BY Elijah Mendoza
How to Train Your Dragon was perhaps the first DreamWorks animated movie which, for lack of a better comparison, actually had heart akin to those of Pixar films.
That being said, How To Train Your Dragon 2 had some pretty big shoes to fill. Does it have the fire and fervor to top the original?
HTTYD2 (yes, the initials are a mouthful) follows the continuing adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night Fury dragon, Toothless.
It’s set in a post Humans vs. Dragons world wherein the two species have learned to coexist and cooperate. Hiccup’s Viking comrades now take the fire-breathers as pets, and in return the dragons refrain from repeatedly burning down the Vikings’ island-village into oblivion.
But as with all newfound freedom—in this case, being able to reach distant lands with the help of (and without threat from) the winged creatures—it lays new dangers.
In one of Hiccup’s island hops on his trusty Night Fury, he discovers that his world is a lot bigger than he imagined, in more ways than one.
He crosses paths with his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) who teaches him a thing or two more about taming dragons.
He also meets an unforgiving Viking by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) who has the same ability to control dragons, albeit with a completely opposite demeanor.
HTTYD2 retains the spirit of the original. Baruchel’s pubescent voice still works well with his slightly older look, and doesn’t really merit any harsh criticism.
It does, however, seem weird that his timbre remains the same despite having grown up significantly.
The return of his mother Valka was explained (justified?) with a dragon-centric back-story. Though how youthful she looks could be disputed–not only because she was living alone with dragons for the past 20 years, but because in the first movie, Stoick suggested that she might have been a bigger woman.
Stoick and Hiccup’s rather large matching helmets were said to have been made from Valka’s breast plates.
In terms of visuals, the animators did a great job at showing the enormity of the Alpha dragons as compared to the more regular variants. But in terms of actually doing something groundbreaking, HTTYD2 falls more on the average end of the pool.
Another missed opportunity is that Hiccup could have solidified the difference between him and Drago more effectively.
The bottom line:
There have been quite a few non-Pixar animated films that have touched our hearts since 2010 (Illumination’s Despicable Me, anyone? How about Disney’s Frozen?), and Pixar itself has failed to do their originally unique Pixar thing since Toy Story 3.
And, with the exception of last year’s The Croods, DreamWorks has been on a slump, with three of its last four releases (Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman) resulting in million-dollar write-downs and even layoffs.
Fortunately for DreamWorks, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a worthy successor to the original. Like its predecessor, it’s got charm and wit, and it will break your heart–but in the best way possible.
How to Train Your Dragon 2, distributed by DreamWorks Animation, is currently showing in Philippine cinemas.