How to Train Your Dragon 2

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Five years after the Viking village of Berk has made peace with the dragons, dragons now live amongst the villagers as working animals and companions, and even take part in racing sports. Hiccup goes on adventures with his dragon, Toothless, as they discover and map unexplored lands and territories. Having come of age, he is being pressed by his father, Stoick the Vast, to succeed him as chieftain, although Hiccup remains unsure if he is ready for this responsibility.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a colossal green ice formation and encounter a dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort and attempts to capture their dragons for an insane conqueror called Drago Bludvist. The two riders return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing, and Stoick orders the villagers to fortify the island and prepare for battle. Stoick explains that he once met Drago and found him to be an unreasonable madman, but Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable. Hiccup flies off with Astrid and they surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret so as to be taken to Drago in order to reason with him.

They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka, who is revealed to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. Stoick tracks Hiccup to the island where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret to find Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk’s dragons.

Drago and his army lay siege to Valka’s sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle ensues between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all dragons on the island. Drago’s Bewilderbeast emerges victorious by killing the Alpha and seizes control of all the dragons, including Toothless. Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders him killed as well. Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha, approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. Drago leaves Hiccup to his fate and, riding Toothless, leads his now larger army to destroy Berk. Stoick is given a ship burial and Hiccup, now filled with regret at the loss of his father and his dragon, decides that he will fly back to Berk to defend his people and live up to his father’s legacy.

The dragon riders and Eret ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control, and arrive at Berk after the Alpha had already attacked the village and taken control of the dragons there. Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the Alpha and repeatedly fires plasma blasts at the Bewilderbeast. This frees the other dragons from the Bewilderbeast’s control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new Alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue of Stoick erected in his honor, and Hiccup doing his duties as chief, proudly declaring that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has its own dragons.

REVIEW:

Honestly, I don’t recall much about the original How to Train Your Dragon. That is not because it was a bad film, but rather I haven’t had the chance to watch and refresh my memory about it. I do remember how fun and entertaining it was and saying to myself that it was a notch in the right direction for DreamWorks who was and is still struggling to beat Pixar (though that gap is shrinking). Does How to Train Your Dragon 2 stand up to its predecessor or suffer the same fate as so many sequels tend to do these days?

What is this about?

Five years have passed, and while everyone else is caught up in dragon races, Hiccup and Toothless explore the island and make a shocking discovery. Will the mysterious Dragon Rider be friend or enemy to the rest of the island?

What did I like?

Aged like fine wine. Taking place 5 years after the first film, one would expect that characters to look a bit older…if this were live action. However, when it comes to animation, rarely do we see characters age, unless it is a time jump of some sorts. Just think about how long Bart Simpson has been 10 years old! The animators were smart enough to age these characters, rather than leave then in their pre-adolescent bodies.

Species. With a bigger film, we get to meet more dragons. While none are specifically introduced, with the exception of the Bewilderbeast(s), there are obviously different species that what we saw in the first film. Now, it is possible that these were introduced in the Cartoon Network animated series, but I haven’t had the chance to catch that, yet. I do appreciate seeing that there are more species out there than just the few we already knew. It shows how vast the dragon kingdom is. On a side note, the Bewilderbeasts are quite impressive. Such a shame we didn’t get to see more of the battle between the two alphas.

Here kitty..er…dragon. How can you not like Toothless. I have to give credit to these animators and designers. Not only did they create an instantly recognizable face of the franchise, but he steals your heart straight away with his cat like mannerisms and playful demeanor. If dragons were around in our world, this would be the kind I’d want as a pet, and I’m sure that I am not the only one. However, when it comes time to defend Hiccup, Toothless doesn’t mess around, and that is something that I also appreciated, along with the discovery of new powers previously unbeknownst to both Toothless and Hiccup.

What didn’t I like?

Do something, mom. After a brilliant introduction of Hiccup’s mom, previously thought deceased, she silently falls into the background and becomes a, for lack of a better word, a mother. Cheering on and offering advice to her son is all she does after being reunited with her husband Stoick the Vast. Now, this would be all fine and dandy if she hadn’t been initially introduced as a total badass, feral warrior. I must wonder why they “tamed” her for the rest of the picture.

Drago. Is it me, or does it seem like there is a prerequisite for there to be a villain named Drago in medieval era type stories. Here we have another one, this one borderline insane and somehow has found a way to control dragons. So, what is it that I didn’t like about him? Not to spoil anything, but he is defeated a little bit too easily. Also, while he may seem to be in control, had it not been for that Alpha he had, the tide might never have turned in his favor. This is a guy that gets ahead on opportunity, not his skill, and that does not a good villain make.

Tragedy. After the way the first film ended, I shouldn’t be surprised that this one takes a dark turn, as well. What does surprise me, though, is how they did it, and the fact that the character who is killed still lives in the books, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know how far they want to stray from the source material, but it just seems as if killing serves no real purpose. The emotional toll it takes on the characters is one thing, but can’t we just make it through one of these films without some kind of tragedy fueling the climax?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been out for about a month now, and yet the theater I was in tonight was actually more packed than the ones for Transformers : Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past. I guess there is something to be said for a good family flick. That is what this is, a good family film that appeals to both kids and adults. There are a few flaws here and there, but overall this is a fun film. I highly recommend it, possibly even in 3D!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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