Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, America Ferrara, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor, Running time 102 minutes, Action/Adventure/Animation
Compare to: Dragonheart (1996), Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Of the two Jonah Hill-featured sequels that open today, it’s actually the kids movie that goes deeper into the main character’s journeys and makes you feel like there’s been actual growth throughout the film.
Not that 22 Jump Street is meant to do that, but with animated movies, you’ll often get something that satisfies only the kids. Dragon 2 will definitely keep the kids rooted in their seats but adults may get even more out of it.It’s been five years since the runt of the viking litter, Hiccup, befriended a rare type of dragon and integrated the formerly misunderstood race into society. Now, Hiccup and his dragon Toothless face adversity in the form of Drago, a man that plans to unite all dragons under his literal iron fist and crush anyone that doesn’t follow.
Given the general trend of animated sequels, Dragon 2 could have been another cash grab which anyone could understand but no one would like. Except maybe the kids that’ll “Ooh and ahh” at just about anything. They’re kids, so whatever.
But what we get here is an actual effort to not just rehash the original but to actually build on the first story and develop the characters in the same way we would expect of a live action film. Crazy, right? Five years after the original and even physical changes can be observed in many of the characters; Hiccup has facial hair, an outfit closer to armor than sack cloth and has lost much of the boyish qualities associated with his character in the first film. Is this a huge point of the movie? Yes and no.
Much of the film deals with growing up and dealing with the responsibilities of becoming an adult. A great point made here is that the responsibilities you take on don’t need to be the same, boring ol’ things you’re expected to take on, but responsibilities you can actually take joy in. So while facial hair and new clothes don’t make the man, it’s a small representation of the changes the characters go through during the films and they’re welcome ones.
But what you really came for are the dragons, and animated though they may be, aren’t they all? From 1996’s Dragonheart to 2012’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, computer effects are clearly the way to go with the flying lizards. The upside of animated dragons in an animated world is that with physics resembling actual winged creatures, the dragons are perfectly incorporated into the world around them as opposed to live action and CGI, which can often take you out of the moment quickly if not done perfectly.
Even Toothless the dragon goes through his own changes physically and why not? It looks cool and parents aren’t going to want to buy their kids the same dragon toys from the first film. But Toothless with extra spikes? Sure!
Positives: Nice pacing, interesting story to build on the predecessor instead of repeating itself, Dragon 2 is an “all ages” movie, smooth animation
Negatives: Subject matter may be too serious for the younger audience at times,
Side note: The song you’re familiar with at the beginning and end of the movie is “Where No One Goes” by Jónsi of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. He also contributed to the first movie’s soundtrack.