Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2
PLOT: Five years ago, an unlikely hero Viking proved that he and his people can get along with the once demonized dragon. In a brand new adventure, Viking Hiccup finds himself facing off against a dangerous dragon hunter who looks to control the beasts he not only has trained, but found a true friendship in. With the help of family and friends, he desperately tries to fight a vicious and power-hungry adversary.
REVIEW: It’s always inspiring to see what happens when a sequel continues a wonderful story in a creative way. In Dream Works Animation's latest HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, the filmmakers achieve this task marvelously well. The sequel shows as much heart and soul as its predecessor and still manages to feel fresh, fun and adventurous. Featuring original voice actors, including Jay Baruchel as the reluctantly heroic Viking Hiccup as well as his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), the latest offering is an appealing exploration of growing up and finding out just who you are. In short, this is simply a great summer movie.
The story continues five years after the original. On the fantastical isle of Berk, the Vikings have learned to not only live with, but to enjoy their newfound friendship with the once dreaded dragons. For Hiccup and his best pal Toothless, however, there is a whole wide world yet to be explored. And one day they find something bigger when they happen upon a mysterious dragon rider, as well as the villainous Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who is out to control the dragons and rule over all his enemies. This is a massive tale, yet one that manages to tell a personal story of family and, of course, the relationship to a loved one that also happens to be a dragon.
Hiccup and Toothless have an incredibly touching bond, and as the story continues the two of them grow and discover new and exciting things about their friendship. Rarely does the connection between animal and man work as well onscreen as it does here. It helps that Baruchel seems to have truly embraced the role, as his connection to all other characters feels genuine. It's especially nice to see his budding friendship with Astrid (America Ferrera) grow in a natural way. The characters here are all beautifully realized, and this is especially true with Stoick and his long lost wife Valka (Cate Blanchett) who reappears after abandoning her family near twenty years before.
One of the best sequences in the film has little to do with the dragons or even the exciting moments of flight with Hiccup and Toothless. When Valka and Stoick are reunited for the first time, it is a rare instant of movie magic that once again proves great characters are so very important. It is unexpectedly charming and ably helps define why their son has become who he is. This may sound awfully deep for an animated movie, but frankly it is. This single moment helps create an emotional connection for the audience and it pays off immensely well. Hey, maybe I’m too much of a romantic, but this is a delightfully sweet way to continue this story.
With writer/director Dean DeBlois working solo this time around – his partner Chris Sanders is busy with THE CROODS 2 – he has deftly expanded this rich and thrilling world. He has opened up the story (as a planned trilogy) without losing the depth of the original. Two new dragon characters are so massive and expertly created that you sometimes forget you are watching an animated adventure. The new Bewilderbeast are the Alpha dragons who control all the others and they are incredibly visual creations. When the final battle takes place between the beasts (along with Hiccup and his crew) and Drago’s evil powers it is a sight to behold. The animation here is just terrific and even the 3D is utilized incredibly well.
With both HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON as well as its equally impressive sequel, Dream Works Animation continues to give audiences great, family friendly features. This is an inspired story that takes what the first film started and manages to expand the scope in a big way. With only a couple of minor missteps, which include using less-than-memorable pop songs early on (the score by John Powell however is quite good), the film manages to be a rousing summer adventure. Heartfelt, funny, and captivating, this is a satisfying continuation of the first film.