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“How to Train Your Dragon 2” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

June 11, 2014

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-movieAnimated sequels rarely work in my opinion, in the long run that is. There are a select few that manage to break through that tough barrier of harsh judgment by the fans, honestly this can be said for any sequel, live-action or animated, but I always feel that animation seems to get it worse from viewers and critics alike. The “Toy Story” franchise was able to figure out a cohesive three part narrative arc, it’s theme of adolescent to adulthood is perhaps one of the richest elements in an animated film series.

It appears that DreamWorks Animation may have found its “Toy Story”-esq trilogy in the making. The first “How to Train Your Dragon” was a brilliant, thoughtful, and moving animated film that touched on the bonds of friendship and respect. “Dragon 2” moves further into the relationship of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler). Time has since passed when the people of Berk have accepted their new found allies, the dragons, now the village Chief, Stoick, hopes that one day his son Hiccup will be ready to take lead as the village’s new found leader.

Yet, across the waters of Berk, and evil force of nature, known to Stoick as Drago (Djimon Hounsou), is building a dragon army, the first of its kind, to wipe all that oppose his dark vision of a new world of fear. Hiccup believes that he has the ability to change Drago’s perspective on dragons, much in the same way as he changed his fathers. Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) venture west in search of Drago, hoping they can stop an impending war, but a mysterious figure from Hiccups past comes to his aid, someone that will change the course of Hiccup and his father’s life as they know it.

With the exception of a villain that’s not completely fleshed out in any major way, the majority of the films narrative structure focusing on Hiccup, his father, and mother is quite possible one of the strongest elements the film has going for it; rediscovering the love & affection of a mother, the love of a wife, and the love a family. The film manages to sneak in a very pro-green message involving the protection and rescue of the dragons in this film, something I think many kids will be able to take in quite well.

Director Dean Dubois has stated that “Dragon” is a planned trilogy, and like most trilogies the second part usually takes a dark turn, and quite so. We’re left with a bit of an open ended book regarding the villain, which I feel the filmmakers can explore more of in part III, but every part two’s dark element revolves around loss, and there is heavy loss in this film that will hit some audience members fairly hard. It might be a tad predictable, but the outcome is still pretty heartbreaking.

The “Dragon” films are off to a good start and with a strong conclusion, it just may very well be the strongest animated franchise DreamWorks was hoping for, ever since they botched it up with “Shrek”. One can only hope they maintain the same dramatic flair and comedic tone that the films have been doing since the get-go.

3D GRADE: A

FILM GRADE: A-

FINAL GRADE: A-

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