Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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How to Train Your Dragon 2

Film #442


When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.

Year 2, Film #77

THE REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon 2 starts off much the same way that the original film began: with a voice over by Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) explaining how life is like in the small village of Berk. Unlike the original, the village now treats the dragons as their friends and pets rather than their enemies and they’re used for all sorts of purposes including tending the fire in the smith, a faster means of transportation, and of course, for good old sports and entertainment. Most sequels don’t try as hard the second time around and rely mostly on the satisfaction of giving you the opportunity to see more of what you loved the first time around. And that’s why most people feel that sequels are subpar compared to the original: there isn’t much that’s truly new. The novelty of whatever made the original so great has worn off and the sequel is just here to cash in on the familiarity effect. How to Train Your Dragon 2 however does not fall into this trap. The appeal of the film shifts from story to characters, but you get the same level of imagination, originality, and entertainment.

In the first How to Train Your Dragon, the biggest draw for me was the story. Yes, the characters were great, but the idea of this teenage boy going against his entire village to become friends with a very unlikely creature (his dragon Toothless) was extremely moving. That summary may read like a traditional underdog or rebellious teenager story but the reality is quite different. How to Train Your Dragon was so amazing because it took those storytelling elements and showed us a whole new side of them that just sucks you in and gets you deeply invested in the survival of the people of Berk. Hiccup, Toothless, et al. played a major role in making this story accessible, but the novelty of the original film was learning about Berk, the origins of the dragons, and the impact they had.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 reverses the importance of story and characters. This time around, the biggest draw was seeing Hiccup and the gang again and how several key developments strengthen, break, and otherwise alter (for better or worse) the relationships between everyone. Hiccup, Toothless, and both of them together are even more likable and relatable this time around. Hiccup tries to discover himself and find who he truly is. There’s the peace-loving side that led him to tame the dragons in the first film, but in this sequel, there’s a lot more turmoil that goes on. Not only does he meet his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) for the first time since his birth which leads to some riveting interactions, but he also has to deal with his father. Stoick remains curt and inattentive with his son dismissing most of his pleas to have a conversation, but this time around there’s also a level of respect because of Hiccup’s success in bringing his people together.

Toothless especially deserves a lot of recognition in this film. He was already one of the main characters despite being a non-talking dragon but in How to Train Your Dragon 2, the personification is even more life-like. One scene in particular towards the end is a great example of just how human Toothless is. The emotions he’s able to express through simple eye movements and facial ticks is astounding and even more impressive considering the emotions he’s able to evoke in us, the audience. It’s by far the biggest character and story development in the film and it all works because of the adorable little Night Fury.

Without a doubt, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an even better and more entertaining film than its predecessor which is saying a lot considering just how great that film was. As the credits began to roll at the end of the film, I looked down at my watch and was shocked that an hour and a half already passed. The movie felt like it blew by in no time which usually bodes well for a film. When a film begins to drag on is when you get bored and aren’t completely invested in everything your watching. But while I think this sequel is better than the original, I must emphasize again that it’s because both films have different strengths. The main attraction for How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the characters and seeing just how much they grow in 100 minutes. If you’re looking for a great story above all else, go watch the first Dragon film. The corollary to this is that I think if you haven’t seen the original How to Train Your Dragon 2 won’t be nearly as great as I’ve outlined above because you don’t have that solid foundation on which to build from. So my advice, go watch the fun and uplifting How to Train Your Dragon, and then watch this more somber and heart-wrenching, but still jovial sequel for the best experience.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens in theaters this Friday, June 13, 2014

THE RATING: 5 out of 5