Synopsis: The thrilling second chapter of the epic How To Train Your Dragon trilogy returns to the fantastical world of the heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless. The inseparable duo must protect the peace – and save the future of men and dragons from the power-hungry Drago.
Release Date: June 13, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Animation, Adventure
The first How to Train Your Dragon was something special; that rare animated film that told a poignant story and packed a lot of emotion with very little dialogue. Simply put, it was proof that non-Pixar studios are capable of delivering exceptional animated features worthy of Oscar gold. How to Train Your Dragon 2 arrives with a lot of expectation resting on its shoulders. It also has a lot to live up to as the first film is quite remarkable. So, the big question is: does How to Train Your Dragon 2 deliver? Yes and no.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless a few years after the events of the first film. The two have become a team, with Hiccup riding Toothless, and have inspired a change of heart among Hiccup’s Viking kin towards dragons. Their hometown of Berk now features Vikings and dragons living and playing together. As Berk has evolved so too has Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship. The duo now spends their free time charting the unknown world, looking for new dragons and hoping to discover new adventures. Their’s is the relationship you might find between a boy and his dog, only with the added wonder of flight. But, when a new menace in the form of Drago Bloodfist enters the fray, Hiccup’s desire to create a peaceful relationship between dragons and humans is called into question. And he soon discovers that all he thought he knew about dragons, and himself, may not be true.
From a strictly story perspective, How to Train Your Dragon 2 does a decent job of upping the stakes and delivering yet another adventure with Hiccup and Toothless at the helm. Unlike the first, this film feels a lot more focused in its direction, and has a lot more subplots juggling in the background. But ultimately, and rightly so, the film keeps the focus on Hiccup and Toothless, as their’s is easily the most engaging relationship to watch on screen. Sure, new wrinkles enter the fray when Hiccup’s father Stoic the Vast (Gerard Butler) urges his son to take up the role of leader, and when a major revelation shakes Hiccup’s assumptions about the past, but the film still shines brightest in its quiet moments. Moments where John Powell’s incredible score communes with the serene images on screen to create what can best be described as awe-inspiring cinema.
Unfortunately, the film moves a bit away from that as it tries to create a deeper mythology for this world. Drago Bloodfist (Djimon Honsou), for example, is a mostly forgettable villain, and his motivations are both unclear and a little cliche. This is still a world that feels more mature than most, and deals in themes not often explored in family friendly fare, but the why of it all isn’t as engaging as some may hope. It’s great to reconnect with these characters and to see how they’ve changed and what trouble they can get into this time around, but the uniqueness of the franchise seems to have dissipated a tiny bit.
Narrative shortcomings aside, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has plenty of good stuff to offer viewers, from its incredible action sequences to its sharp wit. Writer/director Dean Deblois creates incredibly dynamic and authentic (for an animated film) characters, and finds a way to give each dragon its own personality. Toothless is still a major highlight, but the new dragons introduced in this film, as well as the old ones, are given their time to shine.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a worthy successor, even if it doesn’t hit the same highs as the first film. Getting to reconnect with these characters and watch them develop is a genuine treat, and the way Deblois imbues them with believable flaws and concerns, only further exemplifies why this franchise is something special. It’s not in the bombastic action sequences – although this film has plenty of those and they are spectacular – that How to Train Your Dragon 2 sets itself apart, but in the way it uses sound and picture to create a very particular feeling, like watching a moving painting. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a magical ride well worth taking again.
By now most moviegoers take the visuals of an animated film for granted. We expect them to look great, and most deliver on those expectations. How to Train Your Dragon 2, however, pushes the genre to new heights with some of the most stunning visuals ever seen. The amount of detail in the characters alone, from Stoic’s bushy beard to Hiccup’s tiny bits of stubble, is incredible, but the film continually finds new ways to impress with some beautifully composed shots and some extremely impressive lighting effects. DreamWorks has set the bar really high with How to Train Your Dragon 2, both from a technological standpoint and in how future films should use cinematography to tell a story. Plain and simple: How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a gorgeous film and well deserving of the numerous accolades heading its way.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Dean DeBlois
- Screenwriter(s): Dean DeBlois
- Cast: Jay Baruchel (voice of Hiccup)Cate Blanchett (voice of Valka)Gerard Butler (voice of Stoick) Craig Ferguson (voice of Gobber)America Ferrera (voice of Astrid)Jonah Hill (voice of Snotlout)Kristen Wiig (voice of Ruffnut)Kit Harrington (voice of Eret)
- Editor(s): John K. Carr
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: John Powell
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA