How to Train Your Dragon 2 review
Sorry for the wait folks, work has had me tied up and I recently visited the Concord/Charlotte area, but I have returned with a review for a film many people have been waiting for. In 2010, DreamWorks flexed their animation muscles and released How to Train Your Dragon. Not only was it beautiful, with a great story and characters to boot, it was a big success with critics and fans, as people continue to watch it and regard it as one of the great animated movies. Now in 2014, we have the sequel, how does it compare to the original?
Spoilers are ahead, and anyone who has not seen the first film should REALLY see the first film before viewing this to get the full grasp of how things have changed for the cast.
We open the movie on the land from the first film, Berk, except now, everyone has dragons and live life around them. Instead of making weapons, saddles and dragon care are the top commerce. We see our young dragon tamers from the last movies have grown up a little bit, but are still their quirky selves. Then, we are re-introduced to our heroes from the first film Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless. Turns out, Hiccup's hobby as of late is exploring the world outside of Berk in search of new dragon species and new civilizations. And he is now dating Astrid, the tamer from the last movie who was his rival, but now are just adorable together. We learn that Hiccup's father, the chief of the village, Stoick, is so proud of Hiccup, he wants him to follow in his footsteps and become the new chief. So Hiccup ventures out with Astrid to find dragon hunters frozen from another mysterious dragon rider. These hunters have come on behalf of our film's villain, Drago Bloodfist. Drago is a vicious warlord who controls an army of man, and dragons that his men have captured and enslaved. Drago has learned of Berk and is coming for their dragons. Hiccup ventures out to find this mysterious dragon rider, and what he finds, will change his life forever. Can Hiccup and Toothless rally his fellow dragon riders and all of their dragons with the help of the new dragon rider to stop Drago and save their home?
The story has SO much more going on, but it is such a treat, I'd rather you all go in not knowing what is coming. There are so many twists and turns and it is one heck of ride. Just like the first film, this story can hit every peak of emotional storytelling: it'll make you laugh, make you cry, and make you cheer Hiccup and Toothless on. There are moments that will get the tears rolling, and moments that will have you roaring with excitement (pun intended.) This film not only juggles such a deep story just like the first movie, but it soars even higher to deliver an even more engaging story.
The action is also very impressive, whether it's just Toothless flying or an all-out dragon war, the animation captures all of the action in impressive fashion. Honestly, the visual quality outdoes films like Frozen and what not. Not only does it beautifully capture intricate details during scenes of our main characters just talking, but the size and scale of the movie feels massive. Seeing all of the different species of colorful dragons flying amongst vast scenery is really stunning. DreamWorks has proven that they can animate some very pretty movies, but HtTYD2 is the new shining example. While there are other movies that may artistically be more impressive, HtTYD2 is a visual marvel.
Now, real quick, I do have a nitpick about the film, and it is the villain. Drago is an intimidating villain, he has awesome power and one of the coolest names ever, but they never make clear why exactly he has control of these dragons, but you assume it's dominance. You can kind of see it with the smaller dragons, and it ties in with the theme of the last movie where Hiccup found ways to tame the dragons, but why here? If Drago is being a jerk, especially to particular dragons later in the movie, why not kill him? It's something glaring that I would've liked a bit more of
Plus his send off isn't that great.
Finally, the biggest strength of the movie, the characters. Just like the first film, the characters are all very likeable and fun, specially the main characters. Hiccup really comes into his own here. He is a man now, and his ascension to heroic awesomeness is a joy to behold of the awkward boy from the first movie we all loved. He is conflicted and has a lot of choices ahead of him, and not only does he handle everything like a normal person would, but he is just so darn likeable, you'd follow him to the ends of the Earth. Astrid is far more likeable in this movie than the first. She is still a fearless warrior, but she is also a great girlfriend for Hiccup and their chemistry is just precious. Their chemistry is some of the best I've seen for animated movies, I could watch a movie with just the 2 of them riding dragons and talking. Stoick is also improved this time around, he is still a little arrogant and proud, but he is much more supportive and loving this time around, making him increasingly likeable. The new mystery rider, I won't go into, but they are awesome. The other main supporting cast is played up more comedically, but still have awesome moments. I also like how the dragons of the riders have names and personalities, it's a nice touch and really make them feel like characters, not just pets.
Then, the show-stealer himself, Toothless. This dragon is so darn cute, and so darn awesome, I just can't get enough. He can have these scenes where he is adorably playing around with baby dragons, then in another, kicking dragon and Drago butt in epic fashion. Toothless doesn't say a word, but you always know how he is feeling from his well-animated facial expressions. He is a great and complex character, and he never says a word. Those are some of the reasons why he is one of my favorite movie characters.
Overall, how does HtTYD2 hold up? Not only is t better than it's already fantastic first entry, but it may be Dreamwork's best animated movie yet, contending with the heavy hitters from Disney like Frozen and The Lion King. The story is fantastic, the action is awesome, the animation is top notch, and the characters are well worth investing in. If you haven't seen this movie yet, see it, then see it again. I know I will be watching it over and over again.
I give How to Train Your Dragon 2, 5 dragon roars out of 5 and my highest recommendation.
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