Film Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 Takes Flight!
Disclaimer: We apologize for the corny blog post title, but it seems that despite the fact that both Chaos and I co-wrote this post, our minds have been temporarily turned to mush after witnessing the masterpiece that is How to Train Your Dragon 2, and this title was unfortunately the best we could come up with under the circumstances. On another note, we will try to avoid spoilers whenever possible.
Many films can be considered visually stunning or narratively superior works of art, however few films can boast to being both a visual and narrative masterpiece yet How to Train Your Dragon 2 is exceptional on both levels.
Admittedly, both Chaos and I were disappointed with the lack of an original title for this film, and Chaos especially didn’t have high hopes for a sequel that at first glance didn’t bother to distinguish itself from it predecessor…yet we were wrong on both accounts. This film is very different from the first, with its own tightly packed story line, new characters, and new perspective on the relationship between vikings and dragons.
Now, if you’ve been following the Dragons television series (on Cartoon Network, or Teletoon in Canada), you won’t be surprised by the new peaceful coexistence between the vikings and dragons on Berk. The television series explores the pitfalls and obstacles that had to be overcome to achieve the new relationship we see between vikings and dragons in this film, but it is not 100% necessary to watch because, as mentioned before, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still a distinct, stand-alone film.
But you don’t have to believe us, just watch the first five minutes of the film below, courtesy of the How to Train Your Dragon 2 animation team and see for yourself:
Dreamworks has improved their animation for the second film and the characters are more expressive than ever, which adds a whole new level of emotional involvement for the audience. And, like its now grown-up cast of characters, this film takes on a darker tone than the first. While the previous film only touched on some of the darker themes like danger and death, this one asks for a greater emotional sacrifices from the characters and audience.
But the darker themes in this film are still balanced by the light-hearted humour between the characters, the bonds of friendship, and the romantic elements.
Speaking of romance, although neither Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrera) directly state it, it’s pretty obvious that they’re an item now, and the seriousness of their relationship is balanced by the banter within the budding “love triangle” between Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). We also get to see the rekindling romance between Stoick (Gerard Butler) and Valka (Cate Blanchett), so Dreamworks has made sure to cater to both the older and younger audience members.
And for those who enjoy a bit more action and rampaging bloodshed in their films, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has plenty of that as well – in fact, this one’s got a full-on war!
Finally, this film adds another strong female character to the story line. Though, Astrid has to take a bit of a backseat, because Valka – being Hiccup’s mother – is more essential to the destiny/fate themed narrative, both women have a chance to shine in How to Train Your Dragon 2. (It always saddens and astonishes us that we see stronger female characters in animated action films than in live action ones – though there is a bit of a change underfoot.)
But, at it’s heart, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a coming-of-age story nestled in a beautifully animated landscape and executed with near-flawless perfection. The alternately hilarious and serious plot is a nostalgic reminder of our childhood dreams of discovering adventure and soaring on the back of a dragon!
–Rika Ashton and Chaos Ashton
(aka Film Reviewers Who May or May Not Have Cried During the Screening)
P.S: How to Train Your Dragon 2 releases in theatres this Friday (June 13th).