I caught on to How To Train Your Dragon (2010) a bit late in that I waited until the Blu-ray to see it. Once I saw the exhilarating flying sequence, I wish I hadn’t missed the theatrical release. So I’m definitely glad I finally got to see the sequel on the big screen and what a treat it was!
This movie takes place five years after the first one so we see the protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now all grown up. The island of Berk where he lives looks quite different from the first time we saw it, thanks to Hiccup and his dragon BFF Toothless, dragons and the Vikings community are now in perfect harmony. In fact there’s now a Dragon Race that looks like Harry Potter’s Quidditch with dragons as their broomsticks. At its heart, the story still belongs to Hiccup and his friendship with Toothless. They’re as playful as ever and Hiccup’s engineering genius would rival that of Bruce Wayne. He could even fly on his own with self-made dragon wings!
I really could watch these two play for hours! Toothless is especially adorable, it’s akin to watching those cat videos, you just can’t get enough! The filmmakers really did an amazing job with the design of the dragon creatures, but most especially Toothless with his big goggly eyes and cat-like mannerism. Even with a slew of new dragon species being introduced here, Toothless is still the cutest one of them all.
But a cute dragon and fun flying sequence alone does not make a film. Fortunately writer/director Dean DeBlois (who also co-wrote/directed the first one) crafted yet another fun adventure that’s as rousing as it is full of heart. A mysterious old enemy of Hiccup’s dad Stoick (Gerard Butler) threatens to steal all the dragons for his dragon-army. But whilst Stoick is hellbent on war (he is voiced by Leonidas after all), Hiccup reasons that perhaps diplomacy is still an option. On his way to find Drago (Djimon Honsou), Hiccup encounter a dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harrington) and Cate Blanchett’s character Valka who lives amongst a whole bunch of dragons. I feel that the less said about her character the better as it’s pretty integral to the plot.
What I love about this one is that even though there’s quite a lot going on and there are more action scenes than the first one, the focus is still on the Hiccup/Toothless relationship. There is a strong familial storyline here that makes it even more perfect for parents to see with their kids, but also the friendship theme that builds on loyalty and love. The battle of survival for Berk citizens puts Hiccup/Toothless’ friendship to the test, and there are some emotional scenes that really tug on my heart strings. It touches on a slightly darker theme here that is fitting with Hiccup growing up into adulthood.
The voice cast are truly wonderful. Baruchel is downright perfect as Hiccup and this could be one of Butler‘s best work in recent memory. Nice to see Cate Blanchett here and she embodies her character Valka very well. Stoick has a bit more screen time here that shows a different side of him. Kristen Wiig‘s Ruffnut had me laughing the way she is crushing on Eret. The way the camera keep zooming in on his muscled biceps is a hoot! There are genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout, so it’s not just Craig Ferguson‘s Gobber as the only comic relief.
I have to mention how beautiful this movie is. The meticulous detail on the scenery and each and every single dragon is astounding. Animation technology has come along way even four years ago when the first movie came out but now the effects is even smoother. The flying sequence looks positively dazzling, it’s really meant to be seen on a large screen and I have to admit the 3D looks pretty darn good as well. Of course the music is a big part of the whole experience and John Powell did it again with his amazing score!
That said, I wouldn’t say this movie is perfect. I actually gave the first movie a full 5/5 rating, as I really couldn’t change a thing about it. But the sequel isn’t exactly flawless as I think the villain isn’t terribly interesting nor all that menacing. He also happens to be the only dark-skinned Viking and he happens to be the bad guy? Hmmm. It’s a small quibble however as overall it’s a pretty solid feature that builds on a lot of the great quality of the original. If Dreamworks could keep the quality of the third movie as good as the first two, it could rival Toy Story as the best animated feature trilogy ever.
So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 2? Do you like this more or less than the original?