How to Train Your Dragon 2Title: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Runtime: 102 minutes

It’s hard to find a good animated film these days. Yes, we get the likes of Frozen, and the latest Pixar offering, but those films offer the tried and true tropes that families expect. In 2010, the world met Hiccup and Toothless, and fell in love. Seriously, I’ve had friends view this repeatedly in single sittings thanks to it airing on Cartoon Network. How to Train Your Dragon 2 made it towards the top of my Cinefessions Summer Preview list because I was that excited for it. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

It’s five years after the events of the first film. Hiccup is now twenty years old, and is in a relationship with Astrid. He travels the world on the back of Toothless, mapping the lands. One day he meets a dragon poacher and hears of an evil man that is creating a dragon army. I’ll leave it at that for the plot, but let’s be honest: if you’ve seen the trailers then you already know a major plot point. Fortunately this spoiler happens fairly early on, and just helps add to the overall story.

I had the pleasure of seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 in IMAX 3D, and it was a blast! The snow effects in the final two thirds of the film are beautiful. The flight scenes are exhilarating, and everything just pops perfectly. Even without the 3D, the animation is amazing. I noticed a number of times that, despite cartoon features, Hiccup’s face actually makes normal facial ticks while talking, smiling, and so on. It’s not in your face, but instead very natural.

There’s only one real new set piece to How to Train Your Dragon 2, and that’s where the big battle takes place. You can definitely see where the film’s budget goes when this giant Lords of the Rings style battle is taking place on land and in the air. There are just so many characters and dragons on the screen at once, and all of them are doing different things.

Speaking of characters, the entire cast has a weird sort of chemistry to them. Hiccup and Astrid feel like a real couple, more so than some live actors would have been able to do (Twilight cast, please take note). The real scene-stealer this time around is Ruffnut, voiced by Kristen Wiig. She’s rather manly looking, but the young boys all want to date her, and the subplot with her lusting after the dragon poacher is hysterical. I found myself laughing every time.

Everything has been brought to life once again thanks to the wonderful mind of Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch). He not only wrote the film, but also directed, and his writing gave me a sense of the overall story arc of the original Star Wars trilogy. There are a lot of nods to other films in the fantasy genre, mainly in the opening sequence, which plays a lot like Quiditch (from the Harry Potter series) on dragons.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits all the right notes for me. The cast is great, with everyone returning from the first film, plus the always-fantastic Cate Blanchett joining the voice cast. The overall plot, with its intimidation vs. love approach, is a great way to build not only the villain of the film, but Hiccup as well, as he tries to find his place in the world. For fans of hand drawn animation, the credits are for you as it shows some beautiful storyboards. There is a lot more I want to say about the film, but doing so would spoil some great moments. I cannot wait for the third part of this trilogy, but in the meantime, I’ll be tracking down the television series to get my Dragon fix.

four_stars

Chris Ranson
Film Critic at Cinefessions

Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.