In 2010, How to Train Your Dragon delighted the cinema-going public with its first class animation, exciting narrative, snappy dialogue and loveable characters. It impressed audiences and critics alike as a thoroughly enjoyable family adventure all wrapped up in some really quite adult concepts . Therefore, it didn’t take much arm twisting to drag me along to the sequel this weekend, and I was even willing to give 3D another chance, as, you know, dragons and fire flying at your face, well it sounded pretty cool…
It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave, that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe in while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.
It was always going to be a difficult task to sustain the brilliance of the first How to Train Your Dragon. The plot, whilst exciting and thrilling, was actually a rather simple premise that centred on the unexpected bond between Hiccup and Toothless and came to a natural conclusion with a fittingly furious final battle sequence. In How to Train Your Dragon 2 everything has been cranked up exponentially. There is so much action and on such a big scale that at times it was reminiscent of the final battle scenes in Lord of the Rings. In contrast to this, there were times when the pace swung dramatically in the opposite direction, to almost a standstill, as the relationships in Hiccup’s family were explored and developed. The result was a film that felt very ‘BANG BANG BANG; whisper whisper; BANG BANG BANG’, which didn’t always work for me. In making How to Train Your Dragon 2 bigger, louder and showier, it has lost a lot of its original charm. All that said, despite these problems, a lot of the components that made the original film great are still there; the undeniably clever and endearing characterisation of the dragons; the core relationship between Hiccup and Toothless; adult themes, about family, death and war that don’t patronise; and a vein of comedy running through the whole film.
Overall How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a commendable and respectable sequel that hasn’t been afraid to tackle big ideas and emotions. The original is by far the superior film but there is still a lot to enjoy here. Having said that the 10 year old boy I watched it with loved all the action and categorically confirmed it was ‘awesome’ and was ‘just as good as the first’. So what do I know?
(Oh before I forget, save yourself some money and don’t bother with the 3D. There is light loss, problems with picture clarity and not once did I say oooooooo at any speeding dragons or fire. Rubbish.)