How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2 photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgA lot has changed in the 5 years since the Viking village of Berk made peace with the dragons. Thanks to Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), he proved they could be our allies.  With all due respect to dogs, the reptiles have become man’s best friend in every way.  No longer feared, dragons are a part of everyday life. This includes the dizzying sport of dragon racing which opens the picture. Combatants compete atop dragons by scooping sheep and throwing them into nets. However our teen protagonist, the awkward yet sensitive Hiccup, is nowhere to be found. His father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), wants his son to succeed him as chief of Berk. Hiccup is avoiding the issue. Instead he is hanging with “Toothless”, his Night Fury dragon. He and his girlfriend, Astrid (America Ferrera), come across a group of dragon trappers. They are in the service of a crazed madman out to conquer the world.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is that most rarest of sequels, one that not only feels like a necessary extension of the original but then improves upon it. Indeed the script admirably propels the story forward in a meaningful way. This is the legend of a Viking hero‘s progression from boy into manhood. Should I forgo the obligatory paragraph about how gorgeous the artwork is? That should be expected these days, right? We are spoiled in this area like never before. Yet even with my lofty expectations, there are still spectacles where I audibly gasped. Stunning exhibitions show off the breathtaking array of different dragon species out there. Like butterflies they swarm in displays too dazzling to describe. And I won’t even mention the impressive new Bewilderbeast, the biggest of all the dragons. A gargantuan spiky dragon with two big mammoth-like tusks – truly a sight to behold. Ok so I brought him up anyway. I couldn’t resist.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 represents a remarkable leap in narrative complexity. This is an epic that details the self discovery and personal revelations of an individual. Hiccup must contend with various personalities that enrich his own experience and ours. Figures that include Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a tyrannical leader that cannot be reasoned with or conversely, a more generous, nature-respecting type like Valka (Cate Blanchett). There is even a touching reunion that reconciles two people that have been apart for 20 years. But above all is the friendship between Hiccup and Toothless. They develop an understanding to which most live action films can only aspire. This is a sequel that has the audacity to just relax and take a breath. The saga frequently allows silence to convey a depth that most other cartoons cannot. Their colorful animations and jokey asides are no substitute for the sophistication presented here. Interestingly it’s the action sequences that open and close this production that are the least interesting parts. That misstep aside, please do note that the chronicle has the courage to trust in the power of emotion. This is a tale with so much heart it hurts. How could anyone hate something that elevates such goodness? I imagine there will be people that don’t like How to Train Your Dragon 2. I pray for their soul.


18 Responses to “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

  1. I am liking the first set of reviews for this film. Also, Pixar could do with the competition; they have been getting a little lazy as of late.


    • Before 2014, you’d have to go back to 2005 to find a summer where Pixar didn’t release a film. Shame.

      I still look to Pixar as the gold standard for animated films. However I will admit that beginning with Cars 2, the story quality of the studio’s films has not been to the level of their historically high standards.


  2. Good review Mark. A very impressive sequel that gets a whole lot darker, while also a lot more fascinating to watch as well.


  3. martin250 Says:

    the success of this film is a bit of a surprise. i thought the first movie was good but quite forgettable. and also thought that Toothless could have been redrawn or re-animated with a bit more detail-it just looks so plain. but your entire last paragraph sells this film. see this, i shall.


  4. Wow! I really enjoyed this. I like the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. It was so genuine and real. Each character has it’s own unique personality, and it all worked the second time around. This deserves to be a big hit. Hope it gets there. Great time. 4 1/2 stars.


    • Then opening weekend performed far below expectations.

      However, word of mouth is very good AND the theatrical run for these animated films is usually more extended than any other film genre.


  5. I didn’t like the first one that much but this has some potential, based on what I saw in the trailer. 😀 great review


  6. So I like this one, too, especially the visuals. Absolutely jaw dropping. But, again, I don’t like it quite as much as you; I think it stumbles some in characterization.

    All the same, great review!


  7. Victor De Leon Says:

    Huge fan of the first. I need to catch this one asap before it leaves the theaters. Nice job on this write up, Mark. Very excited to see this one with my son per your review. Thanks!


  8. As you know I’m never quite in a rush to see animated films, although I’ve heard a lot of positive sentiments about this one. Yours adds to similar praise I’ve heard that the sequel feels necessary from a narrative perspective and tells another touching story. Probably still won’t see it for a while, but I’m sure I will by Awards Season haha.


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