How to Train Your Dragon 2 Spoiler-Free Review
Reviewed by Jordan Smith.
I was a huge fan of the original How to Train Your Dragon. I thought it was just going to be another boring and badly done family film by Dreamworks. Don’t get me wrong they have four or five franchises that are decent, but the rest of their stuff doesn’t interest me at all. And then the first film had a surprisingly… dark? Mature? I’m not sure what it was. But it’s something that rarely explored in cinema as far as I know. And it’s never been done in an animated family film as far as I know. The main protagonist becomes disabled. He loses one of his legs just as Toothless, his dragon, lost one of his tail wings at the beginning of the first film. And now they need each other; they’re stronger together and can pretty much accomplish anything together. Also the main protagonist is disabled. That’s a huge deal. It’s fantastic to have diversity in films and it could have a very positive effect on young children that have disabilities, seeing a main character, the hero in a film, who has a disability. As soon as I saw the trailer for this film I was a bit excited. And also amazed at how great the animation looked. The first film is a well respected film by audience members and critics alike. So does the sequel hold up to the original’s fine standards?
How to Train Your Dragon 2 sees returning director and writer Dean DeBlois (without his co-director and co-writer Chris Sanders) tackle the next step in Hiccup’s and Toothless’ story. Picking up five years after the first film, Hiccup and his friends are now young adults and the town of Berk has been drastically changed for the better. Every ‘viking’ now has a dragon and they co-exist in peace. What with Hiccup feeling confused about his place in the world, he’s taken to exploring new places beyond Berk. It’s on one of these exploratory trips that he stumbles across a new threat. Cue new villain, a couple of new characters and a fair few new dragons.
There have been a lot of gripes about the marketing material for this film giving away one of the key plot points in the film which would have made for a great plot twist. I didn’t really mind that this character was in the marketing because in the film it didn’t really seem like it was meant to be a plot twist. You find out fairly early on in the film. I think they this plot point was throw into the trailers so that another very important plot point could be kept under wraps. And it was kept under wraps. I was incredibly shocked when, at the end of the second act of the film, this was shown on screen. I kept thinking ‘did that just happen? That never happens! Is this some con? Are they going to completely back peddle from this?’ And they didn’t. They stuck to their guns. Just you wait. It’s a shocker.
Naturally the voice cast are all as fantastic as they were in the first film, though I feel like Hiccup’s voice should be somewhat… different now he’s five years older but that’s a minor gripe. The characters develop and grow as they rarely do in these family film, especially family film sequels. But in this the characters really develop. If the first film was about a boy trying to prove himself to his father and finding friends even though he’s a bit of an outcast, then this film is about that same boy becoming a man.
The animation that brings the characters and the world to life is the big thing everyone keeps going on about and they are right. This film looks incredible. Easily the best animated film I’ve seen since 2010’s Tangled. Apparently this is Dreamwork’s first film to use their latest technology. Well I am loving what I am seeing. At many points in this film it also seems like the film was rendering in more than the industry standard 24 frames per second. The animation is incredibly fluid, so it could just be how fluid it all looks. Make no mistake; this film looks incredible. The designs of the new dragon’s are great but the best dragon design is still Toothless, the Nightfury, by far. Not seen any dragons that look as streamlined as him yet. He’s like a Ferrari and the rest are just… normal cars.
The writing is amongst the strongest that you will find in animated films. If you liked the first one, and chances are that you did, then you’ll love this one. It’s got everything that you loved and then it builds upon it. You didn’t think that they’d have the guts to, but they do. They really go for it with this film. There’s everything that you’d expect in this film and a couple of things that you won’t. So yes. This film lives up to the original and perhaps even surpasses it. For your choice of summer animated film, look no further than How to Train Your Dragon 2.