wasn’t that far though, because the trolls just roll right into Arendelle in the sequel. Maybe they were close in proximity? Maybe they rented a small troll-condominium nearby? Either way, their presence was welcomed.
Watching the trolls take on the role of caretakers, as they had been to Kristoff, could have been adorable. The people of Arendelle are now by proxy, Kristoff’s tribe — a direct extension of him. Anna and Elsa up and peace out, and leave their entire kingdom on a ledge to be babysat by the trolls while they go enchanted forest hunting. Upon their return, the citizens could have been dressed in troll garb and even practicing rolling around. The intermingling of groups was a small but sweet missed opportunity.
3. A Sisterly Song
One of the most glaring missing elements of Frozen II was a song shared between Anna and Elsa. It’s strange for a franchise with so much emphasis on sisterhood to separate the duo both physically and musically for most of the film. It could have been as simple as a reprise of “For The First Time in Forever”. Most people would have traded it for the reprise of “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People.” Let’s leave it at that.
4. Elemental Fundamentals
The elemental spirits are cute, they’re fun, but they lack uniformity. Let’s unpack them…
Bruni the salamander is the Fire Spirit. He was definitely created from the stance of making cute merchandise. Could the creative team have picked something more lore-specific? For sure, but salamanders do have a tie to fire, so this pairing worked fine.
The Water Nokk is the Water Spirit. This creature is derivative of Norwegian lore, genius portrayal. A+ all the way around. My Little Pony enthusiasts, rejoice.
The wind (also lovingly named Gayle by Olaf) represents the… Wind Spirit. I know that early on in the creative process, animators tampered with the idea of giving Gayle an anthropomorphic face. This character does feel a little incomplete. I also would venture to say she should have been a bird, ravens are very present in Norwegian/Scandanavian lore. Gayle the raven could become translucent or entirely invisible and still function like wind, but it feels awkward to have ¾ of the deities creatures, and one an element itself.
The Earth Giants represent the Land Spirit. Their aesthetic feels fully realized but…did the spirit itself reside in all of them? Were there multiple Land Spirits? Are they all interconnected via one big bounder-brain? The way to rectify this would be to give them a leader or have them all combine to create one giant…giant. Like Megazord, but vastly different.
Lastly, where does Elsa fit into this? She’s not the Water Spirit, but she has water-centric abilities? More on that later.
5. Sidelined to the Woods
Kristoff spent the movie lost in the woods. It was there he sang the song “Lost in the Woods” and underwent zero character development. He could have stayed home and learned that, too. It would have been cool if he made nice with Gayle who helped him escape, or something? Anna loved him all along. His cinematic growth was that he found the courage to ask a question, that he was going to eventually ask anyways.
6. Nix the Ship
Revisiting Anna and Elsa’s parents’ ship really provided the audience with very little useful information. Upon seeing it, I suspected the king and queen might have survived, but if they had, it kind of unravels any kind of responsibility Elsa has to rule? Luckily for us, they’re still dead. Yay mortality. A part of me suspects the ship was only included to debunk the awful internet fan theories that Frozen is interconnected with The Little Mermaid and Tarzan. I would provide a link for said theories, but I hate them. So, Google those for yourselves.
7. The 5th Spirit
Instead of the sisters being the collaborative fifth spirit, why can’t the fifth power be called “Spirit” and Anna wields it? We all carry talents within us every day, and undoubtedly Anna’s optimism is a power in its own right. That would have been a nice twist, leading the audience to believe that Elsa is likely to be the fifth power when in actuality, its Anna, and always has been Anna.
A story tweak like this would make each sister the keeper of unique ability. There is also important messaging within this takeaway, you don’t need grandiose visual abilities to have power. Sometimes the greatest gifts, are ones we don’t even realize that we have at all. Sometimes they our talents are unseen, but they are no less meaningful.
8. Explaining Elsa
How did we journey all the way through Frozen II without getting an adequate explanation of Elsa’s powers? The entire plot revolves around elemental spirits, an easy shoo-in opportunity to announce Queen Elsa as the Water/Ice Spirit. But the Water Nokk was the Water Spirit.
Was that splashy steed worthy of being an official spirit when one could assume that Elsa could have just conjured it? She conjured Olaf, Marshmallow, a plush palace, and all 800 snowgies but the pony is where she draws the line.
