Issue 51 (2016)

Aleksei Tsitsilin: The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing (Snezhnaia koroleva 2: Perezamorozka, 2014)

reviewed by Andrei Rogatchevski © 2016

snow queenThe Snow Queen 2 is a sequel to the moderately successful full-length animation Snow Queen (2012) by Maksim Sveshnikov and Vladlen Barbe, reviewed in KinoKultura 41. Tsitsilin was engaged in the original project as editor and cameraman. The sequel’s title is somewhat misleading, though, as the plot has little to do with either Hans Christian Andersen’s Christmas tale of 1845 or its loose 2012 adaptation. In fact, the sequel is more about the Snow King rather than the Snow Queen (hence is English-release subtitle), and capitalises on the irresistible appeal of the troll Orm (voiced by, and loosely based on the appearance of, Ivan Okhlobystin), a show-stealing Disney-like sidekick introduced in The Snow Queen’s initial instalment. Orm, now an accident-prone miner, gets bogged down further and further into the quagmire of lies necessitated to stave off his insolvency; meanwhile, his mirror reflection—the dark side of his split personality—grows ever more independent and evil-minded, harbouring the intention of dominating the world by refreezing it, to hark back to the Snow Queen’s days, and assuming the title and functions of the Snow King.

Instead of being thanked for reversing the trend for global warming, the Snow King is fiercely fought by the team of Kay (Iskander), Gerda (Shurochkina) and the pirate girl Alfida (better known to Andersen’s readers as the nameless Little Robber Girl; voiced by Nikolaeva). The trio is additionally strengthened by General Arrog (Kharlamov), Orm’s rival for the heart and hand of Princess Maribel (Khilkevich), who has been abducted and turned into a frozen sleeping beauty by the Snow King. However, neither the trio nor the General and his troops can overpower the Snow King and his army of glacial warriors. Orm’s evil alter ego is defeated only when Orm starts telling the truth and proffering apologies to his deceived and manipulated friends. So transformative the outspoken truth proves to be that even Orm’s uncle Abraham (Vinogradov), a bank manager, feels compelled to waive his nephew’s mortgage payments for good (I wonder if this trick works with all the bank managers, or just the fairy tale ones).

snow queen 2Apart from the moral lesson teaching the viewers to observe the (broadly interpreted) Ninth Commandment (“thou shalt not bear false witness”), there is little else that relates The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing to Andersen’s story (which promoted a Christian message, subsequently excised from Soviet editions). Like the film’s immediate predecessor, The Snow Queen (promoting family values, since Kay and Gerda are siblings here, not neighbours as in Andersen), it has more in common with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Ice Age and Shrek (to name but a few Western models, here unceremoniously rolled into one).[1] It has also evidently taken inspiration from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (bobsleigh, where the Russian Olympic male team won two gold medals, is explicitly mentioned). Moreover, when Alfida’s ship suddenly turns into a gigantic sledge to negotiate the ice surface, it behaves not unlike James Bond’s car growing wings or converting into a submarine. Isn’t it a pity that the polar explorers of old could not devise a shape-shifting vehicle like that, to suit their needs?

snow queen 2Russian film buffs also get to spot a reference to Aleksei Balabanov’s Brother 2 (Brat 2), when Orm makes weapons out of kitchen utensils to the accompaniment of a corresponding Bi-2 tune (the Bi-2 leads, Aleksandr Uman and Igor’ Bortnik, lend their respective voices to the supporting characters of Rakhat and Lukum, too). It is debatable, however, if the reference can be identified by ordinary non-Russophone filmgoers, especially the younger ones. Still, care has been taken to make The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing accessible to global audiences: signage in English has been complemented by the Anglophone version’s stellar cast for voices, including Sharlto Copley as Orm, Sean Bean as Arrog and Isabelle Fuhrmann as Alfida.

Alas, The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing did not perform as well at the box office as its 2012 predecessor: with roughly the same budget of USD 7 million, the first film gained USD 12 million worldwide, while the sequel managed only about USD 6 million (for comparison, Disney’s Frozen—yet another loose adaptation of Andersen’s tale and a principal benchmark for both Russian Snow Queens—had an estimated budget of USD 150 million and has grossed over USD 400 million since its release in November 2013). Does it mean that people are right when they do not recommend refreezing after defrosting? Possibly. Yet rumour has it that The Snow Queen 3 is already on the cards, with a Chinese producer chipping in to ensure its completion by the end of 2016. The commercial potential and universal appeal of the Andersen brand cannot be overestimated.


Notes

1] The Snow Queen adds at least one original ingredient to a cocktail of clichéd motifs by showing how a troll morphs into a polar bear.

Andrei Rogatchevski
University of Tromso, Norway

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The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing, Russia, 2014
Animation, Color, 3D, 78 minutes
Director: Aleksei Tsitsilin
Script: Roman Nepomnyashchii, Vladimir Nikolaev, Aleksei Tsitsilin, Aleksei Zamyslov
Voices: Ivan Okhlobystin, Niusha Shurochkina, Ramilia Iskander, Valeriia Nikolaeva, Garik Kharlamov, Anna Khilkevich, Diomid Vinogradov, Aleksandr Uman, Igor’ Bortnik
Composer: Mark Willott
Soundtrack: Bi-2
Producers: Iurii Moskvin, Vladimir Nikolaev, Diana Iurinova, Timur Bekmambetov
Production: Wizart Animation, Bazelevs Distribution

Aleksei Tsitsilin: The Snow Queen 2: Refreezing (Snezhnaia koroleva 2: Perezamorozka, 2014)

reviewed by Andrei Rogatchevski © 2016

Updated: 21 Apr 16