How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

14119634-closeup-of-red-currant-jelly-and-mint-leavesI just got back from seeing HTTYD2! And I’m pleased that it was a good sequel. Unlike most sequels.

For the sake of those who don’t want the movie ruined for them yet, this is going to be spoiler-free.

Me? Go spoiler-free?

Yes, you read that right. Don’t pretend you didn’t.

Boy, oh, boy, where to start. Well, since five years has passed since the first movie, I’ll say this first: while, yes, the movie was darker and maturer than the first, it wasn’t as much so as I’d thought it would be. Which means that it’s more younger-kid-friendly than I’d initially thought. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the particularly sensitive ones may still be afraid (my younger sister decided not to go because white_bewilderbeast_by_bewilderbeast1-d7ldjr1she was worried that the huge Bewilderbeast dragons would scare her on the big screen). The stakes are higher in this one and there’s mano-a-mano conflict, unlike the first movie, where the antagonists were ideas rather than physical opponents.

Along with the “five years later” comes older characters and coming-of-age character development – the latter being mostly Hiccup’s. The focus is so heavily set on him that we don’t see too much of the other kids (besides Astrid) we met in HTTYD1, though they do indeed feature (and I personally didn’t miss them anyway). And even though Hiccup and Stoick reunite with mother and wife Valka, it doesn’t distract from Hiccup’s character development. Rather, it strengthens it. And loving character development as much as I do, that’s an important fact to me.

That said, Toothless gets not only screen-time, but a measure of his own character development as well. I loved him before, but now I love him more. It’s pretty much all I can say about him without spoiling stuff.

stoick-valka-hiccupNow, for some family matters. Stoick and Hiccup certainly don’t have the problems they did in HTTYD1, but there is still, of course, clashes in character and opinion. Despite this, though, it’s very clear that they love and respect each other. Hiccup and Valka bond in a rather short amount of time through their mutual love for dragons. Stoick and Valka reunite and though Valka is at first afraid that Stoick is upset by her twenty-year absence, Stoick’s only thoughts are love and happiness.

Speaking of Valka’s twenty-year absence, I’m not quite convinced by her reasons for said absence. I can see where her reasoning comes from, even where her son’s safety is concerned, but on the other hand, I didn’t think she was quite justified in her reasoning. It’s something that I’ll probably be thinking about off and on for a while. (It actually reminds me a couple of the sci-fi stories that I’ve written: in such-and-such a situation, which decision is best?)0613_02-dragobloodfist

While this story gave us an actual antagonist, Drago Bloodfist could have been stronger. It doesn’t take much to make us understand that he’s a baddie, but he’s not quite a convincing character. He doesn’t seem to have enough motivation to do the things that he does. Pity, because his voice was nicely-done and his character design begs for a good, strong backbone to bring it to life. (Also, random rabbit-trail: check out that dragon-skin cloak!)

I think I’ll say just one more thing before I conclude: the climax of the film wasn’t the sort that I was expecting. The soundtrack already clued me in on the fact that the climax was different from the way that it would go from tension to victory to tension to victory. I shan’t explain any of it, but I will say that this climax isn’t like that of the first movie in the way that it builds, builds, builds, peaks…, and then drops. This one does more of an up-and-down action – build, recede, build, peak…, then drop. Not that it’s bad. Just different. I’ll have to decide later how much I like the way it played out.

So. My overall impression? I really do like it. It’ll rank very high on my list of animated movies. I knew of the biggest spoilers and was prepared to force myself to not cry. Well, I was dry-eyed. And no, I don’t think it had anything to do with knowing the spoilers or having found the scenes  on YouTube just hours before I watched the movie (I was dry-eyed at home too, for the record). Sad and touching as the scenes were (complete with excellent soundtrack), it wasn’t the level of sad that I reached three times in Courageous. Don’t get me wrong, though. The feels were strong. Just not quite strong enough to make me cry.

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2On the other hand, though, there were definitely a few parts that had me grinning. Especially the flight and battle sequences. The rousing music, the great action, the flying, Hiccup and Toothless acting as one…. Good stuff.

Which is better:  HTTYD1 or HTTYD2? Don’t bother asking me till after I think about it for a while and watch it a few more times. 😀 It definitely has its pros (particularly where character development is concerned) and a couple cons (particularly a villain that’s not as strong as he could have been).

I’ll close with a quote from a reviewer on YouTube:

“There was one thing, one scene, one thing that happened in this movie that did bring the movie down slightly, and that’s the part when it ends. As in the movie. When the movie ends.”
~ Jeremy Jahns

With the ending that they gave this movie, yeah, I’d agree with him. Looking forward to the next installment and hoping it’ll be as good as (or better than) its predecessors! 😀

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