DreamWorks Animation was at one point the only major competitor that Disney had. Occasionally there was a Warner Brothers or a Fox movie that could attract attention, but from the late 1990s through the early 2010s, Disney and DreamWorks were neck to neck in crafting stories that everyone could enjoy.
Not every film was a ballpark, but the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda series were seen as the flagship characters from DreamWorks that everyone could recognize. Shrek’s face would appear on clothing and popsicles while anything Kung Fu Panda related had been made into every kind of toy. While I like both movies, neither are my favorite.
My favorite DreamWorks animated movie has to be How to Train Your Dragon.
Having not written a review on it before, I’ll do a quick summary. For every reason, I should hate How to Train Your Dragon, as it contains many of the clichés that I cannot stand such as the dopy kid who becomes the hero, hiding of the pet, the parent that won’t listen to reason and the liar-revealed plot.
Yet, despite all of that, all of those seemed very new because the movie allowed for every emotion the character went through to be seen. Great animation, a fantastic story, and even a great dragon battle made How to Train Your Dragon a masterpiece. So I had a lot of hype for How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Set five years after the first movie, the Viking village of Berk has settled into the idea of having dragons as pets. Our hero Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel) has matured into a 20-year-old, taking plenty of time with his dragon Toothless to explore new worlds.
His father Stoick the Vast (played by Gerald Butler) feels that his son is now ready to replace him as chief of the village. Hiccup flies off to think about the offer with his girlfriend Astrid (played by America Ferrera) for emotional support.
Hiccup and Astrid encounter a dragon poacher named Eret who reveals that he’s gathering as many dragons as possible for his chief, an insane conqueror named Drago Bludvist (played by Djimon Hounsou).
Hiccup and Astrid get away in time to tell Stoick, who thinks that Drago wants a full war. Hiccup would solve the situation with peace and flies off to try. On his way to Drago’s lair another dragon rider captures him, only to reveal herself as Hiccup’s long lost mother, Valka (played by Cate Blanchett).
Hiccup hears the explanation for her disappearance and more information about Drago that could make Hiccup’s war much darker then expected. Along with those I mentioned, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wigg, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all return as Berk Vikings.
Talk about a sequel that doesn’t rehash the first movie! How to Train Your Dragon 2 matures the story and characters in a way that brings in more comedy, more action, and even some gripping drama. The movie knows what it wants to give to its audience and shows us plenty of time with Hiccup, his mother and his father becoming a family.
I love seeing how much Hiccup has really aged and how he has to come to grips with finding a way to become the leader his father wants him to be, while continuing to fill his position as a peacekeeper. His road is much darker here where simple reason is not enough to stop an enemy. We get to see a Viking war with many dragons that is so intense and so well shot that this battle is up there with Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.
Like the first movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2’s animation is stunning, really expanding the Viking world we thought we knew and even throwing some creative dragons not seen before. I hope we continue this franchise as this series could become one of the all time great fantasy stories. Let’s just hope the DreamWorks can achieve a hit with this one.
I’ll give this five Toothless dragons out of five. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the rare sequel that improves upon the first, soaring high like the dragon it wants to be. It’s hard to write about this movie without spoiling