This review was first published in the Holyoke Enterprise 2/25/16
How to Train Your Dragon is still my favorite 3D movie experience to date. Not knowing anything about it going into the theater, I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved it! Shortly thereafter, an animated series Dragons showed up on Cartoon Network in 2012, running two seasons and having a third picked up by Netflix. I sat down to watch the show, but found myself out of the loop on a few things. So I put on How to Train Your Dragon 2, but as it turns out, that was released in 2014, after the events of the television series.
Well, regardless, HtTYD2 was just as much fun as the first, with all the thrills and chills of the first, with even a little more gravitas.
We’re introduced to the new sport of Dragon Racing in Berk, the Viking town and home of our hero, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). But where are he and Toothless, his rare Night Fury dragon with the cutest face and retractable teeth (hence the name)? Since we left them in the first film, it’s been five years and Hiccup has transformed the very lifeblood of Berk from dragon fighting to dragon rescuing. Everyone has their own pet dragon and they’ve all become vital members of the community.
While out scouting with Toothless, Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) find an island cave teaming with dragons, encased in ice. They also come face to face with the mysterious Dragon Rider who is determined not to let them capture any of the dragons. After an intense face-off, the Dragon Rider turns out to be Valka, Hiccup’s long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett)! She shows him the heart of her dragon herd, the Alpha, a massive, ice-blasting dragon with huge tusks at least ten-times the size of any dragon we’ve ever seen.
When they’re attacked by dragon-hunting Vikings, led by Drago (Djimon Hounsou), Hiccup and Valka learn that Alphas can control other dragons with their minds, forcing them to do their bidding. Also, Drago controls his Alpha by command! You can guess where this is going… Can Hiccup rescue Toothless and his friends’ dragons before they destroy Berk, and maybe even the world?!
I wish I had seen this in the theater! I would have even forked over the extra cash to see it in 3D. Flying is, by far, the BEST use of 3D technology. Why do you think space battles look so cool? Because flying is awesome! Once again, the filmmakers were able to make dragons adorable, especially Toothless who looks to be part cat, part dog, and part fire-ball-blasting dragon. He’s so danged cute! Most, if not all, of the original cast returned for the film, including Gerard Butler, TJ Miller, Kristin Wiig, and new-comer to the cast Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones fame.
There are some scary moments and a certain Pixarian plot device to force our protagonist to the point of no return (Finding Nemo, Lion King, Up = Pixarian plot device), and some of the dragon fights are intense, so probably not for the little kids, but a pretty standard PG audience should be fine. Stunning animation, beautiful artistry, and a heartfelt, funny script make How to Train Your Dragon 2 a solid stand-alone and a great sequel to an already excellent film.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is a former writer and columnist of the Holyoke Enterprise. He does other things too, most of which you can find on his website: www.lincolnlhayes.com