VOD film review: How to Train Your Dragon 2
James R | On 28, Mar 2015
Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Djimon Hounsou
Watch How to Train Your Dragon 2 online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Where’s my dragon?” That was the big question everyone asked after How to Train Your Dragon five years ago. But the film’s strength was partly in the number of other questions it left unanswered. This was a fully-formed world created by DreamWorks Animation, but not a fully-explained one: you were left wanting to explore. That’s exactly what How to Train Your Dragon 2 does: it hops on the back of a scaly beast and flies around Berk, ducking into all the nooks and crannies.
In HTTYD, flight has always been a balance between rider and beast. Hiccup and Toothless, for example, are an acutely even pair; each of them disabled, heroic and, of course, friends. That equilibrium stretches all the way down the franchise’s bobbly spine.
Outing number two explores the other side of Hiccup’s heritage, with flashbacks to his mother before she left him as a baby. But where some movies might turn that into the main plot, the briefly shown character emerges as something more complex. As pro-dragon as Hiccup’s dad, Stoick (Gerard Butler), was anti-dragon, her relationship with the mystical reptiles only adds to film’s themes of peace, love and understanding.
Back in the present, word arises of another dragon master, Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who has his own connection to Berk. So when a menacing rider, Valka (Blanchett), kidnaps our heroes, the stage is set for an epic battle – one that director Dean DeBlois stages with jaw-dropping scale. The impact of the conflict, though, comes from Dean’s deeply personal script, which echoes the struggle for supremacy over creatures with Hiccup’s own challenge of following in his father’s footsteps. Now that Berk’s firmly in favour of fire-breathers, can he settle down with Astrid (America Ferrera) and his black-winged buddy?
With Toothless also fighting not to obey the call of an alpha male, this carefully observed sequel swoops over the first film’s family unit, strengthening every bond it finds: power becomes a question of friendship rather than physical might. John Powell’s music amplifies that message further, from an adorable ditty dating back to Stoick and his wife’s courting days to that rousing signature theme from part one. The unity on display is a striking contrast to Hounsou’s enemy, who yells barbarically while dealing with his own disability (scenes where he summons up an army could well prove upsetting for younger viewers).
It’s refreshing to see a film where main characters have lost a limb without it becoming a central focus of the narrative. The same is true of the movie’s fleshed-out women, with the fierce flame of Blanchett’s Valka offset by Kristen Wiig’s hysterical Ruffnut, who spends her time ogling Drago’s butch henchman, Eret (Kit Harington). It’s all about balance; life and death, dragons and humans, parents and children. And How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a finely tuned as it gets. The result is a funny, yet mature tale of loyalty that will leave you giggling, whooping and sobbing in equal measure – and asking “Where’s my dragon?” all over again.