Review By: Cole Clay
Since Dreamworks animation was conceived in 1997 it has played second fiddle to Disney’s Pixar which has all but monopolized the market for the better part of twenty years. With a mediocre list of films in their catalog aside from the “Shrek,” and “Kung-Fu Panda” franchises the Jeffrey Katzenberg company have had little reason to boast from a critical standpoint.
All that changed in the Spring of 2010 when they released the unexpectedly perfect box office smash “How To Train Your Dragon.” The animated epic was an intoxicating experience that took the coming of age conceit and added a little fire to the mix.
After four long years of waiting on the sequel “How To Train Your Dragon 2” is finally here, flying higher and harder than its’ predecessor. Director Dean DeBlois is back at the helm with a story that feels necessary and extends beyond the length of a coin.
Five-years after the events of the first film accidental hero Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has enacted a revolution in his small Viking island known as “Berk “ that turned the once feared dragons into life-long companions. Hiccup spends his time avoiding the now immensely popular dragon races to go on adventures with his dear friend “Toothless,” who has developed a canine like loyalty towards his partner.
A squared jaw and a few patches of facial stubble give the 20 year-old Hiccup a visibly older aesthetic. The young Viking still has some maturing to do based on his idealistic perspective towards life, which has become a running theme for the character throughout both films. Hiccup is now a full-fledged dragon tamer and he has put his craftiness to good use by adding more mechanisms to his riding techniques.
Hiccup and his father Stoick The Vast (Gerard Butler) have grown closer, but still have a few things to work on, due to Hiccup’s reluctancy to fall into his new role as Chief of Berk. During a casual ride while mapping the skies the high-flying duo stumble upon a group of bandits led by a courageous, yet submissive Eret (Kit Harrington) who informs them a ruthless war monger Drago Bludvist (Dijimon Hounsou) is out to take control of all the dragons within the realm. Bludvist is a charismatic villain who proves that his screen time is worth its’ weight in dragon bones, which pile up by the final act.
Toothless is brought back to life in the earlier parts of the film, he is not just a cute prop, or a novelty to put people in seats. He is a fully developed character and although he doesn’t speak his eyes and body language tell so much about the lovable relationship he has with the equally adorning Hiccup.
As the two grow closer through the events of the film a mysterious rider enters the picture that could either unite, or tear apart Hiccup’s entire universe. HTTYD2 takes animated films to new heights, with a bigger heart than “Toy Story 3” and more breathtaking visuals than “WALL-E,” which is ironic since cinematographer Roger Deakins was used as a visual consultant on both projects.
A notable scene between Stoick, Hiccup and a another individual (who should remain a secret) grabs the film, fills it with an overwhelming cinematic joy while finally bursting off the screen like, of course, a fire breathing dragon.
Speaking of, these lovable beasts are designed to not only be an exuberant force on-screen, but also compelling characters. Each are used for a bit of humor however, the comedy is typically left up to Snoutlout, (Jonah Hill) Fishlegs, (Christopher Mintz-Plass) Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruffnut, ( Kristen Wiig) which was a clever way to provide comedic relief for the younger audience members.
The mystique of Berk is expanded on as we get more dragons, gadgets and the stakes are much higher than its’ predecessor. Aside from that this is a story about becoming who you are meant to be on your own terms, not because it is your destiny, or some unoriginal Hollywood trope. It is all played organically until the film’s conclusion which gives the “How To Train Your Dragon” franchise plenty of room to grow beyond a third film which is slated to hit theaters in the Summer of 2016. Believe the hype this will be a film that is triumphed for many generations to come.
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