US Release Date: 06-13-2014
Directed by: Dean DeBlois
- Jay Baruchel, as
- Cate Blanchett, as
- Gerard Butler, as
- Craig Ferguson, as
- America Ferrera, as
- Jonah Hill, as
- Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as
- T.J. Miller, as
- Kristen Wiig, as
- Djimon Hounsou, as
- Kit Harington, as
- Kieron Elliott, as
- Hoark the Haggard
- Philip McGrade, as
- Andrew Ableson, as
- Gideon Emery as
Another brilliantly animated film from Dreamworks.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place several years after the first film where Vikings and dragons were at odds until Hiccup united them. Hiccup narrates about his village, “This is Berk. Life here is amazing. Dragons used to be a bit of a problem. But now they've all moved in.” As the movie opens, Hiccup’s friends are all participating in a dragon race that involves catching sheep and depositing them in containers. The sheep were a major cause for conflict in the first film as the dragons ate the sheep, while here there is conveniently no mention as to what the dragons survive on.
Hiccup has little interest in the contest as he and Toothless are busy exploring the world around them and mapping it. While out searching, he meets a mysterious dragon rider who turns out to be someone from his past. Whereas that person wants to collect and help dragons, Hiccup also comes across a villain aptly named Drago Bludvist, who wants to capture and control them for his own nefarious reason. Hiccup once again finds himself in the middle of a conflict.
The animation is again brilliant and the pacing quick. My adult sons enjoyed it more than they thought they would, especially an exciting battle with dragons and humans near the end. The film slows down a couple of times when conceding to some interesting drama. This is setting up very well for the third installment.
In the first film, Hiccup played the role of political negotiator. He proved his warring father wrong about dragons by making friends with them instead of fighting them. Of course, the only reason the dragons attacked in the first place was to eat the Viking's cattle. Again, I wonder what these large peaceful pets consume that does not interfere with the Viking's livelihood.
Whereas Hiccup’s pacifist, let’s just talk to the enemy, political view worked in the first film, he comes to understand that sometimes action is needed. Hiccup’s father has a history with Drago and tells Hiccup, “A man who kills without reason cannot be reasoned with.” Although my brothers never saw the politics in the first film, the How to Train Your Dragon movies are allegories to wars and dealing with an enemy in our real world.
In the first film you could easily draw parallels with the dragons and Islamist terrorists taking orders from a leader who stayed at a safe distance from all the actual attacks on innocent citizens. In this film you could do the same or you could see the dragons as symbolic of oil, with different parties fighting over them for their obvious value. Hiccup maintains his peaceful approach to dragons and madmen, but he also discovers that sometimes a stand has to be made, “A chief protects his own.”
Sure, my brothers will likely disagree with what I see in this film but movie makers, of course, put their political/social opinions into their work as much as live action films. Look no further than the openly gay character Mitch in the animated ParaNorman (2012). It served no purpose to the plot to make him gay, other than to make a social statement, so why is it hard to believe that SKG would not allow, or even push, a political message here?
And since I mentioned Mitch, the character of Gobber has this line, “This is why I never married. Well, this and one other reason.” Sure it is subtle and could be taken many ways, but nope, it means just what I am talking about. The line was ad-libbed by Craig Ferguson but director Deblois liked it, kept it in and explained to Entertainment Weekly, “…it’s such a hand-off line that I think for the older members of the audience, it’ll take them a moment to realize, like, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’” says DeBlois. “And then you’re moving on. [The movie] treats it like normalcy, and that’s what I really like about it. Because I’m a gay man, and I don’t draw attention to myself for that reason. It’s just a fact of who I am, and the way the world is, and it’s nice to treat it as just a passing notion that isn't’ something that people have to get so up in arms about. I think it makes people chuckle, and in every test screening we’we've had, it’s always gone over really well. I know there are probably a few people whose feathers it will ruffle, but you can’t worry too much about that. Particularly in 2014. It’s so prevalent out there, in TV shows and movies. It’s the norm, as it should be. I’m proud of it. It contributes to the daring and progressive quality of the storytelling of this [planned] trilogy.”” I could not care less if Gobber is gay or not but this does demonstrate how film makers allow and put their personal political/social opinions into their work.
Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Eric, I don't think Patrick or I ever suggested that filmmakers don't put themselves into their work, however that doesn't mean that every crackpot conspiracy theory you dream up is accurate. And as for that one line that implies Gobber is gay, it is said in such a neutral manner that it's likely to reveal more about the audience based on how they react to it-or overreact in your case--than it ever does about the filmmakers.
Although I gave the original film a positive review, after almost four years my memory of it had faded. For instance, I had forgotten that Hiccup lost his foot at the first film's climax. Therefore it wasn't with any great anticipation that I sat down to watch this sequel. It may have been in part due to these lowered expectations, but in any case I found this movie to be quite enjoyable. It's that rare sequel that equals the original.
Dean DeBlois, who co-wrote and co-directed the original, returned to write and direct the sequel on the condition that he could turn the series into a trilogy. He has cited The Empire Strikes Back as an inspiration for this film's script. While the details differ, like that earlier sequel, this second film in a series goes down a darker route than its original. As Eric noted, while the first film was about making peace, this one involves a war, complete with a Darth Vader like villain, voiced memorably by Djimon Hounsou. There's even the death of a major character. It's not completely devoid of humor, but it's much toned down from the first film. Kristen Wiig provides many of the laughs as the boyish, but lusty Viking girl who has an eye for muscle.
The voice cast all returned from the original film, with the addition of Hounsou as Drago and Cate Blanchett as a character from Hiccup's past. Although it doesn't mar the film, I again was struck by how the adult Vikings all speak with a Scottish accent, but the younger members of the village speak a range of modern American accents without explanation. Jay Baruchel is good as Hiccup, but he sounds more like he was raised in New York City than a Viking island.
Like Eric I found the animation to be brilliant. In the four years since the original's release, animation technology has increased by leaps and bounds. Dreamworks has mentioned that they are now able to employ "scalable multi-core processing", which may not mean much to the layman, but which allowed the animators to view their work in real time rather than waiting for it to compile over 8 hours. The final battle is quite remarkable as it features hundreds of detailed dragons swarming across the screen.
I wasn't exactly panting for a sequel to the first film, but now I'm glad that there is to be a third installment to be released in 2017. It helps that DeBlois has aged his characters and allowed them to grow. I look forward to seeing where he takes them next.
Gobber comes out of the closet (sort of) in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
How to Train Your Dragon was one of the few modern cartoons that I actually remember enjoying. I didn't love it but I certainly liked it better than most of the formulaic and infantile animation Hollywood churns out these days. The fact that it's aimed at young adults rather than being strictly for the kiddies helps, plus it tells a fairly thrilling adventure story. As the second part of a planned trilogy, How to Train Your Dragon 2 delivers by allowing the characters to evolve. We learn several new things about Hiccup's family's past, and the movie ends with everything in place for the final installment. Visually it's flawless.
Eric, you certainly have the right to interpret this, or any other film, anyway you like, but as Scott wrote, the fact that he and I might think you're way off the mark with your conspiracies, isn't the same thing as us not agreeing that filmmaker's often insert a message in their movies. I think this movie has a very clear moral lesson about friendship, loyalty and having the courage to fight for those beliefs when attacked. But its most obvious lesson, as so dramatically demonstrated by Hiccup and Drago in their struggle over Toothless, is that love is stronger than hate. In the climactic scene, where Toothless finally stands up to the huge dragon leader, he wins over all the other dragons with his audacious bravery and purity of heart. Causing Hiccup to triumphantly declare to Drago, “That's how you win a dragon's loyalty!”
As for Eric's complaint about the very subtle suggestion that one of the characters in this movie (or ParaNorman) might be gay, all I have to say is, “How dare those filmmakers try to make gay people feel included.” Here's my own conspiracy theory (that I don't really believe, it's just to prove a point to my brother Eric). This movie is propaganda for the right wing gun crowd. The dragons are weapons and therefore represent the right to bear arms. At one point Valka says, “Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things.” Substitute “guns” for “dragons” and that line could have been written by the NRA.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a winner. I can't believe I'm writing this but I'm actually looking forward to the third part of the trilogy. One last thought. In my review for the first HTTYD I wrote that Jay Baruchel sounded like Christian Slater. This time around I thought he talked more like Johnny Galecki. I wonder who he'll sound like to me in the next movie.
Photos © Copyright DreamWorks Animation (2014)