In commemoration for the upcoming third and final installment of this franchise, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD (2019), I’m take a trip down memory lane to experience these movies one more time. In addition, for my review of the previous installment, click the following link: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2010).
Cast: Jay Baruchel (GOON , FANBOYS , and the upcoming THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS ), Cate Blanchett (HOUSE/CLOCK , THOR 3 , CAROL , and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? ), Gerard Butler (HUNTER KILLER , GEOSTORM , OLYMPUS  and LONDON HAS FALLEN , and upcoming films ANGEL HAS FALLEN  and NAYA LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN DOLPHIN ), Djimon Hounsou (SERENITY , AQUAMAN , KING ARTHUR , GUARDIANS , and upcoming films CAPTAIN MARVEL  and SHAZAM! ), and Kit Harington (SILENT HILL: REVELATIONS , GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN )
Director/Writer: Dean DeBlois (LILO & STITCH )
Producer: Chris Sanders (debut; congrats, sir)
Composer: John Powell (STAR WARS: SOLO , FERDINAND , JASON BOURNE , and X-MEN: LAST STAND )
Cinematographer: Gil Zimmerman (PUSS IN BOOTS )
Editors: John K. Carr (OVER THE HEDGE  and THE LAND BEFORE TIME )
This is my honest opinion of: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Set five years after the events of the first film. The viking village, Berk, is enjoying their new lives having integrated dragons into their homes. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless spend their times exploring beyond their island in search of new dragons, but also for Hiccup to avoid his chief father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), who wants him to be the next chief of Berk. However, far too close to home, trouble is closing in. A group of dragon-trappers, led by Eret (voiced by Kit Harington), are capturing dragons for a ruthless dragon-master bent on conquering all dragons to take over the world, named Drago Bloodfist (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). Hiccup wants to try and broker peace, but Stoick knows that Drago cannot be reasoned with. Turns out, the dragon-trappers have had their own troubles with another mysterious, lone dragon-rider.
Man, where do even begin with a movie this good? Perhaps I should start easy. Do I think it’s better than the first film? I would have to say… no, but it’s just as good. It improves on some levels, making it one of the most emotionally impacting films that DreamWorks has made, but it takes some odd step-backs as well that make this movie feel a little less tightly written.
As before, let’s start with the negatives. This first one is about as nitpick-y as you can get, but it still bothered me. What’s with Baruchel’s over-enthusiastic line deliveries? This only happens in his opening and closing monologues, but man, I’d swear he was on some sugar rush mixed with caffeine overload. He delivered his opening and closing monologues mellow in the first movie. Did someone prefer the lines to be cheesy this go-round? Bleh, kinda lame.
Also, why is it called “Dragon Racing?” It looks more like basketball if you needed you make a lap around a track before attempting to score. I feel like there’s a better name for this sport.
I think out of all the new characters, the one that seems the least memorable is Eret. I know he technically switches sides because a dragon saved his life, but that seems like pretty weak tea. All he needed was his life to be saved? I feel like the Berkians could have offered him protection and that would have been enough. Plus, the way he talks about Drago, it almost seems like he’s a loyal lackey. Sure, he’s been on the receiving end of what happens when he fails, but there’s not enough subtlety in his underlying fears of Drago himself. He seems like he knows it’s just business, knows his place in Drago’s army, and happily accepts it. It’s only when he interacts with Drago that we see the deep-seeded fears that he really has, but it comes off as a mood-swing, not a natural reaction. And I know he helps the Berkians escape and helps them reclaim their dragons, but I feel like a better writer would have allowed Astrid to be more resourceful by swiping the keys to her chains off a guard and that’s how everyone gets saved, making her contribute more to the story. Eret is just way too bland for my taste. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t laugh at Ruffnut (voiced by Kristen Wiig) being in lust with him. So there’s one positive out of the negative. Hey, it’s about time that men were treated like objects.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ Swinging back to the awkward line-delivery, this kind of applies to Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett). I don’t know, but there’s something about the way that she tells Hiccup that she’s his mother that seemed particularly off. She drops the bombshell, then excitedly runs off to show off her dragons… I don’t know, one would think that she’d be more interested in being with her son and explaining things to him. It just feels kind of insensitive. I’m all for reunification stories between a parent and child, but this wasn’t handled the best in the initial reveals. Sure, it gets better when she begs Hiccup to start over and give her another chance, and certainly the tears were shedding when she and Stoick were reunited, so I give it that. But also, she was animated oddly as well. Whenever she says something to Hiccup, she does this cartoonish head-bobbing thing that didn’t quite sit right with me. She also has some pretty lame lines, like not believing that Berk has changed for the better in twenty years, and has some of the more cheesy moments in the entire movie. I almost want to say that her character only improves when Drago attacks the nest. From that point on, I had no problems with her. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
But enough about the problems, I said this movie’s awesome, so let’s get to why.
