This sequel matches and could be said to better the original
A sequel that equals and, in some cases, betters the original film is a rare beast, but this Dragon, rare or not, is one such beast!Taking place some five years after the events depicted in the original film, the citizens of Berk are now living very happily with their Dragons, even building a ‘quidditch’ type sport around their unique abilities. All seems well in the world, save that Hiccup, still inventive and still empathetic, does not want to take on the responsibility of leadership, even though his father insists that he do so. He would rather continue to explore their world and map it out, but on one fateful day he comes across Dragon trappers and discovers that there is a new threat; Drago a warmongering Viking who can also control Dragons (though through fear) wishes to rule the world and sees Berk and the mysterious Dragon Rider as targets in that aim. It is up to Hiccup and his faithful sidekick Toothless to try, once again, to save the day; but it is only through sacrifice, reconciliation and some truly shocking events that this is possible.Returning director Dean DeBlois came to the project with a definite idea and a true direction for the franchise – a trilogy of films, the second of which to be an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ type of expansion of the universe. And boy did he hit the nail on the head. Dragons 2 is a much, much darker film than the original but it shows just as much heart, looking at things from a far more adult perspective – much like the characters do, being that much older themselves. There are some shocking scenes in the film, one in particular that doesn’t just tug at the heart strings, but rips them out, stamps on them, then pour salt into the still open wound. This ultimately, however, makes for an extremely rewarding film that is brimming with characterisation, empathy and a willingness to see ‘right’ done.
In a stroke of genius, DeBlois doesn’t just rehash the first film by placing the same characters in a similar situation, but redefines all the characters by making them that much older – they have ‘grown’ and as such the script does with them. Hiccup still has feelings for Astrid, but now takes on responsibilities of leadership, even though he would rather shirk them. The revelation of his mother, though not entirely unexpected, works extremely well with Hiccup’s character, but that reconciliation comes at a price – an extremely high price and one that packs an emotional punch the likes of which Dreamworks have never done before. It goes to show with the right story and the right characters Dreamworks can punch just as hard as Disney in this regard (think of Bambi or Lion King and you get the idea). Indeed the whole film has a far more adult feel about it; there is exploration of adult ideas and feelings, and not just from the ‘main’ characters.
Drago as the main villain is another great turn – his motivation is justified and his aims of world domination and end justifying the means are well thought out and, in the eyes of the insane, perfectly sane. The standoff at the end is thoroughly rousing and has you thumping the air! I only hope that DeBlois doesn’t go the way of the Star Wars Trilogy and phone in a ‘Return of the Jedi’ end to his Dragons. Because right now this is one top franchise and, if I am to believe my mate with his two young kids, the Christmas toys for 2014.
So, How to Train your Dragon 2 is a film that sets out to open up the world of Berk and succeeds brilliantly yet keeps an intimate story thread that no amount of wild fantasy can dampen. Thoroughly recommended.
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