The Viking Empire Strikes Back
[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B003BIFPG2][/pullquote] Dreamworks used to play second fiddle to Pixar in the hit animated movie stakes but not anymore.
While Pixar have faltered with Brave, Monsters University and Cars 2 not being the big hits they might have hoped for, DreamWorks have developed some very successful franchises with Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, Shrek and now How To Train Your Dragon.
The first How To Train Your Dragon film, loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s children’s books, was the charming tale of Hiccup, the son of Viking chieftain Stoick the Vast, who finds his talent lies not in slaying dragons but in taming them, or more precisely taming a rare Night Fury dragon, who he names Toothless because of his retractable teeth. Hiccup’s dragon-befriending efforts eventually lead to the end of the hostilities between the dragons and the people of Hiccup’s village, Berk.
In this film we pick up the story five years on, when dragons and humans are not only still living in peace but co-habiting in Berk.
The opening scene sees a game reminiscent of Quidditch in which dragons and their riders have to catch the sheep to win. All seems well but Hiccup and Toothless are absent, looking for more dragons and mapping where they live – Hiccup is also trying to avoid the fact that his father wants him to succeed him as chieftain. While he’s away from the safety of Berk, Hiccup comes across a gang of dragon-trappers led by the gormless Eret under the employ of the mysterious Drago who is raising a dragon army.
Not only that, he also bumps into his long lost mother Valka who lives with a colony of dragons, protecting them and trying to foster better relations between humans and dragons. But there’s no hope of that with Drago who is planning on taking on the colony of dragons with his army before heading to Berk to take destruction and devastation there too.
If this franchise took flight with the first instalment, it soars with this sequel. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is broader in scope, epic in scale and emotionally engaging too. While the first film dealt with the people of Berk, this follow-up has a much bigger canvas, taking us to beautiful, stunningly realised new lands. The dragon colony is verdant and vibrant while Drago’s lair is suitably grand and doom-laden and the set-pieces are as spectacular and involving as you’ll see in any fantasy movie.
While the visuals are gorgeous, it’s the story that really connects, drawing on family and friendship, father-and-son relationships and faith in good conquering evil as its themes. In that respect, it reminded me of the original Star Wars trilogy and if this, as expected, is the middle act of a three-part series, then it compares very favourably with The Empire Strikes Back.
With plenty in the film for kids and adults alike, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an exciting, exuberant film that left me wanting more. It was also my four-year-old son’s first ever cinema visit, and he was mesmerised.