Monday, 16 June 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2, 2014
Directed by Dean DeBlois

How To Train Your Dragon is perhaps my all-time favourite animated film. It's was funny and adorable, has one of the best soundtracks ever, and has a great story. The film ended on a happy note, and a sequel was not needed whatsoever. I would've been perfectly fine if the filmmakers never touched this story again and left it at the one film. However, the sequel blew my expectations out of the water and delivered a grown up story in the form of an animated film, and was a completely worthy sequel.

The film is smart to set itself 5 years later than the original film. The original ended on such a happy note that trying to make an immediate sequel out of it would've seemed like they were trying too hard. But 5 years ahead brings a whole new set of problems. Hiccup and his friends are now adults, and Stoick has offered his son the place as chief on Berk when his time would come. Hiccup is still unsure who he is and if he'd be the kind of person to be able to be a good chief. But this film brings new problems and new villains. Hiccup and Astrid come upon some dragon trappers while exploring and learn that they work for a man named Drago Bludvist who is raising up an army of dragons. But Hiccup meets someone else as well, someone he never thought he'd meet. A dragon rider with a secret rescued dragon sanctuary. And while Hiccup means to talk sense into Bludvist instead of having Berk go to war, Hiccup and the new dragon rider find themselves in the midst of war anyway.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not quite a children's move. While the original was a delight and children and parents could both enjoy themselves, the sequel seems to have grown up alongside the audience and presents a much more grown up story and goes into some dark places. But because of this, HTTYD2 is able to improve upon the original in a bunch of ways and really find it's feet as a film with real characters that have depth and complexities.

The film is also one of the most beautifully animated films I've pretty much ever seen. The flying sequences are much more complex than the first film and the amount of action going on in each shot is incredible. We constantly have something going on in the background. As well, the dragons are as beautiful and fun-loving as ever. They are colourful and complex and there are so many different varieties of them. If nothing else, the film is an absolute delight for the eyes and is just brilliant to watch. But thankfully, this is not the only thing the film is boasting. We have John Powell who has come back with many of his themes from the first film, but brings some great new material as well, expanding upon the original score. We also have a tender singing moment that is so sweet and special between two characters who completely deserved such a wonderful moment and is just as good (if not even sweeter) than any Disney love song in recent years.

But what really brings this film to life is the characters and the interactions between them and the journey they go on. Hiccup and Astrid are in a great spot together and we see such a healthy relationship between them. No drama, but they are happy as ever together and work seamlessly as a team. While Hiccup is off by himself, Astrid is there to take over the team and help further Hiccups mission. We also have some fantastic interactions from the secondary characters. While not too interesting in the first film, we have the hilarity of Fishlegs and Snotlout both trying to catch the attention of Ruffnutt. And probably the most hilarious part of the film, is Ruffnutt's attraction to the dragon trapper Eret. It makes for some hilarious moments, ones I won't spoil as they're way funnier to watch. On a different note, Hiccup is surprised that this new dragon rider he meets turns out to be his mother (it's not a spoiler if the trailer told me this ahead of time). Her story of why she left him and Berk is heartbreaking, and the interactions she and Hiccup have are some of the best and most moving I've seen in a while. It feels incredibly real and natural, and there is so much emotion there, on both sides, that you can't help but be moved. And what's even more sweet is the scene we get of Stoick seeing his wife again for the first time. I won't spoil the scene for you, but it's incredibly beautiful and one of the most moving scenes in an animated film. I won't lie when I say that I got a little teary in this moment.

If I was going to complain about anything about this film, there's only one thing that comes to mind. The only way that this film did not improve upon the original was the "problem". In the first film, the problem was the dragons themselves and the people of Berk, who couldn't seem to stop fighting each other. However, this film we have a specific villain with a face and voice, and he is particularly underdeveloped compared to everyone else around him and has somewhat weak motives. But this is me being extremely picky because all the character development and interactions of the rest of the film more than make up for it, in my opinion.

The film succeeds because of where the film goes. It has grown up along with it's audience, and it takes a dark turn that was foreshadowed, but still unexpected. And as dark and sad as it was, it was extremely brave and gave me a lot of respect for the film and where it's going. The film really trusts the audience and isn't afraid to take a drastic and surprising turn, one that will definitely bring tears to children's eyes. However, it's moves like this (and others) that make me respect the film so much because of the risks it's willing to take, showing that animated movies aren't solely just "kids movies" but can be respected as movies on their own. The film doesn't play it safe but instead tries to be true to real life (or as much as you can when the story involves vikings riding dragons). This film is about characters with disabilities but yet isn't focused on them. While the first film focused on Toothless relearning to fly since losing one of his tail fins, Hiccup now has only one real leg (the other a mechanical contraption). We have a children's movie starring characters with disabilities who still go about life normally. You'd think there would be more internet rejoicing over this, but whatever.

Overall, this film was unnecessary in every sense, but it's one I'm so happy they made anyway. I was so skeptical upon hearing all over the internet that this film was perhaps even better than the original, something I thought completely impossible. However, while I don't think it completely surpasses the original, I feel with all the growing up it's done, it certainly gives the first one a run for it's money. The two films, while very similar, are quite different and do really compliment each other. While I would've been alright without a sequel, the team behind this one crafted an incredibly beautiful story about family and loyalty, and is a completely deserving sequel to the brilliant original.


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