27 July 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Film Review

Caution: Spoilers for How to Train Your Dragon follow. Ye Be Warned.

It's been five years since Hiccup convinced everyone on Berk that Dragons were nice and friendly, but now trouble is brewing once again. His father, Stoic, wants him to become chief, but Hiccup only wants to go flying with Toothless to explore new terrain. On one of his adventures, he and Astrid stumble upon a group of dragon-catchers (check the term) and hear about a man who is building an army of dragons. This new threat quickly escalates and before you know it, Hiccup has embarked on a whole new adventure.

I could go on and on about how great the first film was. I could say that the mixture of Scottish-accented vikings and adorable dragons was epic. I could say that Toothless is as much a character as every single Viking there, and he's hilarious. I could say that the film appeals to both children and adults. This is all old news for many of you, but I will say that this film does all of that and then adds some more epic on top. In the form of exploring more about dragons and about the area surrounding Berk. Where the first film had no real bad guy, this one takes it up a notch to include a very bad guy and some cronies too. So this guy has some ability to talk to dragons, and he is amassing a dragon army, all enslaved by an Alpha dragon who is doing Drago's dirty-work. One issue; we have no idea how Drago managed to get this giant dragon who could simply crush him with his foot to do his bidding. However, this is a children's film, and since children don't think about things like that, it's not too much of a criticism.

Big themes in this film are those of family and responsibility. Hiccup is 20 years old now, and his father wants him to take care of the entire village. In this film, we see him truly growing up, and with the appearance of his mother (oh come on, we've all seen the trailer) giving him a full family once again, this really gives a coming-of-age feel to the whole thing. One issue though; there's this one scene where his parents start singing; it's completely surreal and kind of stopped the flow of the film. Thank God it quickly escalates to a bit of fun instead of the cringey parent romance it would be perceived as by children and teenagers.

I'd also like to take a moment to appreciate the differences in the animation style and the character design between the first and second films. I have to say that particularly with the younger characters the design is pretty flawless. You know who each character is meant to be, but also you can see the small ways that the artists have built on their teen forms and transformed them into adults. This is especially prominent with Hiccup, who, although he is still skinny, is no longer a gawky-looking boy. The animation style is very slightly different, but that to me is a good thing, as effects are improving all the time.

The ending is brilliant with an epic finale, lots of dragons and lots of action. One truly shocking thing happens and it blew me away that the film-makers decided to do it. However, it really wraps up the plot well, and I left the cinema elated.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has entertainment value for kids and grown-ups. It merges the hilarious with the serious and the action with more emotional scenes. With the voice talents of Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Dijom Hounsou, Kristen Wiig, Chistopher Mintz-Plasse, America Ferrera, Kit Harington, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel, the cast list makes for a pretty impressive read too.  I would definitely reccommend to anyone.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 on IMDB