A sequel to one of the best animated movies to ever be made, How to Train Your Dragon 2 stands as a pretty solid film on its own, certainly better than a lot of the animated stuff that comes out nowadays. That it misses being as great as its parent can be chalked up to the lofty ambitions of its makers in wanting to make a trilogy of the idea of a boy and his dragon.
Picking up some five years after the first film, it finds Viking hero Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) a confident twenty-something who still loves riding his dragon, Toothless, and who avoids talking with his father (Gerard Butler) about succeeding him as leader of their village. Before long, Hiccup discovers a host of new dragons and runs afoul of one very evil dragon hunter (Djimon Hounsou).
Like the original, as well as recent efforts like Kung Fu Panda 2, what raises Dragon 2 several notches above your average animated flick is its willingness to display some dark tones. In particular, we witness a major character’s death, and while the imagery of it is certainly not explicit, it is intense, or at least feels so because animated fare rarely seems to explore such horrors.
The cast also makes this one worth watching. Baruchel again proves perfect as the voice of Hiccup, imbuing that whiny-awkward timbre of his with a little more bravado, and no one but Butler could have voiced his burly father. Cate Blanchett brings compassion to her role as a fellow dragon rider, while Hounsou’s booming bark complements his character’s rough appearance.
As well, returning director Dean DeBlois again creates a visually stunning world for his characters to inhabit— Hiccup and Toothless racing through clouds and over the ocean in the opening act feels especially breathtaking. He also succeeds in giving Toothless some real character, and the colossal alpha dragons that eventually do battle make the original flick’s big bad dragon look like a wimp.
Story-wise, the film suffers somewhat. Where the original told the simple tale of a boy choosing tolerance over violence, here DeBlois stuffs in a few too many characters and incidents. Some of the battle scenes feel a little frantic, too. Most likely, DeBlois has a minor case of Epic Trilogy on the brain. He’s still more than qualified to author a book titled, How to Make a Great Animated Movie. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 11/11/14