how2trainyourdragon2The Sheep Need An Agent
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Voices of: Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), Cate Blanchett (Valka), Gerard Butler (Stoick), America Ferrera (Astrid), Craig Ferguson (Gobber), Djimon Hounsou (Drago) and Kit Harington (Eret)
Director/Scriptwriter: Dean DeBlois
Composer: John Powell
Cinematography (consultant) Roger Deakins
Rating: PG with action scenes, better for children over age eight
Running Length: 102 Minutes
Ah, where do I begin? The soundtrack gets you right away. This is full orchestra and adds a luster to the animated action on the screen.  I saw the film in 2 D and it was fine, so 3 D would be an enhancement, but not necessary, and the flying sequences could bring a queasy sensation to young stomachs. That written, “How To Train Your Dragon 2” is a stunning sequel to the first film that caught everyone off-guard. A surprise hit with fans clamoring for more.  Methinks more is probably being planned in the think-tank of Hollywood back rooms. The films are based on the book series by Cressida Cowell. You don't have to have seen the first film to catch on to the storyline.
This movie is set ahead five years. The familiar characters of Hiccup and his rare night fury black dragon, Toothless have matured. Hiccup is now out of adolescence with a gift for inventiveness that aids him (he has one leg) and his dragon (needs a tail to fly.)  Hiccup’s  now-girlfriend, Astrid, rides Stormfly, Hiccup’s father, Stoick, the chief of the village (rather like Vikings) and he rides Skullcrusher. Dad’s best friend since childhood is Gobber, who rides Grump. You see, in the first film, dragons were feared, but now they are pets with names. Humor is provided by just about everyone, but especially Hiccup’s friends with quips on their dragons, everyone they encounter and each other. The fraternal twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut are especially verbal, and they  ride a two-headed dragon called Barf and Belch. The roles for women are strong in the movie. From leadership and fighting quality to as good as the boys riding dragons to standing up for oneself in an argument, this society has powerful women.
The movie opens with a flying game sequence (think “Harry Potter”) with the kids on their dragons trying to toss hapless sheep into bins (their version of basketball.)  The sheep need an agent. Absent from the games are Hiccup and Toothless, who are venturing out into new areas to explore, plus test flying skills and Hiccup now has his own flying suit, which he uses when dropped by Toothless. They find a lost place, all right, and a dragon hunter, Eret, who works for the villain Drago (you know him because he wears a dragon skin cape.). They hunt dragons and force them to become “soldiers” in an army. Drago says he wants to help dragons, but he is into enslavement, instead, and of course, conquering everything in sight. Also, Hiccup finds something precious that he thought was lost to him. This is where the story goes from adventure to mending fences, and getting together against a common foe. If you thought some of the dragons from the first film were large, here comes the Alpha, who resembles Godzilla, but freezes things with his breath. The battles and aerial displays begin and there are rescues, escapes, and through it all, on the “good side,” there is affection.  A dragon kiss with slime is greeted with ,”Oh, that won't wash off,” but the beast is never pushed away, and usually gets a hug, instead. (think an English bulldog here). Along the way, fans are introduced to new species of dragons and a rainbow doesn't seem to have enough colors for them.
The script deals with loss, (beware) a death, coping with leadership, decision-making, inventiveness and friends. Not only is the soundtrack good, but there is a special song in the film, too, and written by Shane MacGowan. Adventure is over the horizon and it could bring new lands or bad company. In this film, both, and Hiccup as the heir apparent, plus his father, the chief, have to deal with change in their lives. Toothless, who flies with mechanical assistance, also has to deal with change and the expressions he has on his face are finely drawn.
A lasting impression are the aerial scenes of people riding multi-colored dragons against a background of steep hills, oceans, clouds and looking so free. You get the effects up close and far away in silhouette, especially when Hiccup breaks free of Toothless and goes it alone in his fly suit. Makes one think of the aerial dynamics in the George Peppard film of years ago called “The Blue Max,” in which WWI planes were in the skies. “How To Train Your Dragon 2” may have family members wanting a dragon (not on this planet) or a stuffed version. Be forewarned.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For another animated action film review see the following: