Film & TV

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Film Review

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Just like the first installment, How To Train Your Dragon 2 delivers exciting animation and a stunning voice cast.

I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the first How To Train Your Dragon. It wasn’t horrible, certainly not, but it wasn’t as amazing as people described. Even the critics were taken by its charm (the film currently stands at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes). So perhaps I needed to watch it with fresh eyes, a new perspective that would allow me to see the hidden gems beneath its formula because, after all, it’s been a while since it was released and perhaps they had made a better film this time, with better characters and banking on its success, provided more original storytelling. Despite what I say, I recommend that you and your kids check out the first one if you haven’t because it does provide excellent entertainment for children.

The Story

How To Train Your Dragon 2 starts off a few years after the first one leaves off, with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the rest of the Denizens of Berk living peacefully with the dragons. With his dragon Toothless, Hiccup goes on adventures, occasionally accompanied by his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera), discovering new and stranger places. At home, he feels pressure from his father, chieftain Stoick (Gerard Butler) to take on more responsibility as his heir. During one of these excursions, he chances upon a dragon trapper by the name of Eret (Kit Harrington) who is being ruled over by the evil Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) to create a dragon army. Through all of this, Hiccup also reunites with his long lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett).

As the synopsis indicates, not only is there seemingly a lot going on, but there are loads of characters – old and new – which have fused together to give us a versatile piece of entertainment. Whether or not it truly succeeds as a film is a different matter.

A Touch Short

The cast is undoubtedly brilliant. With the likes of Blanchett, Butler and Hounsou lending their voices to the characters, the acting skill contained within this movie is spectacular to say the least. So why did I, as I watched it, feel somehow cheated of the potential it had offered? The writing: the story simply didn’t do them justice. Don’t get me wrong, there are mildly entertaining moments in the film and sporadic bursts of genuine humour, and the film, for lack of a better and less overused word, entertains. The animation is also beautifully crafted and their own take on dragons provides an interesting twist on the legends, if you’re not familiar with this particular universe: they are smaller, sleeker and generally cuddlier.

Where this movie stumbles is in the writers’ failure to experiment? To veer from the path and make something that not only puts smiles on children’s faces but offers parents the general satisfaction of watching a well-crafted film. It is however, worth mentioning one spectacular new addition to the characters: Alpha dragons. These are dragons themselves, but can control the other smaller creatures and are presented as massive beings which are enthralling to watch. Their power is well reflected in the film and the audience can almost feel their presence echoing through scenes.

As movies for kids, the How To Train Your Dragon series works really well. With a PG rating, they will both be safe additions to your DVD/Blu-Ray library and have great re-watch value. Adults though, on a trip to the cinema with the family to see this newest addition, might just find themselves craving a tiny bit more.