Dee Discusses: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Posted: July 21, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, New Movies, Reviews
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There will be spoilers!

Dreamworks is an interesting company to me. I love a lot of their work, and I think it’s interesting how they’ve worked to seem like a distinct company from Disney. As Disney’s main competitor, they’ve taken a different route in the same genre. Their first few movies weren’t exactly lucrative until Shrek, and I’ve heard it theorized it was in part because they were more aggressive in their attack on Disney. It’s pretty clear that Shrek had plenty of jabs pointed in that direction. My favorite being the song when they get to the city that’s just like “It’s a Small World After All.” But I think Dreamworks takes more risks than Disney. The Prince of Egypt, Sinbad, Spirit, Road to El Dorado, they weren’t the ordinary to start with, and I like that. As Dreamworks went on they tried things like Monsters vs. Aliens, Kung Fu Panda, and there was such a distinctive style to their work. It’s funny. It makes a lot of winks to the audience. I think the less they try to compete directly with Disney, and the more they allow themselves to be creative, the better they do. How to Train Your Dragon is a great example of this. I think what makes this movie fascinating is the story is pretty basic, full of tropes, yet it manages to seem so fresh at the same time. The gorgeous setting and CGI probably helps a great deal, plus who doesn’t love dragons? Strange people, that’s who. I loved the first one, and I liked the second one. I have a few problems with it I’ll get to later, but it still manages to be a natural progression of the story with even better graphics than before. So here’s How to Train Your Dragon 2.

It’s five years later, and the town of Berk is happy with the inclusion of their dragon friends. They’ve all gotten their own mounts and went out of their way to have a peaceful coexistence. They also made dragon racing, which seems enormously fun.  Hiccup’s father wants him to start learning how to be chief, but he’d much rather be out exploring the world and making a map. He points out his girlfriend Astrid would probably do a better job, and that started my first criticism of the movie, but more of that later. While traveling, Hiccup and Astrid find a strange fort covered in ice, and dragon catchers nab them. They want to bring their dragons to a man named  Drago who is starting a dragon army. His father Stoic says war is coming, but Hiccup believes he can make peace if he can talk to Drago. While on his way there, he is nabbed by a mysterious dragon rider, who reveals herself to be his long lost mother Valka. She noticed dragons were more than monsters a long time ago, but her husband refused to listen to her. Instead of staying in the village, watching them murder the beasts, she stayed away after her personal dragon flew off with her. She’s stayed away all this time, finding a peaceful coexistence with dragons and being friends with a giant Alpha dragon.

Angry his son has run off after someone he considers very dangerous, Stoic tracks him down and is shocked to find Valka. They reunite and seem to be on the road to reconciliation, and wow that was easy. Strangely easy. However classically Drago attacks, after capturing Astrid and the other dragon riders with their mounts. After a big fight between the dragons in Valka’s home and Drago’s people, Toothless gets taken over by Drago’s Alpha. The Alpha is capable of controlling dragons around it, and Toothless turns on Hiccup. He shoots a bolt at Hiccup, and Stoic jumps in the way, dying. Horrified, Hiccup pushes Toothless away. They are left without mounts and lost, knowing Drago is going to their village to destroy it and take the remaining dragons. But with a last push, they manage to get home, and Toothless becomes the new Alpha, proving he can fight off the power. Hiccup and co. win and huzzah, his mother’s back, he’s the new leader, and it’s a new chapter in Berk.

It’s a good solid movie. The graphics are simply stunning. All the flying in this movie is so beautiful to watch, and I loved the dragon nest. Valka’s design was also very interesting, especially her mask in the beginning. I think it was interesting how strange she was, in the sense that of course after all these years she would be odd in her behavior. I liked that! It made sense in line with the rest of the story. I can’t say I find anything particularly wrong with the film, although I will say there were a few things I wish they did differently. I think this movie was a little too trope-tastic. It followed an easy formula. When they mentioned Astrid was Stoic’s future daughter-in-law, and Hiccup pointed out she’d be a better clan leader, I thought for sure that’s where they were headed. She could run the clan, Hiccup could make maps and explore, it seemed the perfect solution. In the first movie Astrid’s character journey was that she wanted to prove herself capable and a great leader. This movie it seemed that her entire arc was just about Hiccup. I didn’t feel like she had a story of her own. Yes, she had her own adventure, but it was all about getting to Hiccup, saving Hiccup, following Hiccup. I really wanted something of her own, and I liked the idea of Hiccup actually going on his own path, not following his father because that wasn’t right for him. Hell even his mother taking over the clan would have been nice.

NewCharacterDragonHowToTrainYourDragon2

On the subject of his mother, I really liked her at first, but it seemed like as soon as they met back up with his father, she became a more passive character. They started her out as this really strong female role, but she really had nothing left to do in the second half of the story. I thought for sure she would have something at the end, like maybe she would help Hiccup calm down this new Alpha and they would have it turn on Drago. Which also bothered me. The whole point of the movie was Hiccup saying clearly that dragons were not naturally evil, that it was their riders. So why did they give up so easily on the Alpha? I thought for sure what was going to happen was they would bring that peaceful side out in the Alpha. It made sense in line with the story. I felt sorry for it, that it was in servitude, that it was never released from its chains. Also I get that they knew Stoic was going to die so they wanted to wrap up his plot with Valka quickly, but it felt cheap that it was so unbelievably easy. All this time and bam, everything was okay again? I don’t know, I just wanted more emotionally realistic from something like that, because I thought the movie was capable of it. I did like that Toothless killed Stoic, that was interesting, and how it made his relationship with Hiccup murky.

I think at the end of the day this was a decent, if trope filled, plot, but I wanted more from them. I wanted them to subvert expectations. I wanted more layers than the obvious. Maybe that’s a high price to ask from a movie for kids, but I’m not so sure it is, a lot of kid movies manage to exceed expectation. I don’t want to be down on it, because I enjoyed watching, and it was visually stunning. I guess I’m thinking of a movie like Kung Fu Panda 2 or Shrek 2, where they took the story they had and built on it, they gave the characters new twists and turns. None of this felt as intricate or as challenging. It was a good movie, but I guess I wanted great. It was a B for me instead of an A. But I still want a dragon. 😦

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