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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (review)

how_to_train_your_dragon_twoHOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Written and Directed by Dean DeBlois
Voices by Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler
 

Valka: This is who you are.

Despite being based on a series of children’s books, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON felt like a complete story to me, like so many other animated films. After it became a big hit though, it was announced that they would make a sequel and the question then became, would they be able to recreate the unexpected magic of the first film or would it feel tacked on, like other inferior animated sequels (RIO 2, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2). When HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 starts, it feels like the worst is about to happen, like director, Dean Deblois, is about to take all of the dragon-y goodness out of the skies and drive it straight into the ground. Fortunately, he finds his footing fast enough and before too long this sequel soars nearly as high as its predecessor.

It has been five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) helped the good people of Berk, a Scandinavian Viking village, accept and embrace dragons as companions and not enemies. In that five years, it seems the most that this new relationship has brought to Berk is the opportunity to fly dragons for sport (well, that and there is no more war, of course.) Hiccup, being the original thinker that he is, sees a much bigger picture though. Now that people can fly dragons, why should they remain local? Hiccup wants to map out further lands and while exploring one day while all of his friends play games, he comes across a group of dragon poachers. They are hunting dragons to help Drago (Djimon Hounsou) form a dragon army to help him deal with his own control and dragon issues. Meanwhile, a mysterious dragon activist is doing whatever is possible to stop this from happening and Hiccup hooks up with this activist to find his true destiny. This is where the film almost lost me. The good thing about dragons though is that when they drop you in the sky and you plummet toward certain death, they have an uncanny way of saving you right before you hit the ground.

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It’s about to get a little spoiler heavy in here so you may want to just skip ahead to the next spoiler free paragraph if you don’t think you can handle it. It turns out that the mysterious dragon activist is Hiccup’s long lost mother, whom he never knew and whom he believed to be dead. Voiced impeccably by Cate Blanchett (is there anything this woman doesn’t do impeccably though?), Valka, as she is known, has been communing with the dragons for twenty years and watching these two characters cautiously get closer to each other over a shared connection is oddly emotional for an animated film. By the time Hiccup’s father shows up (voiced once again by Gerard Butler), this little family that never had the chance to grow organically comes together as if they had never been apart. It isn’t forced or unnatural; in fact their reunion is rather realistic (as much as realism applies to movies about flying dragons anyway). There is trepidation; there is resentment; but there is also love waiting past all of the fear. In many regards, this family dynamic, coupled with the aerodynamic flight and fight sequences, make HOW TO MAKE YOUR DRAGON 2 a perfect film for families to watch together.

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When I first saw the trailers for the first HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, I was completely uninterested in it. I saw it reluctantly and was so pleasantly surprised by how original and how insightful it was. When I saw the trailers for this film, I was equally uninterested, if not even more so, as I felt it would never live up to the original. And while I can’t say I was as pleasantly surprised by the sequel as I was the original, I can say that I now have no reason to doubt this franchise going forward. The people behind it clearly know what they’re doing and where they want to go. And l although I once again have no idea where we’re supposed to go next, I have full faith in DeBlois to take us there carefully and to get us there is awesome style.

4 sheep

 

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