Up next, a look at the sequel to the hit 2010 animated film How To Train Your Dragon. Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler, it is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.
Five years after the events of the original, Hiccup (Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless journey across the skies, charting unmapped territory and exploring new world. However, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace after one of their adventures leads them to the insane Dragon Hunter, a.k.a Drago Buldvist. In order to preserve the future of both man and dragon, the dynamic duo realizes that they must stand up for themselves and their cause.
7 out of 10
I distinctly remember watching the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was really late at night, I was out of the country, and I was sitting on a very uncomfortable couch. Why am I telling you this? I don’t really know.
I guess my point is that the first film was extremely memorable. I remembered watching it. It was something I didn’t expect to like, but now it’s one of my favorite animated films. A combination of impressive animation, an enticing story, believable voice acting and strong characters is what allowed the first one to be so great. The sequel was unable to improve upon on these areas, and actually regressed slightly, but still resulted in an above-average, enjoyable film.
The animation for this is like most other Dreamworks films: very good. It’s not overly cartoonish and the action sequences are aesthetically appealing, no doubt about it. When the action sequences are at maximum excitement, they look fantastic because of how all the animation is so perfect. Additionally, the exaggeration in the characters (aka the girth of the vikings or the lack of it on Hiccup) provides the comedic effect that it the movie is really going for. So in that sense, the animators of the film got the most important aspect of the film right and actually made it look pretty damn good. Yay!
I also think that the voice acting was pretty solid. If we’re being honest, I am one of Jay Baruchel’s biggest haters. I think he has no talent, but even he didn’t do that terribly! Blanchett and Butler weren’t too bad either. But undoubtedly, America Ferrera, as Astrid, was the most impressive voice actor. Her character was far and away my favorite and that’s largely because of Ferrera’s performance.
However, there is a lot to be dissatisfied with. The general premise is good enough, but takes a bit long to get to that point. There are way too many parts to the story, which is so excessive considering this is a child’s movie and it doesn’t need to be so complicated. There was a part with him meeting his mother, him finding new land, him fighting this dragon hunter, him having to become chief, him and his girlfriend, him and his dragon, him and his dad, him and… I don’t know at this point. There was just so much, and it just got so convoluted. The only thing we really care about is the story about him and the dragon hunter, so everything else is just excessive. Not to say that it shouldn’t be in there, it just shouldn’t be nearly as relevant. The movie got to be way too mushy, and at times, very boring. Like I said, we were just waiting for something to happen and it took a while for it to actually happen.
My friend dubbed this as “How to Fail a Sequel”. I think that is a bit too harsh, as this is definitely an enjoyable, acceptable film, but it definitely fails to live up to the original.
Dreamworks had a bad rap.
S’right. You heard me. “Had”. There was a time when Dreamworks endlessly churned out heartless sequels and where its rival, Pixar, constantly upstaged it. Dreamworks got a couple of good hits in (Shrek, Shrek 2, and maybe Madagascar come to mind) but always stayed in Pixar’s shadow. After a decade long battle, in 2010, Pixar slammed the nail into the coffin with Toy Story 3. It was over. Dreamworks collapsed under its sequels and half-baked ideas.
Then 2011 came along.
For those of you who have forgotten (I don’t blame you, man), Pixar released Cars 2. It was bad. Really bad. It was the antithesis of all the heart and hard work Pixar had injected into its movies before. They barreled down all of the mountains they had previously scaled and, since then, they have not made it back.
So what was Dreamworks doing? Milking its cash cows? A little, but Dreamworks did something Pixar never got the chance to do: it learned. Victory and praise cushioned and defeated Pixar. Dreamworks has come out with some solid hits since mid-2010. How to Train Your Dragon being one of them.
So, of course, everyone groaned when plans for a sequel were announced. Dreamworks was ready to drive another winner into the ground. That’s what I thought also. So what did I think of the sequel?
Goddang, was this film awesome. It delivered in a way barely any animated sequels have before. I would say it matched the original and then some, in fact. Let’s start with the animation:
3D is generally gimicky and an excuse for the theatre to get three more dollars but there are some movies that genuinely utilize it for good. How to Train Your Dragon is one of them. The animators know they have a vast universe to explore and they just dive into it with some great flying scenes and action sequences.
The film also uses motion capture without any creepy side effects. Mo-cap can get a bad rap but its actually great for showing expressions as the recent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Another great summer movie) has also demonstrated.
There’s also the story. Its pretty dark and true to the norm that sequels should get more serious than the original. I’ve got to admit, there were some pretty surprising moments in this movie that showed a lot of maturity and trust in its audience. I won’t go much further than that for the sake of making it surprising but there are plenty of plot-points to look forward to.
So Dreamworks has the upper hand this round. It may lose it if Pixar’s planned sequels pan out spectacularly but I find that unlikely. But who knows? A decade from now, the animation wars could still be raging. Hopefully, with dragons.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%