REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon 2
How to Train Your Dragon was an immensely successful adaptation of Cressida Cowell’s charming children’s book. The story ended nicely and had we never revisited the village of Berk, we would have been satisfied. However, in film, success demands milking the cow as far as audiences allow so we now have a sequel. Unlike so many other money grabbing attempts, this once actually advances the characters without rehashing the past.
Growing up is never easy, it has fueled countless movies and novels through the years so it is a challenge to effectively tell a sequel to a beloved children’s tale where the characters actually change. DreamWorks Animation, though, accepted the challenge when they green lit a follow-up to 2010’s smash hit. The sequel arrived to great critical acclaim in the summer and now, Fox Home Entertainment is making it available now via digital download with the Blu-ray edition to follow on Tuesday.
Everything about this film feels more grounded and more mature with the animators carefully aging our main characters five years so Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is a hairy teenager. Having achieved the unthinkable, peace with the dragons, they have integrated to make the village of Berk a unique place in the world. As a result, we pick up and see Hiccup, aboard Toothless, as they go out exploring. The problem now is that Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) wants him to come home and succeed him as chief.
First, though, Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrara) have to prevent Berk from being destroyed by a dragon army led by the mad Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou). Through convoluted means, he now can hypnotize dragons and winds up taking control of Toothless, leading the siege that claims Stoick’s life while Toothless remains a prisoner. However, he is far from alone as he also encounters Valka (Cate Blanchett), a dragonrider who is revealed to be his long-lost mother.
The story, from writer/director Dean DuBois, nicely parallels the further maturation of both boy and dragon. Toothless may have the harder experience to recover from considering he is coerced into attacking a place he calls home and being somewhat responsible for the death of Hiccup’s dad.
At story’s end, Hiccup has been through the emotional wringer although he fortunately winds up in a better place as a result of the experiences, making one and all proud. Now, don’t get me wrong, despite the heavier emotional tone, the movie still has plenty of action and humor with excellent animation.
Streaming this via Digital HD is clean and clear so if that’s your preference, you have little fear. Additionally, the digitals download and Blu-ray come chock full of extras. First up is the short, entertaining adventure Dawn of the Dragon Racers (26:37). The bonus features include Fishleg’s Dragon Stats (12:04); Drago’s War Machines (2:56), as Gobber the Belch narrates an inside look at the fierce creatures; Berk’s Dragon World (4:19); Hiccup’s Inventions in Flight (3:32), and an assortment of Deleted Scenes (12:13). Additionally, there is some interesting commentary from the production team: Simon Otto, Bonnie Arnold, Dean DeBlois, and Pierre-Olivier Vincent. Where No One Goes: The Making of How To Train Your Dragon 2 (54:39)– Writer-Director DeBlois guides us through how this went from notion to film.