HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 Review

by     Posted 164 days ago

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-review

2010′s How to Train Your Dragon is a wonderful movie.  In addition to being beautifully animated, it’s a story about understanding, ingenuity, and compassion wrapped in the almost-always-endearing child-and-his/her-pet tale.  Dean DeBloisHow to Train Your Dragon 2 physically expands the canvas of the original by bringing in new characters, new locations, and new dragons, but in his attempt to make the sequel bigger, he’s also spread it thin.  Although it still keeps the central focus on the relationship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless, the pacing is erratic as the story tries to hop between plotlines, themes, and scattered characters.  The movie is still sprinkled with charm, humor, and warmth, but it never holds together as tightly as the original.

Set five years after the first movie, Berk has warmly embraced dragons and now has them as part of everyday life ranging from blacksmithing to racing.  While his friends Astrid (America Ferrara), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) are goofing around, Hiccup and Toothless are out exploring.  Hiccup wants to discover new lands and new dragons even though his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), wants his son to stay put and become the new chief.  But in Hiccup’s travels, he discovers his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harington), and Eret’s sinister boss, Drago (Djimon Hounsou), which leads to a whole mess of conflicts.

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These conflicts tie together, but they don’t have much weight because they’re scattered across the story.  Valka has a beef with Drago because he’s trying to rule the world with the dragons she admires (Valka is a Jane Goodall-type), but they rarely interact.  Drago is Eret’s boss but they have one scene together where Drago acts threatening.  Valka’s return hits on a reunited family aspect to the story, but it’s a payoff without a setup.  We’re thrown into the deep end of a new world, and we’re supposed to care because we liked the first movie.  While I still like the characters from the first film, their new relationships are underdeveloped, especially when you have an absolutely boring antagonist like Drago.

Additionally, although some characters have grown in interesting ways like Snotlout and Fishlegs pining over a disinterested Ruffnut, Hiccup has lost some of his edge.  I could watch Hiccup and Toothless playing for two hours, and their relationship is the heart of the story.  But on his own, Hiccup has lost his sense of humor and replaced it with a maturity that may be admirable, but it’s also uninteresting.  Beyond his relationship with Toothless, Hiccup’s actions now range from wise diplomacy, gritty determination, and wide-eyed awe at the larger world of dragons.

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His story is further dwarfed by trying to squeeze in everyone else and yet never getting enough of their story.  Astrid still has a role to play, but she’s mostly Hiccup’s girlfriend.  The angry, suspicious, but ultimately accepting girl has grown up, but those qualities have been replaced by almost nothing.  At least Snotlout and Fishlegs get to have corny affection for the annoyed Ruffnut, and while some of the most beautiful moments in the movie come from finding Valka, the reason for why she abandoned Hiccup is silly.

For all of its faults, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still outstanding among its DreamWorks Animation peers.  Whereas I honestly forgot that Mr. Peabody & Sherman came out only a few months ago, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a personality.  It has a vivid palette and the main cast remains memorable.  It’s also willing at one point to go to a place that’s much darker than anything I can recall from DreamWorks Animation’s other movies.  Granted, DWA films set a very low bar, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 soars high above it through its verve and the sense that the people making it actually care about their work rather than cranking out more product for the studio.

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But the new movie can’t fly higher than the original.  It doesn’t have the strong pacing, the right balance among the relationships, or a strong, central conflict.  The film’s ambition is admirable, but the movie lacks the polish to make its expanded world engrossing and come together in a meaningful way beyond half-hearted notions of responsibility and how to literally train one’s dragon.  There’s still plenty to like in How to Train Your Dragon 2, but it rarely recaptures what’s worth loving about the original.

Rating: B-

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  • Person

    Damn, the first one is one of the last truly great (or even very good) animated movie put out by Hollywood, was hoping the sequel lives up to it. Seems like it’s close, but no cigar, even judging by other reviews, which still means it’s probably way better than the other animated crap out there.

    • Adam Chitwood

      Personally, I loved it. Matt and I will get deeper into the film on next week’s episode of The Collision.

    • the king of comedy

      From this review it doesn`t seem like the movie is awful either, sounds like it`s not as great as the first one but still a worthy follow up that lives up to the original.

