How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Release Date: June 11, 2014
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerad Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou
Director: Dean DeBlois
Studio: DreamWorks Animation, Mad Matter Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Review by Jason Hricik
I’m happy to report that How to Train Your Dragon 2 was every bit as good as the original. This sequel does a fantastic job expanding the world of dragons and standing by itself as a movie. All of the characters have developed on par with a five year gap and the story itself is a little darker and far more emotionally complex than the original. The creators have touchingly captured the relationship between Hiccup and his dog-like companion Toothless.
The movie begins with a familiar narrator speaking to newcomers about the cold and harsh Berk whose redeeming qualities include, most importantly, pet dragons. Five years have passed from the end of the last film and you begin by checking in on Hiccups classmates – Astrid (America Ferrera), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Tuffnutt (T.J. Miller) and twin sister Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) – as they are play some kind of dragon sport. The only person missing, as Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) notices, is his now young adult son, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who is no longer the awkward teen from before.
Hiccup has been mapping the uncharted world in what I see as a metaphor for his internal quest for the chief his father wants him to become. The movie moves along quickly as the protagonists soon discover that they are not the only people who ride dragons. They encounter dragon hunters that tell them of a dragon master that is amassing an army and of dragon riders that have attacked them with not fire, but ice.
Against his father’s wishes, Hiccup undertakes a mission to convince the dragon master that the world does not have to be won by war. On his way he discovers a breathtaking dragon sanctuary and a surprising steward, the mysterious dragon rider. Normally I don’t include spoilers in my reviews but I need to shame the marketing folks for revealing that the mystery rider was Hiccups long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) in the preview. *shame*
Keeping with this movies rather bold admission that the world doesn’t always make sense, Hiccup fails to convince Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) that war is not necessary and war ensues. It is here I would like to point out one of the best parts about this sequel is that DreamWorks was remarkably refreshing in not eschewing from the fact that real life can be shocking and unfair as one might expect in a movie geared toward children. In fact the movie seems best meant for the same young children that saw the first movie when it came to theaters in 2011 because of this fact.
Final Thoughts: This movie is one of the few times that I actually would have preferred 3D, likely because the animators made some rather beautiful use of depth. The movie was much more complex emotionally and intellectually than I was expecting and was bold enough to show that life has both comedy and tragedy, and doesn’t always make sense or work out the way we would hope. Overall the voice acting was good and the story had a good plot, I just want to shame the marketing folks one more time for showing too much in the previews.