Directed by Dean DeBlois
Written by Dean DeBlois
Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
I don’t blow my own trumpet very often, but when How To Train Your Dragon first came across my desk in 2010, I knew it was going to be a massive success. The animation was stunning for the time, with exquisite attention to detail and a script that was as rare as it was delightful, both funny and seemingly effortlessly delivered by a cast who were all on form at the same time.
Finally, we have been rewarded for our collective gushing praise with a sequel. The imaginatively titled How To Train Your Dragon 2 arrived on our shores a week or so ago and I got the chance to sit down and have a look at it for the first time earlier today (I’ve been busy, alright!).
Despite what the title may suggest, there is far less training of dragons apparent here. The story of Hiccup and Toothless continues as the province of Berk has evolved in some respects, into a more caring and understanding town with regard to its winged, fire-breathing inhabitants, thanks largely to the determined actions of our hero and his sidekicks. No longer are the town’s vikings focused on shooting these creatures out of the sky, seen as a terminal threat, but now welcome them with open arms, loved as family members and utilised as readily as a fleet of Ford Fiestas.
The threat on this occasion comes in the form of Drago, a huge, imposing mountain of a man on a mission to create a dragon army, employing a vast fleet to kidnap dragons in order to make them do his bidding with the help of the alpha dragon under his control.
As Stoick, the chief of Berk and also Hiccup’s father, plans to make his prodigal son the new chief, Hiccup is off riding Toothless, cartography uppermost on his mind. As he and Toothless travel the lands between the seas away from home, they come across one of Drago’s dragon trappers and learn of Drago’s plans to rule as far as any dragon could hope to reach. Hiccup, confident of his own abilities like never before, given his previous successes, vows to find Drago and change his mind.
On this adventure he meets a formidable ally, the Dragon Rider, that joins forces with him and his townsfolk to face up to Drago and a huge battle ensues, the winner of which will either ensure the ugly fate or glorious victory of the people of Berk once and for all.
As mentioned, the film like its predecessor is sharp, witty and often edgy in its comedy. Some jokes will go right over the heads of most of the audience, depending on their age, but will probably make those paying for the tickets to see it grin the most. The animation is crisp and considered, with DeBlois once more ensuring that no tick or subtle expression is overlooked. Jay Baruchel’s Hiccup is as just as enjoyable as ever as is Butler’s Stoick. Cate Blanchett, as a new addition to the cast is inspired, as she delivers both heart and fire in equal measure when required.
A story of never giving up and believing in yourself is a familiar one and worthy given the young audience at which the message is directed and Dreamworks are clearly aware of their responsibilities as arguably the best large western animation studio producing feature length entertainment for children these days, given the slow, painful decline of Pixar into just another department of the Disney machine. The new Planes release coming soon may well give an indication of audiences preference, at the very least.
Superb fun and not a moment was wasted in this thrill ride with some now familiar, enjoyable characters. Great fun for all the family. Two firm thumbs up.