It was always going to be a tough ask, following up on the break-out success of the opening movie, but in How To Train Your Dragon 2, Dreamworks has lived up to the massive expectations of Berk, Hiccup and Toothless fans everywhere. It’s packed with action, great animation, a good storyline, moments of genuine awe and some of the best characters the animation production company has ever created.
It opened in cinemas on the 13th June 2014, having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year (16th May) and its one of the summer’s big box office smashes. It’s only got a short time left at the cinema, so if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re a fan of animated movies then this is a must watch before it closes. With so much beautiful animation and motion built into the film, we’d also recommend catching it in 3D, as it only adds to the jaw dropping brilliance of some of the scenes in the move.
The story picks up five years after then end of How To Train Your Dragon, and the people of Berk have been living a perfectly happy and peaceful life with their new-found dragon pals ever since. The relative tranquility and merriment is shattered when Hiccup and Toothless range far away from their homestead following a serious talk from Hiccup’s dad, Stoick the Vast, who wants his son to go on to succeed him as the chieftain of Berk.
Out in the wilds they discover a dark plot to capture all of the dragons by a vicious and power hungry megalomaniac called Drago Bludvist. When they return to warn the people of Berk, Stoick tells them of his last, vicious encounter with the unrelenting Drago and so the battle to save the dragons begins.
It makes for a strong return for the sequel and introduces a whole new set of characters, good and bad, that builds on the storyline of the original. The only real negative is that they go a bit too far down the “Lion King homage” route for us, which sort of puts a bit too much bitter sweet into the mix, which, if we’re honest, just wasn’t needed. A close shave and a “go get ’em, boy” bedside chat would have worked a whole lot better in the circumstances.
The plot of the film works as well as it does because it’s just as allegorical as its predecessor. Though it would be hard to describe it as a message film through and through, there are some strong notions of peace, living together in harmony, the importance of winning over the people to end conflict and the need for reason and dialogue before even talking about war. You’ve got to love an animated movie that manages to do all of that, as well as entertaining and amazing.
Jay Baruchel is the perfect voice for Hiccup, but that might not necessarily be the first impression if you’ve only watched the trailer without seeing the first movie. It may be nasal, and a bit unconventional, but it doesn’t take long for it to make Hiccup one of the best new characters in cartoon movie history.
Gerard Butler (How To Train Your Dragon) is, surprisingly, just as impressive as Stoick the Vast, bringing real chieftain gravitas to the role, but in all fairness the cast is perfectly poised overall, giving great voice performances throughout. Cate Blanchet is strong, but maternal as Valka, America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) is willful and sweet as Hiccup’s girlfriend, Astrid, and there’s a lot of comedy genius built into Jonah Hill’s performance as Snotlout, Christopher Mintze-Plasse as Fishlegs, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig as Tuffnut and Ruffnut, and Craig Ferguson as Gobber.
On the more dastardly side of the equation, Djimon Hounsou plays the menacing Drago Bludvist, and while he’s scary enough in the role, it’s not quite the perfect villainous performance. A lot of that is down to the characterisation of the bad guy, as opposed to the voice acting itself, but for us he just needed a bit more quiet menace and determined strength to carry it off to the point of classic baddie proportions.
All-in-all though, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a bit of a hit for us, making a great sequel to the first movie. There are a lot of laughs and a fair few moments where you’ll want to say, “wow” a bit too loud for cinema viewing, and for that alone it’s well worth seeing. We’d definitely recommend watching the first movie before going to see the new installment and if we’re honest we’d probably bet on their being a third outing for the dragons and people of Berk before too long.