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Film review: How To Train Your Dragon 2 ***

By Alexia Evripidou
An older and wiser Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his best friend, the dragon Toothless (by Randy Thom), are back to defend their home from a ravaging new enemy in DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2. This emotionally resonant and beautifully animated action fantasy is sure to be a hit, especially for those who loved the first installment.
Hailed to be one of the first movies projected in 3D (though I was under the impression that it was Chicken Run was back in 2005), the original film was a simple story of friendship and family. It was so popular that it spun off bonus mini movies. Fortunately, How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t fail to impress. Doing a fantastic job of connecting the audience to multitudes of dragons and the wonderment of their ethereal lives, while throwing in to the mix a darker story, danger and of course; romance. It manages to expand the world and the scope of the story significantly.

Everything that made the first movie great is back in this sequel, but better and more of it. Better technology, beautiful relations and more dragons. The plot starts five years after the dragon and his rider, Hiccup, successfully managed to reunite dragons and Vikings on the unusually named island of Berk. While other members of the gang are engrossed in the island’s new favourite contact sport, dragon races, the inseparable pair take to the skies, discovering uncharted terrains and exploring new worlds.

One of their adventures leads them to the discovery of a secret ice cave, home to hundreds of new dragons, ranging in all shapes, sizes, colours and scales. With the new find is a mysterious Dragon Rider. Hiccup and Toothless once again find themselves in a position where they have to stand up for what they believe in. Only these two friends have the power to secure a happy future for both dragons and men.

The sequel soars with several well realised flight scenes. With stunning and imaginatively vast representations of dragons weaving through the air, the audience can enjoy the journey airborne as well as on land. The virtual camera shows us just what we need to see to be at one with Hiccup on his dragon, keeping us close enough by his side to feel every twist and turn.

Director Dean DeBlois, aided by visual consultant Roger Deakins along with the rest of the several hundred Dreamworks Animation’s team of highly talented individuals, get things off to a flying start with a racing scene, followed quickly with a flight sequence for Hiccup and Toothless that left me in awe, even after it had finished. Which leaves me thinking… is one ever too old to want your own dragon pet?

Back to the film… even while the creative crew successfully managed to broaden the canvas of the story and introduce viewers to a bunch of new characters, the second installment cleverly keeps us close to the characters we already know and care about. It’s this special relationship between Hiccup and Toothless that makes the movie so special. The dragon is more than just a mere beast; he is a genuine friend to the protagonist with real emotions and a sense of humour. However, their friendship is put to the ultimate test.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning at this point that How to Train Your Dragon 2’s heroic protagonist Hiccup has a physical disability, something that he uses to his advantage and which makes him special. The film also tackles gender issues, addressing the role of women and motherhood. Valka (Cate Blanchett) is Hiccup’s ‘unavailable’ mother. Long presumed dead after giving birth to him, Valka turns out to be some recluse conversationalist jungle woman. She’s arguably a female version of Steve Erwin, but with dragons. Though not conventional, Valka loves her son. However, I doubt she is the type of mother who would wash his dirty laundry long after he has fled the nest! This gender issue along with Hiccup’s leg, helps to make this one of the more modern and progressive animations of late.

Based on the book series by Cressida Cowell, How to Train your Dragon 2 is a beautifully made film both in terms of animation and exotic scenery, as well as the emotions it evokes. Accessible to all: children adults, young older people and older young people. The movie has a little bit of everything that will cheer up the grumpiest of all of us. Filled with action, cute, little baby dragons, villains, death, battle scenes, more drama and a tiny bit of romance, the film promises to be an entertaining movie for all the family.

DIRECTED BY Dean DeBlois
STARRING Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Randy Thom
USA 2014 102min

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