Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Dreamworks and I have had an interesting relationship over the past few years. I've never really paid that much attention to them and in return, Dreamworks has never done anything to merit my attention. I know that there are people who really do enjoy Dreamworks movies, but I'm just not one of them. Their style usually revolves around making modern references where they don't belong and making movies that just don't sound appealing to me. When I heard they were doing The Croods last year, I couldn't even muster up a "meh" in acknowledgment. That's how little I care about Dreamworks. That may have to change soon after seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 continues the story of a viking prodigy named Hiccup, a young man who has learned to train dragons and convince his people that dragons really aren't that bad. Every viking now has a dragon and plays with them, feeds them, cares for them, and even compete with them in races. Life is pretty swell in Berk to the point where Hiccup's father Stoick is thinking about making Hiccup the new chief after he retires. All those plans get flushed down the drain though once Hiccup discovers that a man named Drago is amassing an army of dragons to take over the world, leaving up to Hiccup, his pet dragon Toothless, Stoick, and the mysterious Dragon Master to stop Drago's plan to enslave all dragons.

Truth be told, I had  no intention to ever see this movie when I first heard about it. I thought it looked nice, but nothing that I would particularly go nuts over. However, after it came out, I kept on hearing more and more good things about it and people were telling me that I HAD to see this movie. So I buckled up, saw the first HTTYD, then gave this one a whirl. Both movies, against all of my expectations, turned out the be very thrilling and fun movies that were actually pretty delightful to sit through. Not only that, but each movie respected its audience and showed scenes that while dark, were very powerful and helped to flesh out the characters.

Yeah... this is a really well done shot
Like when I did my Winter Soldier review, I feel at a loss for how to describe this movie. It does everything so well that it's almost hard for me to word everything. If I did this review in my typical fashion, I'd pretty much be wording five or six paragraphs to all say "This is really good and you should go see it", but all for different reasons. So here are just a few things about this movie that are really, really damned good.

  • Wow the action is really good here! The first movie really only had one huge action scene and while it was good, it lacked a bit of energy to it, but here, there are two actions scenes, and the first one reaches such titanic proportions that it almost rivals the scale of Pacific Rim.
  • Hiccup tries to be diplomatic with Drago to stop him from invading, but Hiccup realizes that evil people are, you know, evil. Drago doesn't care about trying to negotiate terms with anyone and therefore will do whatever he can to take over the world. When Hiccup tries to be diplomatic with him, it ends horribly for Hiccup and shows him that sometimes war is the only option.
  • The flying scenes in this movie are great. I wish I saw it in IMAX to get the full effect
Now the one thing that you'll notice I haven't talked about that much so far is the plot, and that's because it's pretty tricky to discuss the plot in this movie, but for weird reasons. One of the big twists in the movie is spoiled in the trailers, yet there are still other twists throughout the movie, so it boils down to me wondering if I should talk about the twist shown in the trailer or not. Personally, I won't talk about the twist that was shown in the trailers because I feel that the reveal and the story elements behind it should still be experienced first hand by the audience and not through a text review. All I will say this that if the first movie demonstrated the importance of a father's relationship with his son, this movie builds on that by talking about the importance of a family/community in Hiccup's life.

Hiccup has a sword made of fire. AWESOME.
If you'll recall the last time I did a review where I felt like I had nothing to say about a movie besides "It's really, really good" (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), you may remember that I gave that movie a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. While I'm in the same general mindset, I want to just quickly go back and talk about that movie for a second. The general opinion that people took from that review was that it was a near perfect movie and completely thrilling to sit through, so the point where I gave it a 5 out of 5 based on the sheer potential it had and for its major twist. I want to make an addendum saying that my opinion on the movie has changed and that just because I thought it was near perfect does not mean that it didn't have flaws to it. In fact, I want to retroactivley go back and give The Winter Solider a 4 out of 5 stars, just because I feel that I reviewed it too soon after I saw it and that I was swept up by the momentum of the movie, quickly jumping the gun and giving it a score that I don't think it truly deserved.

The same can be said about HTTYD2 in that I want to be very clear and much more analytical about it and not jumping the gun to give it a 5 out of 5 ranking. Does it deserve that ranking? HTTYD2 is so close to getting that score of 5 out or 5, but I can't justify it because of a minor flaw that the movie has, but it's significant enough to dampen my enthusiasm for it. Simply put, Drago does not work as a villain. From his first appearance, he's nothing but a loud, raving lunatic who does nothing but swing a big stick around to command dragons. He's completely one dimensional and when he does have the potential to be a fairly interesting villain as a foil to Hiccup, it's not built upon and makes him a bit more interesting, but still very flat.

The first movie didn't have a central antagonist, which worked in its favor for what it was trying to accomplish. It wanted to be a movie that shows off the relationship between a father and a son and didn't need a mustache twirling villain to push them together. Instead they came together over a central goal and the only villain that could be identified was just a big dragon. Here, it makes sense that there is a central villain, but so much could have been done with him to make him interesting. Instead, the most interesting part about him is the fact that he can yell a lot and not have his voice crack.

Puberty treated Hiccup fairly well
If this review came across as more fluffy than usual, there's a good reason to it. This is a perfect combination of too good to spoil, yet I can't talk about it that much because it's too good to spoil. It's a damnable combination that usually only leaves me with one statement. Believe the hype, because this is a good movie. I wouldn't call it my favorite movie of the year, and I certainly don't know if it's even going to crack my inevitable Top 10 of 2014, but that's kind of the wonder of this movie. It's really good, but it's successfulness is relative to each person. If you're an adult, you'll love it for its action and its effects above all else. If you're a kid, you'll love it for the plethora of pretty dragons and flying scenes. Bottom line, it's a perfect film for the whole family to enjoy. I give How To Train Your Dragon 2 a 4 out of 5 stars.


It's hard to believe that this is probably going to be the best movie of the summer given what's coming out...

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