“This is Berk. Life here is amazing. Dragons used to be a bit of a problem. But now they’ve all moved in.“
The isle of Berk has changed a lot since How to Train Your Dragon, the islanders share their tiny little plot of land with dragons of all shapes and sizes, their hero Hiccup has changed the minds and hearts of everyone and they live in harmony but something doesn’t feel right with our hero and he’s lost in himself. Pressure from his father Chief Stoick and his girlfriend Astrid to take on the responsibility of leading his family and his people as the new Chief are weighing on him when all he wants to do is to explore with his dragon and best friend Toothless.
On the horizon a new force threatens not only Hiccup and his friends but the dragons too and when he stumbles into the territory of a vigilante Dragon rider, his whole world changes and if he has any hope of keeping it together it will take all of his and Toothless’ courage to stand up to the tyrannical Drago Bludvist.
I was torn in two about HTTYD2, on the one hand, it’s predecessor was a fantastic movie with it’s fair share of loveable characters, memorable moments and fantastic animation but on the other hand was that dreaded fear of the sequel and the damage these can do – there are exceptions mind you Toy Story 2 and Shrek 2 come to mind but for the most part they are nearly always phoned in and lack the same heart of the first.
Throw in the complex nature of introducing not only a new character but a new family member and you can see why I’d be worried – would they be lazy and go down the route of ‘Dad v Mom’ or the even easier ‘Backlash for being abandoned, overcoming and finding new respect and love’.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t do any of that! It’s an even bigger movie than it’s first and from start to finish you will stare wide eyed (and in some parts teary eyed) at the screen. It’s full of the kind of humour that kids will laugh at but adults will laugh that bit harder at but it’s not a silly film by any means and it deals with some pretty mature themes and subjects – family, war, adulthood and responsibility.
This sequel is set five years after the original story and our hero and his scaled companion have grown up – Hiccup voiced once more by Jay Baruchel is trying to find his purpose and ends up finding a woman name Valka (Cate Blanchett) and lost connection proves that despite being raise solely by his father (voiced by Gerard Butler), he gets his curious and compassionate nature from another family member. Our heroes Hiccup and Toothless are in sync the whole way through the movie and you can really see just how much their characters have grown and bonded and it feels natural. For two characters who can’t speak to each other, their scenes together get some of the most powerful reactions and more evocative than many others.
Just as the two begin to piece their relationship together, the world of dragons and the isle of Burke are threatened by the army of Drago Bludvist, a man bent on eradicating all dragons from the world and ruling over it’s people with brute force.
While we’re introduced to the villain a little late into the movie, his brief presence on screen is enough to convey his menace and brutality, his hunched pale figure towers next to the gentler Chief Stoick who despite softening to the ideas of his son, still stands ready to defend his people and his dragons at any cost.
Blanchett’s Valka is a curious character, living in seclusion, well as secluded as you can be living in a dragon sanctuary acting as both mother and rider to the dragons, her nature is both maternal and feral and as she explains herself ‘a mother never forgets‘ and her inclusion only adds another level to the film and her character. Other welcome new voices are those of Djimon Hounsou who terrifies as Drago and GoTs Kit Harrington as Eret, Son of Eret a dragon trapper.
It’s got drama, comedy and it’s not short of action either and the film is packed with some truly breathtaking battles and where our heroes have matured it’s quite obvious that the animation has done some developing of it’s own too and looks spectacular whether it’s the dragon sanctuary, frozen tundra or the sprawling skyline.
The one drawback I’d have to the film is that some of our favourite characters from the first film end up having to take a backseat to new introductions and with the exception of some comical scenes between Ruffnut, Snotlout and Fishlegs, we don’t really get to see them or how they have developed and grown as characters.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 has everything fans of the first will want and more – it takes everything we loved about the first film and just builds on it. In terms of packages it has everything in abundance, visuals, action, humour and more importantly heart. The film releases nationwide June 27th and it’s one not to be missed by anyone and prepare to fall in love with these dragons all over again!
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!