First and foremost, I adore Hiccup’s new design. While his diminutive and frail look was fine for the first flick and served the story well, I’m actually a little spoiled on his look here. He still have that weaker look about him compared to all of the other vikings, but he’s taller, has more mature features, he looks great. I think this is extra befitting as this movie, as a whole, is a lot more mature. It really puts forward themes of responsibility, leadership, family, and sacrifice, all of which providing a fantastic character arc for Hiccup. On this basis alone, I can’t wait for the upcoming sequel.
But let’s not forget about the adorable mascot of this franchise, Toothless. He’s still adorable, of course, but his adorableness is ramped up to a ridiculous degree. Once his back scales were split to help him with those tight turns that he and Hiccup have been having trouble with, I couldn’t help but laugh at how excited and blown away his expressions were.
But what good is a movie full of heroes without a good villain? Well, most of the MCU films managed to get away with it and became a ludicrous franchise in the process- not the point, the point is, we actually have a pretty solid villain here. Not only is Drago voiced by one of the most underappreciated and underrated actors working today, Djimon Hounsou, giving Drago about the most intimidating voice that a bad guy could get, but Drago is pretty intimidating in his own right. He gets dragons to submit to him by doing nothing more than screaming and swinging his spear at them. Even if they decide to try and spit fire at him, he has a fire-proof cloak that seems to made from the hide of a dragon. Makes sense to me, anyway. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ But what makes him such a memorable villain is that he manages to take control of another Alpha and has it control Toothless, and makes Toothless kill Stoick. I may have seen this movie plenty of times since its release, but that scene never gets any easier to watch. The tears kept coming out. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
While I think the flying scenes in the original are a little bit more visceral, this movie does change things up to keep the action fresh.I adore the paragliding bits, which were pretty cool in their ideas, what with Toothless tossing out little explosions that keep Hiccup in the air. That was pretty creative. And when you do get some visceral flying, it’s during a battle sequence where you feel like you’re on a dragon that’s spitting fire and destroying artillery, or flying around a giant Wilderbeast dragon’s back-spikes, the awesome flying still makes its way into the visuals. They’re not as strong as the first movie, but still as welcomed all the same.
I gotta say that I’m really happy to see all of the original dragon-taming techniques still work. The open hand to calm the dragon down, Hiccup’s really cool flaming sword thing that spits out dragon gas to make him smell like a dragon, they all make a reappearance. You know in a lesser movie that wouldn’t care, the old techniques would be completely thrown out and forgotten. Better franchises have certainly done it before.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ Let’s also talk about the greatest improvement this movie made over the previous, the emotions. I don’t even think I could count how many times this movie made me cry. Well, three, but this movie brought on some powerful scenes. Hiccup and Stoick reuniting with Valka are definite stand-outs. I especially loved Stoick, as Valka is trying to defend herself from a possible screaming tantrum from him, but all he says is, “You’re as beautiful as the day I lost you.” Seriously, movie?! Gerard Butler made me cry?! That’s a cinematic miracle! And even his terrible singing has some merit to it. How in blazes is that possible?! I love that scene where he’s trying to reconnect with Valka and she’s just not taking to it until he starts singing their song and eventually evolves into a duet. Neither sings particularly well, but that’s not what stands out. It’s that perfect build-up of how painful it’s been for this family to be apart for the last twenty years and how painful it is to be reunited. But Valka does break free of those negative emotions and surrenders herself to the moment and embraces her happiness with her family. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when Stoick is killed. He at least got to be reunited with his family as a whole unit. He got to experience the greatest happiness he’d ever be able to know, so it makes sense that he’d go out sacrificing himself for his son. This is definitely where the high-notes were and what makes this movie so great. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, I still really like this movie. I definitely think it’s a lot more flawed than the previous movie, but that doesn’t change just how emotional impacting it is. The characters are pushed further, they have new problems to overcome and deal with, making for an extraordinarily engaging film for both kids and adults. As a recommendation, this is a must-see. Great animation, great characters, it’s the whole package.
My honest rating for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2: a strong 4/5