Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
The main surprise of How to Train Your Dragon – the story of a boy raised to kill dragons beginning a forbidden friendship – was not that it made money. To date, DreamWorks Animations has made 29 animated films, and only failed to recoup the production costs at the box office for one of them: The Road to El Dorado in 2000. The main surprise was that How to Train Your Dragon was so enjoyable to watch, gaining widespread critical acclaim and a Rotten Tomatoes’ rating of 98%. It was beautifully animated, with stunning 3D flight sequences and an unexpectedly emotional and dramatic story. Seeing trailers for the other films for children leaves me with little doubt that this film franchise flies on dragon wings above its dull competition.
(Video: Fresh Movie Trailers)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is set five years after the first film. The shift of dragons from Berk’s pests to their pets has led to wide cultural changes on the island. The island’s new favourite sport is dragon-racing, where dragon riders pick up sheep to score, drawn with hilarious Aardman-style expressions.
On the backs of sky-bound dragons, the world has become a lot larger. Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel), aboard with his best friend Toothless, has started exploring the nearby islands. Astrid (America Ferrara) joins Hiccup, soon after Hiccup’s father Stoic (Gerald Butler) calls Astrid his “future daughter-in-law”. These adventures lead Hiccup and his friends to Eret (Kit Harington), a dragon capturer, who is finding dragons for the insane conquerer Drago Bludvist (Djimon Honsou). Hiccup then discovers the wider conflict between humans and dragons, and must find the role he and Toothless play within this fight.
Whilst it has been heavily spelled out in the trailers, much to the chagrin of some fans, Hiccup finds his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), who is in Hiccup’s words: a “crazy feral vigilante dragon lady”. The plot contains many more turns. After the end of this emotionally potent film, the discovery of Hiccup’s mother seems positively minor.
(Video: Fresh Movie Trailers)
The flying scenes are superb, and are worth the extra price of 3D ticket. There are many more flying sequences in this film, with a full flight of dragons. Even for the conversations, the team at DreamWorks have drawn the characters fully and wonderfully. DreamWorks uses recordings of each voice actor giving their performance, mimicking their movements as the basis for their animations. This is especially noticeable in scenes featuring Hiccup, Astrid and Stoic. Indeed, many of the film’s most famous lines were ad libitum.
Apart from dragons being animated to be like cats or dogs, based solely on what is cuter, the emotional and dramatic depth of these films is what gives them a wider audience. Amongst the levity of running jokes from the twins Ruffnut (T. J. Miller) and Tuffnut (Kristen Wiig), there are themes of environmentalism, monarchic rule and just war. The jokes are needed, since How to Train Your Dragon 2 would feel overly dark without them.
You should go see this film.