Friday, October 03, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

As I said in my review of the first film, I was really slow to get around to watching How To Train Your Dragon. I wasn't going to make that mistake twice, so I went to see the sequel the night it came out.

I did make one mistake though, and that was forgetting that the creators of this series don't pull their punches. Ever. It's so easy to say "it's a kid's movie" and forget that some people are smart enough to know that kid's entertainment doesn't need to be stupid or simple or well, not emotionally devastating.

The animation is, of course, beautiful. Hiccup, Astrid, and most of the rest of the vikings of Berk are hilarious and wonderful and multi-faceted.

This movie has a LOT going for it. Hiccup's inventions have only become more complex and amazing, and he's embarking on a quest to map out their world. He happens upon a dragon hunter who is delivering dragons to the unimaginatively named Drago Bludvist. Bludvist is of course building a dragon army for conquering the world, or something. Let's be honest, that part of the story wasn't particularly well developed or original. Was it thirst for revenge? I don't even remember.

Because the thing is, the real main plot here are the relationships between the characters we know, and one significant newcomer - Hiccup's mom, Valka. Hiccup and his father Stoick have assumed she was killed many years ago, but instead she's been hiding out and rescuing dragons, creating a gorgeous sanctuary. Valka and Astrid are fantastic, and should be held up as examples of nuanced and interesting female characters for other screenwriters.

Name any two characters among the main set (Hiccup, Stoick, Valka, Astrid, and Toothless to be specific) and their relationship is amazing, multi-faceted, and interesting. Stoick and Valka have something that is absolutely beautiful and completely unexpected in a movie of this type. Love of this type isn't really something that's shown in "kid's" movies. Or honestly movies at all. Hiccup and Astrid still have a relationship that feels like a partnership, and the two of them model something really positive that again, is rare for teenage characters.

But obviously the centerpiece is Hiccup and Toothless, as it should be. Toothless is absolutely the star, to no one's surprise, and he makes everyone want their own dragon. I don't know how to warn you about the plot without being full of spoilers so I'll just say this: be prepared for utter heartbreak if you love these characters. I was crying harder than I have at a movie in a very long time, and almost everybody in the theater was quietly sniffling. This is an AMAZING movie but it hurts, so don't watch it if you're looking for a fun, simple, uplifting time okay? This franchise is too complex for that, and yes that's absolutely a good thing but you know, full of tears. Hiccup goes through a lot of emotions, but for once he doesn't really have much time in the wallowing "I'm being a stupid idiot" phase that most male protagonists go through after this kind of thing. Seriously, sorry for the vagueness.

Now, the movie wasn't 100% perfect. Several of the side characters actually grated on my nerves more than a little, and Bludvist is really wasted and kind of boring (especially because they got the super talented Djimon Hounsou for his voice). And honestly there was one particular twist regarding Astrid that I thought would be awesome that they didn't go for, and I really wish they had. But honestly, I will be there on opening night for the third movie, expecting it to break my heart even worse.

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