The only new movie we got at my theater this week was Jersey Boys, and since I couldn’t sit through two hours of Frankie Valley’s horrible voice without driving nails into my ears, I went to How to Train Your Dragon 2. I loved the first one, but didn’t feel it needed a sequel, so I had no idea whether I would be impressed or not.
20-year-old Hiccup clashes with his father over whether it would be better to reason with or hide from the villain who plans to attack their village with a dragon army.
In some respects, I was right. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not necessary, but it was enjoyable. Like most sequels, Dreamworks made it because there was more money in the franchise, but there are a few new elements to keep the story from getting too stale and the dragons are (of course) still cute.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) was a kid in the first movie. He became the first Viking from Berk to befriend a dragon (the ever-adorable Toothless) and convinced his whole village that the best way to control the dragon population would be to ride them. This movie is more of the same in that 20-year-old Hiccup’s plan for dealing with an approaching dragon army is to ride out and convince them that they should all be friends.
I sneer at your offer of friendship, and ready my harpoons.
Drago (Djimon Honusou), is your typical Disney movie villain. He’s got an ugly, Jafar-esque face, a body like a fridge, and is completely one dimensional in his desire to destroy whatever it is the hero has. The only redemptive possibility lies with Eret (Kit Harrington), an abused Drago-goon and dragon hunter who looks like he could be a leading actor on the Fairly OddParents soap opera All My Biceps.
Come to me, darling! I married your grandma by mistake, I swear!
Drago has a dragon army but he’s not a dragonrider per se (that would require him to be well rounded enough to make at least one friend). Instead, he controls them using a convenient/silly series of screams and stick-waves, which made me wonder why they didn’t just stuff a sock in his mouth and break his stick instead of fighting his whole army dragon-to-dragon.
If there’s no battle, how will we know when the movie is over?
The action in How to Train Your Dragon 2 is different but the same. They introduce the element of huge alpha dragons known as Bewilderbeasts, but all it does is make the big battle seem the same as the one in How to Train Your Dragon. I could almost see the screenwriters sitting in a little room going: “the good guys have dragons… what’s left for them to fight against? I know: BIGGER dragons!!”
Yaaar! I will eat you puny dragon, because as everyone knows, big things are mean!
Hiccup’s gimmick is that he’s an inventor (it was his replacement tail fin that allowed Toothless to fly in the first movie) so for the sequel, they pulled out a couple of new items to freshen up the battle tactics. Hiccup has a lightsaber-looking fire sword and a squirrel suit that allows him to glide on his own. It looks cool, but you lose some of the wonder if you don’t spring for 3D.
Hiccup, you skipped a step. Invent a parachute, THEN a glide suit.
Much like in the first movie, Hiccup’s friends Astrid (America Ferrerra), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), and Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) are largely relegated to tag-along status. They mostly just bicker in the background except for a few scenes involving a sheep-based dragon racing sport which only serve to illustrate how much fun it is to ride dragons. And even then they’re still bickering, just in the foreground. I couldn’t be bothered to remember who was who.
DARK HAIRED ONE: Marry me, girl who is a twin!
TWIN GIRL: No! Ew! You sound like Jonah Hill.
Most of the character drama revolves around the fact that Hiccup and Toothless stumble across Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), while they’re out mapping the seas. I say drama, but Hiccup and his father, chief Stoik the Vast (Gerard Butler) welcome her back into the fold with nary a ‘why the hell did you let us think you were dead for twenty years?!’
I’m sure you had a really good reason, Mom. Like… you weren’t invented until just now.
For those of you thinking about taking young kids, you should also know that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a little bit darker (mostly just in a handful of scenes) than its predecessor. Your kids will be sad. About on the level with The Land Before Time or Air Bud. But don’t worry, Toothless’ gummy smile will make it all right in the end.
Oh! Ow! The cuteness! It hurts!
So should you go? Honestly, I wouldn’t have if there’d been anything else playing this week. I didn’t even pick it when it was new. It doesn’t have that wow factor that the first one had and it covers a lot of the same ground. But it’s still a fun way to spend two hours, especially if you’re a kid and your memory is so short that you barely even remember the first one.