Also, Mild Spoilers from here on out, but it was either spoiled by the trailer or something that I'm sure people should be able to easily guess about a kids movie. So, here we go!
The first How to Train Your Dragon was a real surprise for pretty much everyone. It wasn't just a good movie but it was also an enthralling and engaging one with some admirable lessons about science and exploration. I'm not sure if it was really memorable enough to be more than just a really tight story hidden inside a big-budget kid's animation film, but everything really did come together so nicely in it. The visuals were great, the process of Hiccup training his dragon was fun to watch, and all of the designs for the dragons were just down-right awesome!
After we got things settled from the last movie which established Vikings having pet dragons in order to help their colony, where else could the story go in order to expand on a dragon-filled Viking universe? Well, this films answers this question by having more people needing to realize that they too can train their dragon.
Yeah, I'm really not all that sure about this one.
It's not that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is bad, in fact, there are lot of things about it that are really good. But my first instinct was to just write it off as a retread of the first movie, however it feels a lot more accurate to describe it as a celebration for the first film being an unexpected hit. The movie just sort of jogs in place as it just lets itself have a lot of things happening in it that might constitute as some sort of story or plot, which there is one, but it's pretty disjointed and thin. But, here it goes.
"Tell me the one again where nothing happens!"
All of a suddenly, Astrid and Hiccup get attacked by seemingly rogue vikings. Though, it turns out that their village was attacked by a trained dragon army and they immediately place blame on the two people they see riding tamed dragons, thinking they are under the enemy master of Drago I'm-an-Evil-Badguy. When Hiccup tells his father of this encounter, it turns out that Stoick and Drago have had a history and that it's really hard to change Drago's evil ways. Hiccup is unconvinced and wants to try to change the heart of Drago.
Oh, and there's one part of the story that should have felt like a really big reveal only to come off as a way to just fit in a lot more dragons into the movie so it can lead up to the climax of the story.
So, even though this film is trying something a bit new and different with it coming down on the side of the grumpy disapproving father figure who knows that you really can't change the baddest of bad guys minds, it all really comes down to Hiccup still being more right in his methods than anyone else and that it's kind of hard to just not see that coming. Where as Hiccup and crew embrace the dragons as friends and loyal followers, Drago is the bad guy in that he takes the more hypnotic and cruel approach in controlling the dragons. Guess which side gets the award for winning by being good guys and by being nicer to the dragons which causes them to win the battle?
And, no, there aren't any prizes if you guess correctly.
It's not that I couldn't accept a plot like this in that Hiccup must learn to embrace responsibility as he inherits the role as chief, but I couldn't help but feel that the plot was a bit clumsily put together. It all starts off incredibly nicely and everything feels really tight. But, when it comes time for the second act , it just sort of feels like the movie is waiting around until an impressive big finale(No, not every movie follows a three act structure, but this one does and think it kind of suffers because of it).
At this part of the story, everything sort of takes this abrupt halt and lets everyone that isn't the main character go off and make sure that a plot is going to eventually happen. I was so disengaged with this part that even a big dragon battle just didn't feel like it was enough to keep me from feeling bored through the second act. But things do pick right back up at the end, as everything really comes together for an awesome closing act. It was finally around the time when the stakes to the story actually felt like it mattered.
If nothing else, it's definitely a great looking movie. It introduces even more dragons and all of their unique designs are just so awesome. There a lot of great scenes of Hiccup flying on his dragon and that he even gets to partake in flying on his own. Also, Hiccup has A FREAKIN' LIGHTSABER FIRE SWORD and one of the characters wore this unique costume that I just fell in love with. I really like the unique style of this film and how compelling everything is just on a visual level. This is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies since the last time vikings got involved on the big screen(Thor 2, in case you were wondering).
I'm not sure if they explain how this awesome sword works, but who cares? It's awesome!
In the end, I think I just wish the story was tighter through some parts and that it wasn't as predictable as it was. Sure, the movie sets itself up through a lot of surprising things, but it doesn't feel like it really does much with it. I felt like a couple of characters who were actually supposed to feel major and vital to the story just ended up being there in order to get the everything going. Still, there's enough good in here that I wasn't thinking that I wasted my time after leaving the theater. There are enjoyable and even engaging parts with the story and especially with the visuals. It just takes a bit of patience to get to these parts.
But at least the kids will like it.