Animation, Reviews

How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Copyright © 2014 by 20th Century Fox

Story
The action takes place five years after the events in part one and the villagers of Berk are living symbiotically with their newfound allies. Being an inquisitive one, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Jay Baruchel) frequently travels to undiscovered terrains with Toothless and in his latest outing, he meets Eret (Kit Harington), a dragon trapper who sells captured dragons to a tyrant named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou). Bludvist has been acquiring these dragons for his conquest on all free lands but foiling his plans is a mysterious rider, Valka (Cate Blanchett) who later reveals herself to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. When it is known that the megalomaniac has his sights on Berk, Hiccup, his family and friends will do all they can to defend it from being taken over.

Review
In the vein of ‘Shrek 2’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’, ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ completes the holy trinity of sequels from DreamWorks Animation that improve upon the high standards set by the originals. They exist not only for the purpose of continued merchandising (which is probably where the bulk of the profit comes from a demographic not to be underestimated of their spending power) but as a means to venture deeper into unchartered territories.

Instead of rehashing the tried-and-tested, all share one thing in common; the stories bear more emotional resonance and act as superior companion pieces. Shrek is saddled with the fact that his unconventional good looks will always be ridiculed by his soon-to-be in-laws and Panda Po learns about his devastating past. Hiccup’s new adventure unfolds in his ongoing quest to search for unknown lands but stumbles onto something far more precious.

The interactions between Hiccup and Toothless are featured heavily early on to establish believability for a heartbreaking twist I did not see coming in a frenetic second act. The demise of an essential character may seem contrived but it is necessary for Hiccup’s evolvement into adulthood. Besides being in fine form for the returning cast, the new additions of Blanchett, Hounsou and Harington offer a wider dimension to its fairly simplistic narrative.

Simple but never deprive of heart. Valka’s revelation as mother to Hiccup and wife to Stoick is nothing short on sweet and the reunion that follows will tug at your heartstrings (John Powell’s rousing score blends effortlessly with the folk-tinged hymn he penned specifically for this joyous occasion which is sung affectionately by ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ star). Blanchett, having won her second Oscar last year proves her versatility through a stealthy but no less poignant portrayal of an empathetic dragon keeper.

It is contrasted well against Bludvist, the film’s antagonist brought out with sheer menace from the underrated Hounsou. Under proficient direction from Dean DeBlois sans his frequent collaborator Chris Sanders, what we get does not feel like it is merely a business decision but made out of respect for its source material. A carefully constructed tale on everything that worked four years ago is retained and raised to dizzying heights.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting (Voice): A
Plot: A

Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor

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