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TPG Reviews: How To Train Your Dragon 2

July 15, 2014

Alright, so I know I’m pretty late to the game here, but I’ve seen this movie twice in a matter of days (long story) and so I’ve a fair amount say about it. In brief, this is a VERY good movie and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you haven’t already – regardless of how old you happen to be. Obviously, it’ll also help a lot to have seen the original first, though I suppose it’s not strictly necessary to do so.

The rest of this review will contain spoilers, by the way. So if you want to watch this movie blind and have avoided spoilers thus far, go back NOW.

Five years after the original film, Hiccup is a hero. Thanks to him, the village of Berk has transformed into a near-paradise, with dragons and humans living and working in harmony. But Hiccup still feels an outsider despite this, and feels utterly unready to become Chief as his father wishes.  And then, during a flight with Toothless, Hiccup makes a truly shocking discovery: an army of dragon-trappers and their enslaved dragons, who will surely descend on Berk in time…

For better or worse, this is a film very different from its predecessor. It is far more serious in tone, containing multiple deaths and a fair amount of violence. It also seems practically designed to undermine the message of the first movie: namely, that bloodshed is never the answer. Hiccup spends much of the movie convinced he can make peace, despite the doubts of everyone around him; this conviction eventually costs him dearly in what is undoubtedly the most heartbreaking sequence in the entire series. Hiccup emerges from the tragedy, however – wizened and ready to do whatever it takes to lead his people. In other words, Hiccup becomes a man.

(Incidentally, I gather that future instalments are intended to be darker still. And given how dark this one got at one point…brr)

All of the original cast return, though only a handful are on screen for significant amounts of time. Toothless steals the show, naturally, being as adorable and engaging as ever. Stoick also has a big role, with his relationship with (sorta) newcomer Valka being a major component of the second act. Everyone else, sadly, gets relegated to the background; not even Astrid gets much focus after the opening act, despite her importance last time.

This is not to say Astrid is ignored, mind: on the contrary, Hiccup and Astrid are close to marriage, with an early scene between them showing beautifully how their relationship has progressed. Rather, it’s just that Hiccup’s relationship with Astrid is not a focus of this movie. Here, it is his relationship with his family, as well as his own self-growth, which takes centre stage.

And note that I said “family” just then. That is because Valka is in fact (dun, dun, dunnnn) Hiccup’s missing mother from the original movie. Honestly, I liked Valka. A lot. The concept of her is downright awesome: a semi-feral dragon-rights crusader whose skill and knowledge of dragons easily dwarfs her son’s. Valka dominates much of the film’s middle part, and is quickly developed into a well-rounded and likeable (yet so very flawed) individual.

And then, sadly, Valka just kinda…disappears.  Her actions during the third act ultimately mean little, with her one big contribution being a pep-talk to Hiccup before the big showdown. Granted, no-one else could have (believably) given said talk, but I was still expecting her to do more at the end. I was quite disappointed by this, really, and can only hope we’ll be see more of her in the sequel.

If this movie has one big weakness, though, then that weakness is in its villain. Drago Bludvist is as flat as a pancake from beginning to end, displaying precisely as much depth of character as the Red Death from the original film – in other words, none at all. He hates dragons, wants to take over the world with dragons and…well, that’s it, actually. Drago is essentially a plot device, there solely to challenge Hiccup’s ideals – not a bad idea as such, but he could so easily have been a lot more.

"Look at how EVIL I am!"

“LOOK at how EVIL I am!”

I should say at this point that the animation is superb – a huge improvement over the first movie, which itself looked incredible. But what really made this movie for me, though, was the soundtrack. No matter what the mood of a scene, the music manages to match it perfectly. I don’t think any of the songs quite topped “Forbidden Friendship” from the original, but there were certainly several which came close. Most of the songs are perfectly listenable in their own right, and I guarantee you will want to hear some of them more than once.

All things considered, this is definitely a film you should watch. Even if you never watch “kid’s films”, you really ought to make an exception for this one. In terms of quality, it’s right up there with its predecessor – perhaps even more so. I had a brilliant time watching it (both times), and already intend to pick up the DVD on release.

(Also, I’m really tempted to check out the books now. I know that they have virtually nothing in common with the films, and I know they’re very much meant for kids, but still…)

Any opinions on this film? Want to watch it at some point? Feel free to commend down below.

 

 

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3 Comments
  1. Well said. I think my opinions of the movie pretty much follow yours. I want to re-watch it… sadly, I’ve only seen it once so far, not twice.

    • Glad to hear :). To be honest, I wouldn’t mind watching both movies again once the new one is out; all three in one day strikes me as a good way to spend a day.

      Incidentally, have you ever tried any of the books. Read through the first one while I was away last week; pretty good fun, but jarringly different from the films if I do say so myself 😛

      • Oh yes, definitely.

        I’ve read the first two, actually. They’re definitely very different, but they’re fun in their own way. I did enjoy them, and one day, I’ll get my hands on the third one…

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