Monday, June 16, 2014

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 Review- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Dean DeBlois
Written by Dean DeBlois
Starring:  Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harrington
Synopsis: Hiccup and Toothless are back to help take down an evil dragon hunter.

In the world of animated movies, sequels usually come about because studios want quick and easy cash grabs. Very few animated sequels live up to the quality of their predecessors. Even though it was very poorly marketed, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON exceeded almost everyone's expectations four years ago. Now, the bar was set very high for the sequel, but thankfully, director and writer Dean DeBlois not only met these high expectations, but in many ways, made a film that ends up being better than the original.

It's been five years since we've seen the gang from Berk, and times have changed. Instead of fearing dragons, they're now part of the culture of this village. Hiccup (Baruchel) continues to be independent and explore various parts of the area that hasn't been mapped yet. However, he has looming responsibility hovering over his head. His father wants him to take over the village soon because he is getting to be too old. As expected, Hiccup isn't sure that's what he wants to do with his life and feel torn between what he loves to do and his dad's expectations. All the while, dragons are being taken by hired hands and being forced to be part of an army led by an evil viking, Drago Bloodfist (Hounsou).

DeBlois made a very wise decision to make this film a little more adult and show us the bigger and mores dangerous aspects of this world. Hiccup is struggling with a decision that will last the rest of his life and the fate of the village is in his hands. As he explores the remote planks outside of Berk, there's other dangers he comes across. Not only does he face Drago, who essentially wants to take over, um, everything, there are also many other humans who still see dragons as dangerous and deadly. Not everyone is open to these creatures, and DeBlois expertly explores the theme of prejudice.

As always, the strength of the film lies with the animation (SEE IT IN IMAX 3D!) and characterizations of the dragons. If you thought there were a lot of dragons in the first film, it's minuscule compared to this one. We get glimpses of the species hierarchy and history. The cat-dog like qualities the animators give the dragons make them such fun to watch. There are many sequences where humans are talking, but the dragons steal the scene like by playing fetch in the background or wrestling with each other.

The middle third of the story drags a little, if only because it's anchored by amazing fight and flying sequences. However, DeBlois sort of created a double edge sword. Since the dragons are so well animated and fun, anytime when it's just the humans, the movie feels a little ordinary. There's still a lot of great character work and story that happens with Hiccup and his family, and you know it worked because certain story beats happen in the later half of the film that completely rip at your heartstrings.

This is how animated sequels should happen. You take a great property and instead of going for the easy laughs and stupid humor, you expand the world and make the characters more dynamic. Of course, cute and playful dragons will always help any film. And if this what DeBlois had up his sleeve part two, then I cannot wait to see what he has ready for part three.

No comments:

Post a Comment