Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! God could have made dragons...instead, he invented cancer.  Gee, thanks.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 5 out of 5

                                         DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Dragons are so badass, even they are in wonder
at how cool they are.

I absolutely love How to Train Your Dragon! First off, dragons are just badass and all kinds of awesome and, I feel, are impossible to hate. They are flying lizards that can breathe fire. Simple as that and that simplicity equals awesome. I also like the animated movies that have been revolutionized in the last decade and a half thanks to stories that are geared for adults and children and advancing technology. The first film had a great story, great animation and a killer cast of voice actors. So, when it was announced that a sequel was coming out, I was super excited and, thankfully, I wasn’t let down. In fact, the film went soaring above my expectations!  (Man, that pun was lame!)
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Hiccup's indifference to my lame pun is hurting my ego.

                                                DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Ah...Drago doesn't look that evil.  He looks likes a
Several years have passed since the first film and all the residents of Berk are living in peace with their dragons. However, Viking Chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) is gearing to have his son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) take over for him and run the village. Hiccup isn’t ready for this type of responsibility and feels he can’t live up to his father. One day, while running trick flying techniques with his dragon Toothless, he finds a dragon hunter by the name of Eret (Kit Harington) who says he works for Drago (Djimon Hounsou) and is gathering an army of dragons. Fearing for the safety of Berk, Hiccup scrambles to warn his people but ends up coming across a stranger with dragon whispering traits like himself and a connection to his past…the connection being that the stranger gave birth to him. After being reunited with his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), he teams with his friends and his family to stop Drago, the evil man's dreaded army of dragons, and the most dangerous monster of them all; the monstrous Alpha Dragon.
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Wow!  That Alpha is big...I would hate to clean up after it.

I don’t want to say that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is better than the first film because I really feel like the film built terrifically and matured effectively on the first one but it is so close to being vastly superior. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Chris Sander’s first film (in fact, I’m just a fan of Sander’s work in general…Lilo & Stitch is my favorite Disney animated movie) but director/writer Dean DeBlois (who took over for Sander since he went to work on The Croods) made a film that was funny and, more importantly, dramatic and containing a level of maturity that, so far, we’ve only seen in a Pixar film.
                                                                                   DreamWorks Animation/20the Century Fox
Wow, that is badass!  Can we get a better, more badass-y angle?
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
There we go...so filled with badassness.

Above all other things in this film, the story was quite possibly the most amazing aspect. Director Dean DeBlois stated that when he agreed to do this film, it was under the intention that a third film would be done and make the franchise a trilogy (which I am 100% cool with) and that this second installment would be like The Empire Strikes Back. The story would go a little darker and we would get to see the characters expanded while going into new territory. And you know what? That is exactly what DeBlois did! Getting to learn more of Hiccup and his father’s past and seeing them reunited with the matriarch of their family was not only something that keep the series fresh and made the story interesting but it was chock full of emotions to the point that I was crying like a baby while trying to make it look like I wasn’t crying at all since the theater was packed and I had a middle-aged dude sitting right next to me and stealing my armrest.
                                                                            DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
A tender moment between a Viking family that was sadly interrupted by the realization
that I had no armrest to place my grief stricken elbows.

The bonds we form with each other—whether it be the bonds of brotherhood as we see Hiccup's friends come looking for him, the bonds of family or the bond between Hiccup and Toothless—that is what the film is about and that’s what makes the film work on a level that, for the longest time, so few animated films could work on. Even with all the humor (and this movie is very funny), the film brings about a serious message and moral and it tells a tale about growing up, facing responsibilities, and maturing. It was so amazing to see such a great property provide such a deep, rich story. (It was also just cool to see Stoick have a larger presence in that story.)
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Pictured:  A boy and his dragon bonding.

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Intense Hiccup is intense.
While the first one had great animation, this follow-up felt like they went light-years ahead with the technology. At first glance, the film looks and feels like HTTYD but, as you watch it, the level of detail on the facial features, hair on both the face and top of head, and the way the characters move and interact with the environment is absolutely breathtaking! Hiccup had realistic facial stubble, the dragons had realistic looking scales on their bodies, you could make out nearly every single hair on Stoick’s beard and the frighteningly photo-realistic tears coming down Valka’s cheek when she sees her husband for the first time in 20 years were, in a word that grossly undersells it, incredible. It truly is a wonder to see how far we’ve come in animation technology and these advances only help make the characters come to life in a bigger and more engrossing way.
                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Seriously...every single hair.

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Man, Hiccup really looks intense...not even the touch
of a Viking female is grabbing his attention.
Of all the things I loved with the first film, I was really digging the voice cast. Every actor was perfect in their role (because we all know that a bad choice in a voice acting cast can do heavy damage). Jay Baruchel had the right amount of innocence in his voice to be Hiccup, Gerard Butler had the authority to be Stoick and the rest of the cast that included Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, America Ferrera and Kristen Wiig all were ├╝ber-excellent in bringing life to their characters. They are all back and doing just as well (actually better, if that was possible) but, keeping the track record of great casting decisions, they brought in people who all seem like they were working their whole lives to voice these characters.
                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
"No you know nothing!"

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
I wish my mom trained dragons...
In this film, three new major characters are introduced and they come in the form of the evil Drago, Drago’s henchman Eret and Hiccup’s mom Valka. Djimon Hounsou provides the voice of Drago and he is able to sound so incredibly menacing without spilling over into the silly James Bond villain territory. Jon Snow himself; Kit Harington, is able to capture the cocky but wondering if he picked the wrong side that is Eret and Cate Blanchett is incredible beyond words as Valka. The level of emotion she brings was enough to constantly bring a lump in my throat…a lump that I had to deny existed thanks to Mr. Armrest McStealer.
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Hmmm...good idea, Hiccup.  A helmet like that will make me look tough in theaters
but also hide my wimpy tears.

Finally, the one thing I wasn’t prepared for was just how action-packed the film was. And the action was delivered on a huuuuge scale. Sure, the Alpha Dragons are massive but when Valko’s dragon oasis is attacked by Drago and his army, seeing the massive amount of men and dragons battling looked like something out of Helm’s Deep or a big budget summer action film. It was just another exciting addition to an overwhelmingly satisfying film.

                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
I want this airbrushed on the side of a van.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a superb addition to a franchise that started with a clever and fun film. The darker and more mature tone juxtaposed with the humor and simply incredible animation and acting really created an animated film like no other. The film is epic and epic in a big way and I am very, very hopeful we get a third film.

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