Quick Hit: Continuing to have heart, but possibly losing some of what made the first one so great.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before – a movie comes out of nowhere to be a hit. Quickly thereafter a sequel is greenlit, and it is promised to be bigger, with more of what made the movie great. When the movie is released, it garners praise for delivering on that promise, but criticism for losing some of the feel that made the first movie a surprise hit.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 does fit most of these criteria. However, one thing that it does better than most is attempt to live up to the heart that I mentioned in the review about the first movie. This sequel seems to have dragons in every scene, capitalizing on the creature craze that stole our hearts in the first one. We have the same cast returning, and all are still tremendous (though Jay Baruschel’s nasal voice doesn’t seem to fit this more grown up Hiccup quite as well). But, as with most sequels, there is the definitive feel of having done that before, and the movie doesn’t quite grace the hierarchy of animation films the way other sequels (Toy Story 2) have done.
Honestly, my reasoning for this is multitudinous. The plot, which revolves around the entrance of a mysterious figure in Hiccup’s life, is easily derived and therefore easy to figure out. The side characters continue to be thrown almost nothing in the way of character development besides comedic lines. Along with that, the villain (if you can even call him that) is a racist charactericture of a bad guy, who is doing things for reasons in his dark past. You know what’s happening, and despite a solid voice performance, almost nothing he says or does seems to really mean anything.
The dragons and the inner story of Hiccup and his father Stoick save this movie. As I stated in the beginning, HTTYD2 manages to almost always have dragons in the forefront. In one sequence in a hidden hideout, there are so many dragons that the screen actually seems to expand to fill them. It’s a beautiful scene that helps to conceal some awkward moments. The relationship between Stoick and Hiccup has grown to the point of adolescent angst that you knew would eventually come. A young boy who has grown to become a natural leader now doesn’t want that leadership, leading to a father who is confused, to say the least. It does paint Hiccup into a bit of a corner with his character development, because where he seemed to have all the answers in the first film for how the Vikings should live, now he doesn’t want to see his vision play out anymore.
I will clearly state this though – I always applaud a film of any type that will wrestle with the themes of fatherhood and the themes of loss and mortality. Talk about something that can rip at your heart.
The film is a solid entry into what is an ever expanding series, but doesn’t ever live up to the original. I’m giving it a “B”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"