WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Frozen 2, in theaters now.
While the first Frozen movie focused on Princesses Elsa and Anna mending their sisterhood and trying to figure out the best way to rule Arendelle in the wake of their parents' deaths, Frozen 2 deals with Elsa going further into their lineage to understand the source of her powers and how it connects to their kingdom.
While Anna gets her fair share of screen time, most of the sequel revolves around Elsa's link to the Enchanted Forest and exactly how this influences her destiny. In the process, though, the movie takes a very sharp turn and becomes one of Disney's darkest movies to date, with Elsa's journey a bit scarier than we first assumed.
In seeking answers to her origin story, Elsa realizes her dad, King Agnarr, was saved by her mom, Queen Iduna. The latter actually belonged to the Northuldra people and Iduna was connected to Earth's magic as well, ergo why this trait was passed down to Elsa. However, it's way more than Elsa finding a book, a prophecy or some mage to outline her family's history, as she has to make a literal trek across the continent, and it's one that's quite treacherous.
When Elsa tries to gain insight from Gale (the Wind Spirit) and also, the voice of her mom at the Enchanted Forest, the four Elemental Spirits don't take too kindly to her. Gale takes a while to warm to Elsa and her people, but it's the Fire Spirit that violently sets the forest ablaze. Elsa's thrust into a life-and-death situation as her ice powers barely manage to save the day. She's super determined, so she has no intention of running, and while it's awesome seeing her so relentless, staring danger in the face and running into it isn't advised. It's tantamount to suicide because, by then, it's apparent Elsa isn't welcomed by the Elementals at all.
She later embarks on another precarious journey across the Dark Sea to Ahtohallan and with the rocky waters and huge waves pummelling her, one has to wonder if this really is what Disney wants kids to see a princess enduring. The Water Spirit is angry as it knows humans, namely Elsa's grandad Runeard, tried to suppress magic in the past and kill off her mother's tribe. And so, when Nokk, the water horse, manifests, it's an aggressive altercation in which the horse tries to drown Elsa. The mythical creature is as imposing as can be and seeing Elsa struggle against it underwater is the stuff of nightmares, and a far cry from what the likes of Snow White and Cinderella went through in terms of physical abuse.
Elsa's obstacles impede her physically as much as they do mentally, which pushes the envelope a lot in what's really a family film. It comes to a head when Elsa travels too far into Ahtohallan and deciphers the information she needs, freezing as payment. She transmits the details via Gale to Anna back home to save their kingdom, but it's a tragic self-sacrifice, as she's frozen alive. That's not even the worse part, because Olaf the snowman dies in Anna's hands as he was connected to Elsa's magic, fading away into flakes in a heartbreaking scene along the lines of Spider-Man being dusted away in Iron Man's embrace in Avengers: Infinity War.
It's emotional and not subtle at all, and this heavy kind of storytelling could be a bit intimidating for a younger audience. Anna has to break the dam down her granddad built to wash Arendelle away as penance, but thankfully, this act of heroism frees Elsa to come protect her home and people. Still, as much as the Frozen franchise has pushed mature themes, especially with Olaf's depressive, existential crisis in this film, we had no clue the film would take Elsa to so many dark places before she could finally get a happy ending for her family as the fifth Elemental meant to bridge the worlds of magic and humans.
Disney's Frozen 2 reunites directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck and producer Del Vecho with voice actors Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad. Returning musical talents include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.