How to Train Your Dragon 2: The kid’s film all grown up

IT’S COMMON that sequels trump over their prior films, but trumping does not necessarily mean improving. A film about explosions may merit a sequel with bigger explosions, but that’s not to say that Explosions 2: Dynamite Boogaloo will be better. However, DreamWorks Animation may just be one of the few studios that can pull off such a stunt. With such memorable -for lack of a better word- sequels such as The Purge: Anarchy, and the Transformers franchise still rearing its explosive, metallic face in theatres, it’s understandable that many film buffs are fearful for their beloved films when the number 2 appears on the title.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is set a fair few years after the first film. Berk, home of the once mighty dragon slayers of the land, are now renowned for being dragon riders, even inventing a sport not too far from Quidditch, with less magic and more sheep. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), now with a rough-and-tumble girlfriend in Astrid (America Ferrera), has now taken his inventive skills to discover the world alongside his dragon, Toothless. However, with the discovery of a dragon haven, with a lone human inhabitant (Cate Blanchett), comes the threat of dragon hunters, in the menacing form of Drago Bludvist (brought to terrifying life by Djimon Hounsou).

How To Train Your Dragon 2 - In Cinemas Now

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – In Cinemas Now

It sounds very unoriginal, and to be fair, it isn’t. The film borrows heavily from many storytelling tropes, but what writer-director Dean DeBlois does best is exploring those themes, the key one being the nature/nurture argument. Hiccup, one of the few disabled child-friendly film protagonists, is never shown to be weak or odd because of it. The only few times his prosthetic leg is even referred to is to show his inventive skill (his suit almost rivalling that of Batman’s) or his self-deprecating humour. Even Stoick, played by Gerard Butler with a heavy Scottish burr and a hint of his 300 roar, goes through a change, from being a proud dragon-slayer, to owning and loving his own dragon, Skullcrusher. The women of this film are no pushovers, either. Astrid is portrayed as the secondary hero, more than capable of leading her friends into battle, and does so with incredible ease. As they should, for the film flips between childish spit jokes into deadly serious moments, and none of either moments feel contrived or cheesy, because of how grown-up and mature the characters have become.

However, where the film lacks in plot originality, it more than makes up for in character dynamics, especially when it comes to couples. Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship, while as loving as one should be, doesn’t revolve around the other’s life 24/7. Hiccup still has his map to build, and Astrid still has her dragon racing reputation to uphold. We also get an insight into Stoick’s relationship with his missing wife, and it reflects how inclusive DreamWorks is becoming.

The most notable blemish at all in this film, however, is the climax. The final confrontation between Drago and his dragon hunters against Hiccup feels much too drawn out, going at full speed for longer than it should. The actual battle itself is fine, but there’s no real break to catch your breath and figure out what just happened before the next big thing slams into our screens. The ending is satisfying, but not as satisfying as it should be, had the audience been given that room to breathe and collect their emotions.

But again, that’s a blemish in an otherwise sparkling canvas of a film. The characters are so beautifully written, so colourfully voiced and the world teems with vivid pastels and splashes of vibrance. And yet, the film is not afraid to thrust its audience into grown-up situations and issues without overcomplicating it for the younger audience. It’s why it feels like a disservice to call this film a “kid’s film”. Rather, it is a brilliant child-friendly film. An amazing cinematic flight.