  • Lovecraftlives

    Don’t believe this guy. Everyone has been giving it positive reviews and saying its better than the first one, dude. The sequel is better then the first. Goldberg got it wrong with Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises.” That film was fantastic. You trust this person? Give me a break. See it for yourself!

    • randommale7

      Agreed, this is better than the first one and The Wind Rises (far superior to Frozen) was incredibly beautiful.

      • EM87

        In your dreams maybe.

    • Ryan K.

      I think that this movie looks amazing, but what does it matter that Matt has different movie tastes than you? It’s called an opinion for a reason, dude. He can’t actually be “wrong” about an opinion.

    • milo

      Everyone? Nope, just look on rotten tomatoes. Mostly positive reviews and many that say it’s better than the first, but others that say it’s good but not quite up to the first. And this review IS positive, people aren’t going to stay home over a B-. Whether a movie is good or not is an opinion, don’t pretend it’s somehow a fact.

  • guest

    What?
    This movie is an improvement from the first one and everybody is agreeing on that. (93% RT). Not since Toy Story 2 a sequel has impressed me so much.

    • GrimReaper07

      Uhh… the first one has 98% on RT. Just saying.

      • milo

        Yep. And if you look at the reviews there are a number of positive ones that specifically say they liked the first better. It’s never a good idea to make generalizations about “everyone”.

  • randommale7

    I disagree; the first 20 minutes is disjointed but once it hits its stride it is even better than the first one, especially when it goes to that really dark place.

  • Redemption

    Matt is too harsh on Dreamworks here, particularly with what Pixar has been churning out. Yes, Dreamworks generally aims for younger audiences and doesn’t strive to make “great” films, but they have also given us Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and HTTYD. I think HTTYD is the best animated film in quite a while. Walt Disney has been the hottest lately, with their last four being Tangled, Winnie The Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. Studio Ghibli has fallen a bit since they are having trouble replacing the great Miyazaki. The last Pixar film I loved was The Incredibles. Wall-E was ambitious but disappointing for me, Up had one good scene in an otherwise mediocre movie, and Toy Story 3 was satisfying but only because of the nostalgia, the actual story was weak.

    • Lovecraftlives

      Studio Ghibli is doing fine. They have a lot going on, including working on their first TV series. They are still Tops above Pixar and Disney. Everyone of there films are good. There are of course, some better than others, but all are good.

    • Lovecraftlives

      Studio Ghibli is doing fine. They have a lot going on, including working on their first TV series. They are still Tops above Pixar and Disney. Everyone of there films are good. There are of course, some better than others, but all are good.

  • GrimReaper07

    I didn’t think the first one was anything special, it felt very typically Dreamwork-y for me, but it was still good. Not to excited about this one but will probably catch it on Blu Ray.

  • Strong Enough

    I think the first one is overrated anyway. Dreamworks is never known for quality

    • Person

      Prince of Egypt, HTTYD, Shrek 1,2,4, and Kung Fu Panda 1 beg to differ.

      • Strong Enough

        Every Shrek was horrible. Kung Fu Panda was mediocre. Prince of Egypt isn’t even original and I just said Dragon was overrated

      • milo

        Isn’t original? So I guess then you write off Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tangled, Tarzan, Jungle Book, Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Robin Hood, Sword in the Stone, 101 Dalmatians, Hunchback, Hercules, etc.

        As for DW animation, you’re entitled to your opinion but plenty of people disagree with you, a number of their movies are highly rated on RT including the first two Shreks.

      • Strong Enough

        You misunderstand me. Prince of Egypt sucks too.

  • Strong Enough

    I think the first one is overrated anyway. Dreamworks is never known for quality

  • Colin Christian

    I’m still going to see it,I loved the first one so much,I just want to spend time with Toothless again.

  • HeyZeusKreesto

    Gonna see this in IMAX 3D this Sunday. The first one had amazing 3D(one of the rare times it was worth the upgrade) that actually added to the experience. I had no expectations going in when I was dragged to see it by my ex, and it blew me away. Only good thing that came out that relationship.

  • Btbcc12859

    I enjoyed this move, and i will say this is a great movie that sets up an adult Hiccup in part 3

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  • EM87

    Great review. Decent/good movie, but the first one is clearly superior. And enough with the RT nonsense, their opinion is worth just as much as anyone else’s. Use your own brain to judge things.

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