What’s worse is that this story confirms that Elsa is partially the fifth spirit. So Elsa has two different “abilities”. The one that is element-based but not part of the elemental spirits (ice) — and one that is invisible/visually absent but is indeed an “elemental spirit”. Are you confused, too? I want to hear a small child explain this plot to me. Very streamlined scriptwriting could have clarified the muddiness, but I can’t help but assume the ambiguity was purposeful and will lead us to the plot of Frozen III which is not confirmed, but c’mon, likely.
9. Proposal Switch-up
The majority of Kristoff’s arc revolves around him wanting to propose to Anna but falling over himself in doing so. A more suitable ending might have been for Anna to reveal that she knew what he was trying to do, and proposing to him instead. A good partner comes in clutch where you personally falter. Kristoff struggles with sociality, Anna popping the question pedals against the ideal that it’s a “man’s duty” to propose. Very modern-day Disney. Very Frozen.
Update: In the cut musical number “Get This Right” Anna actually does propose to Kristoff. But the tune is a little below par, so the plot point and song were both buried beneath the snow on the cutting room floor. You can hear it on the Deluxe Edition of Frozen II soundtrack, though.
10. Elsa Stays In Arendelle
At the end of Frozen, Anna and Elsa ice skate with all their friends in the ice rink. The kingdom accepts Elsa and loves their new ruler, even despite the fact that she’s a human refrigerator. That is a happy message. You can be different and accepted. In Frozen II the audience learns that the subjects never made Elsa feel 100% accepted, also her powers are still increasing, and she’s still kind of nervous about it. Just before the credits roll, Elsa hands Arendelle over to Anna and leaves to go ‘lead’ the people of the Northuldra tribe.
I guess this community might need someone to usher them into modern-day after being trapped in an Enchanted Forest, but it feels a little unnecessary? The Northuldrans probably would have been just fine on their own. Toys have been marketing Elsa in her finale dress as “The Snow Queen”. That leads one to believe that she did in fact, takeover and rule that tribe of indigenous people. Very Christopher Columbus of you, Elsa.
A less practical but potentially stronger ending would have had Anna and Kristoff move to Northuldra and help the tribe reacclimate to the modern era, as ambassadors of Arendelle. Anna is friendly and helpful by nature, Kristoff prefers solitude and reindeer, which this tribe has an abundance of. Sven could have even been with his tribe there (maybe he’d find his family, awww touching). This would leave Anna and Elsa to parallel each other. Elsa leads the kingdom of ordinary folks, Anna assists those who are in touch with the elements. You don’t have to be ‘like’ a group to have a respected place and hold value.
Bonus: Alternate Ending
This point is separate from the rest because it’s an alternate ending opposed to a small plot tweak, but I couldn’t leave it out.
The movie could have ended with the game night that Anna and Elsa were planning, which could occur in the midpoint between the two communities, Elsa’s ice palace from the first film. Gayle could whimsically lift the citizens in Arendelle via hot air balloons to the North Mountain, Bruni could light the way through the woods to guide the Northuldrans. Outside of the palace we see Marshmallow playing tag with the Earth Giants, inside the guests of Arendelle and Northuldra intermingle, feasting, laughing and playing games. Maybe Olaf is trying to philosophize to the snowgies who can barely sit still? Sven and the Water Nokk are making grunting noises at each other. Oaken is there, Lieutenant Mattias is there, Honeymaren, Yelena, and Ryder too. The groups are together as one, a parallel to Anna and Elsa’s lineage itself.
The film ends with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf playing a game of charades (a tie back to the beginning of the movie), it’s Elsa’s turn up next. She contemplates how to convey her word. She acts out a hug, Anna incorrectly guesses “coat”. She points to all of her new friends, Olaf guesses “annoying”, Elsa giggles. Wrong again. Then she motions a swooping, half-crescent across the midpoint of her teeth. The group gives up. Her word was ‘happy’.
Elsa steps outside onto the ice palace balcony and overlooks the mountain range in relief. She is at peace. The group calls for her, it’s Anna’s turn to act out a charade. She begins to walk inside and smirks towards the camera in happiness and gently closes the double doors, a nod to “Let It Go”. Elsa’s place of isolation is now a meeting place for community, acceptance, and love. Camera pans upward towards the sky, it starts to snow.
What do you think could have made Frozen II even stronger? Let us know in a comment below.
Frozen II is in theaters now