********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Dean DeBlois
Actors: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
Back in 2010, DreamWorks Animation gave us one of the most memorable friendships, the unlikely one between a Viking and a dragon, in How to Train Your Dragon. The movie was a massive success and would likely have won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature too had it not released in the same year as a certain Toy Story 3. The movie was rich with emotion, narrating the tale of a weakling amongst the Vikings who seeks to understand dragons rather than hunt them. It was perfectly encompassed with a mixed father-son relationship, a budding romance, and a greater threat which would unite them all. With all the problems sorted out in the end, How to Train Your Dragon was a movie that felt absolutely complete, and so a sequel seemed inadvisable. But when a movie earns almost half a billion dollars, a sequel has become a must for any studio. Director Dean DeBlois has now opted to build the film series as a trilogy with the 2010 movie being the first chapter in the rise of Hiccup, the primary character. With the sequel, the movie’s makers have thankfully broadened the world which the characters live in, brought in newer angles and relationships, so that How to Train Your Dragon 2 does not seem like a rehash of the original. And even though this movie will fall short in comparison to its predecessor, it is still one of the better sequels to come out in the animation world.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place five years after the events of the first film. The Vikings of Berk are now living along with the dragons, no longer enemies but allies. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) continues to fly atop his dragon Toothless, and explore the world beyond Berk. It is on one such expedition that he comes across a dragon trapper who tells him about the evil plans of a certain Drago Bludvist. Hiccup decides to avert the possibility of a war by seeking out Drago, much against the wishes of his father and village Chief, Stoick (Gerard Butler). On this adventure though, Hiccup is about to encounter much more than he ever imagined, and learn newer things about dragons, as he fights once again to protect them.
On this sequel, Dean DeBelois has been the sole writer and director, as his co-partner Chris Sanders from the first movie had been busy with another project. But DeBelois has more or less got his game right. He keeps the soul of the first movie intact in the sequel, that of Hiccup’s love and affection for dragons and the extent he would go to protect them. But rather than simply showing them in a danger from another beast, DeBelois has expanded the universe of the movie by introducing new important characters, both humans and dragons. With that he has also brought in newer emotions, that of the love of a family, the growing bond between Hiccup and Toothless, as well as fear from a newer threat which is much larger than the previous one. The movie has also not been afraid to enter some darker spaces, dealing with emotionally strong moments, that will touch your heart.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes some time to really kick off, and that is the weak point of the movie. Much of the initial parts of the film is about dragon riding, which does add some light moments as well as visually thrilling ones, but do not build on any aspect of the film. It may appear too “kiddish” to begin with, but let it move forward and then things start taking unexpected and even nasty turns. The movie is a visual delight as was the first one, supported by the new animation and lighting software that DreamWorks Animation has used here, which is said to be more intuitive.
In the voice department, the booming sound of Gerard Butler is again a show-stealer, thickly accented, and wonderfully shifting between a tough Chief and a doting father. Jay Baruchel has a peculiar voice which fitted well with Hiccup in the first movie, and is a delight to be heard again in this sequel, that of a brave and kind-hearted fellow who is but still a young lad. Cate Blanchett is the exquisite addition to the cast this time, providing a regal touch to the movie, and making her character Valka more memorable. The old bunch is very much alive and kicking in the film, with America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and Craig Ferguson.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 restores faith in sequels, that they could be much more than just a way to build on the goodwill of the original movie. The two movies of this franchise have so far given us a wonderful world of Vikings and dragons which is worth revisiting, and hopefully the third film would expand it further on, making it even bigger and grander and more memorable!