Review: Is Frozen 2 Cofiwch Dryweryn the movie?
Ifan Morgan Jones
It’s unlikely that the writers of Frozen 2 had the political history of 20th century Wales in mind when they sat down to write the movie’s script.
But with a plot revolving around an intergenerational attempt to right the wrongs surrounding the creation of an artificial lake it seems I was not the only one to sit up in my cinema seat and think ‘hang on, is this Cofiwch Dryweryn: The Movie?’ The dam at the centre of the plot also bears a strikingly uncanny resemblance to the Vyrnwy Dam which submerged the village of Llanwddyn.
If there are no direct links with Welsh political events then there are certainly nods to Celtic mythology, with more than one confrontation with the murderous Ceffyl Dŵr (water horse) of Welsh legend.
The United States has its own genocidal colonial history to make amends for, of course, and without giving too much away, the defining image of the film – a burly older white man with a sword getting ready to stab a peaceful, nature-loving member of an indigenous tribe in the back, a betrayal preserved forever in ice – doesn’t hold back on delivering that message.
The quite literal fog that descends on the site of that massacre is also quite an apt metaphor for how the history of colonialism is covered up by those in power.
Colonialism may seem like a heavy theme for a kids’ film to tackle but this plotline, despite not really making sense (spoilers: why is it that the land of the colonised people is cursed by the forces of magic rather than the colonisers, why does breaking the dam lift the curse if it’s actually the massacre that set it off, why does Elsa cause that earthquake in Arrendale at the start just by singing, why is the curse trying to get the people of Arrendale out of the city if it blames them for everything?), is one of the more successful in the movie. Unfortunately, as with all blockbuster franchises, I think this film suffered a little bit from having too many cooks all adding too many different ideas to the broth.
Sequels need to not only find something for all the characters from the first film to do, but also needs to create a whole new cast of characters to engage with as well.
New characters are added here but are either rather forgettable generic archetypes like ‘proud soldier trying to do the right thing in a complicated world’ or are clearly just there to sell toys and don’t add anything to the plot.
When it comes to the main Elsa-Anna axis, unfortunately the dynamic between them is mostly a less successful retread of the first film. Elsa wants to Let it Go (or in this case, just go – Into the Unknooooooown!) and Anna would rather she stayed at home and out of trouble.
So repetitive is this dynamic that the film only really shifts into top gear when the sisters are finally separated. Perhaps Anna should have been given her own musical number Let Her Go, earlier in the film.
The central driver of the plot – that Elsa can hear a disembodied, ethereal voice calling to her – is a good one and genuinely rather spooky in a pleasingly gothic Phantom of the Opera-esque way.
However, the central question of the movie – ‘Where did Elsa’s magic come from?’ – is a bit of a dud because a) no-one was really asking the question – it’s magic! and b) the only possible answer can be – well, more magic!
The secondary characters, Olaf the Snowman and Kristoff, aren’t given a lot to do plot-wise apart from tag along and add some comic relief – the former it seems to advertise for homoeopathy by repeating his belief that ‘water has memory’ at 10-minute intervals.
Kristoff does, however, deliver the highlight of the film: an ’80s soft-rock ballad Lost in the Woods which draws on music videos like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but with reindeers rather than band-members singing along. What the 8-year-olds in the audience made of this I have no idea, but I was in stitches.
The other two musical highlights are Into the Unknown and Show Yourself, not so much because they try and recreate the successful power ballad of Let it Go but because they get the plot moving into gear again at the end of the rather ponderous first and second acts.
The film’s real success is its visuals. It’s pure, gorgeous eye-candy all the way through which makes the original’s snowy landscapes look grey and bland in comparison.
If you’re like me, a father of three daughters and with another one the way, it’s unlikely you will have much choice in watching this film or not, so any review is probably immaterial.
But at least if we have to watch it 10,000 times, the film’s deep discussion of the long-lasting psychological scars caused by colonialism will give us something meatier to chew over that the usual ‘love/friendship is important’ theme of most Disney films.