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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2.

I have been wanting to watch this film for ages, guys.

How To Train Your Dragon 2.

I actually didn't watch the first film of this series for ages after it came out. It wasn't until nearly a year ago, when I was doing a job that involved spending long periods sitting in an office and doing nothing, that I watched it. I watched a lot of films during that time, and a lot of them made me tear up and blubber, partly because I was a shade fragile at the time and everything made me tear up, and partly because even when I'm not feeling off I cry at films really easily (which is one reason why Reecey will never convince me to play Valiant Hearts), and partly because it was one of those films which just makes people cry.

(I didn't do much better with keeping my composure during either of the two TV series.)

Needless to say, I enjoyed it greatly - and, to be honest, I didn't really have any doubts that the sequel would live up to the standard that its predecessor had set. 

So did it? Well. Mostly. While watching, I didn't feel the same rush of overwhelming, excuse-me-I-need-a-moment-there's-a-dragon-in-my-eye emotion that I did while watching the first film, but then I'm not quite as easily teared up right this second as I am then. It's certainly a fine film. 

Behold! The passage of time!

Taking place five years after How To Train Your Dragon (which I keep accidentally mistyping as How I Met Your Dragon), the island of Berk is now a haven for dragons, and Hiccup is in line to be chief. But there's a crisis, as the dragon riders stumble upon Eret, a dragon trapper, who claims he is gathering the beasts for the army of a violent madman named Drago Bludvist. To make matters more complicated, Hiccup meets his long-absent mother, caretaker of a sanctuary of dragons under the rule of the Great Bewilderbeast, the king of all dragons. 

The animation is absolutely stunning, the voice acting all very strong (with Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington and Djimon Honsou joining a cast that includes Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler and Jay Baruchel), and the soundtrack as amazing as that of the first film's - although Sigur Ros' contribution is a little strange on the ears, especially when contrasted with the rest of the film's orchestral soundtrack. 

So, mechanically, it's all very good. As far as plotting and storytelling goes, it faces much of the same issues that you'd expect from a sequel: It's always difficult to know quite where to go after a first film, especially as in this case the dragons have more or less been trained, and since the film is only very loosely based on the books by British author Cressida Cowell, they don't provide much of a roadmap for where to go to. 

The answer here, it seems to be, is to introduce a new human villain, give Hiccup several personal problems to replace his outcast-tiny-viking issue, and give Eret the 'learning to love dragons' character arc that the rest of the cast spent the first film going through.

Cate Blanchett plays Valka, dragon sage-y type thing.

It works, mostly. One of Hiccup's issues - his parents' estrangement, is solved almost too easily. The other, the expectation that he'll become chief despite his own wishes, is dealt with with a lot more force and emotional weight behind it, but still, it felt, a shade too quickly and easily. I don't often recommend that films be longer, being one of those people who dislikes the idea of sitting down for two hours or more to watch anything, but this film could have used another twenty minutes of time. 

That would have also given Hiccup's band of merry dragon riders a bit more chance to shine. They're not overlooked as such, but it would have been nice to see them be a little bit more involved in the plot, just like they were in the first film and are in the TV series.

Eret and Valka are both great new characters, though, and Drago makes an effective villain. I profess, I found the final confrontation a shade underwhelming - for me, it was the low point of the film, and not really a scratch on the final battle of its predecessor. It wasn't unenjoyable, though, and even a low point in a film like this is relatively high.

You look vexed, son.

The How To Train Your Dragon franchise is going to be getting a new television series in Spring of 2015, and has another one after that planned for the next year, after which we'll be getting the third (and perhaps the last) film in the series, scheduled for June of 2017. If you've not seen the films or the two TV series yet, I recommend watching all of them, preferably in order. 

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