As a known Pixar fan, it may seem surprising that I’ve rewarded a Dreamwork’s film 5 stars; though they usually churn out half-arsed attempts at movies, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is their best since Shrek and I’d say their best ever made.
Jay Baruchel returns as a now 20 year old Hiccup with new pressure from his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) as he tries to lead him into becoming chief of Berk. Adding to Hiccup’s worries, an evil warrior known as Drago is amassing a dragon army with the help of ‘the best trapper around’ Eret (Kit Harrington). It’s up to Hiccup and Toothless to save Berk from Drago whilst dealing with his father’s pressures as well as the sudden appearance of his long lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett).
The voice talents are as good as always, Baruchel brings his signature high pitch down a tone, introducing maturity to Hiccup, Butler is powerfully gruff as Stoick; Blanchett’s scottish accent is a little off but that can be over looked. The biggest stars of the cast however, as they were last time, are the dragons. Fully animated and voiced by no one, the beautifully animated creatures, spouting out pet noises are adorably cute yet terrifyingly majestic.
If reviewing How to Train Your Dragon 2 as a children’s film, which some may argue it is, I would probably only award it 3 or 4 stars. That’s because this sequel is not a children’s film. It astonished me how mature the plot really was, largely focusing on the rebuilding of Hiccup’s broken family, a very sensitive issue. The villain, Drago, the film’s weakest link, is given a relatable backstory which again pushes the limits of a PG rating on screen. If How to Train Your Dragon 2 is hilarious at points, and it is, it never underestimates the power of the dragons and never relents on the tragedy they can bring. Also, it never relents on showing the happiness and beauty they can bring, several flashback scenes show this with at least 3 points in the movie touchingly resonating the peaceful nature of the creatures which effectively contrasts against the savagery of the humans. Again, another reason this cannot be considered a children’s film.
But aside from these themes, why is it worth 5 stars? To appreciate this film for what it is, people need to step back from reality and really take a good look at what matters in life, something the film encourages the audience remember. Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship is unbreakably loyal, funny, competitive and most poignantly, touching. Tragic, it also is; the movie strains the bonds of friendship in many characters and the moral ambiguity of forgiveness is forced into the audience’s questioning. It all sounds a lot for an animated feature and it is. The more emotional audience will cry, the least emotional will feel weighted down, in a pleasant way, with the heaviness of the subject matter.
For children, there is plenty of humour, mostly from the courtship of Fishlegs and Snotlout to Ruffnut and her affection for Eret, as well as the pet-like behaviour of the dragons. The visuals are perfect, spectacular to look at for all ages, beautiful orange sunsets flick to sinister, dark scenes. Director Deblois, in regards to the soundtrack, says music makes 50% of the film and here i could not agree more. John Powell improves on the impeccable soundtrack of the first film which brings the beauty, happiness, sadness and sense of responsibility to goose bump raising majesty. Between the 2 movies, I’m beginning to think that the soundtracks are my favourites amongst any movie, certainly up there. It will have you sniffling into a tissue on minute, and fist pumping the air in genuine delight the next.
And that’s why How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a 5 star movie, it genuinely grabs the audience and hooks them into the emotional resonance of the film, resonance young and old alike need to pay attention to.
Almost faultiness. Pixar quality. Beautiful. A ROARING success.