Saturday, June 14, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (SIFF 2014) - Movie Review

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to the original smash hit from Dreamworks Animation. This installment, based on the books written by Cressida Cowell, is again directed by Dean DeBlois and includes returning voice actors like Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, and Jonah Hill along with newcomers Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, and Djimon Hounsou.

Five years after the events of the first film, we find the village of Berk equally populated by men and dragons all living a peaceful existence the likes of which has never been seen before. Of course, Hiccup (Baruchel) and his father Stoick (Butler) still aren't seeing eye to eye when it comes to their family heritage and the younger of the two is determined to find his own path. Ever the adventurer, Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless set off to continue their mission of discovering new lands to explore. What the duo ultimately finds is that there are things in the world more mysterious and dangerous than they never knew existed and their epic journey may actually be just beginning.

After careful consideration, I decided that's all I really wanted to say about the story for fear of giving away information best left discovered while watching the movie itself. Sure, if you watch the trailer there are many things you see that go deep in to the movie's plot, but I prefer to leave them alone, at least for now. I will say that if you are a fan of the first movie (and who isn't?!), you are sure to absolutely love this second installment. Seriously, this is one of those rare sequels that is actually better than it's predecessor. The story is a fun and well thought out adventure, the action is fast paced and exciting, and the animation is just unbelievably beautiful.

I like how director Dean DeBlois doesn't feel the need to spend a ton of time reintroducing the audience to characters we already know, and when a new one does come into the story, it feels very natural and organic. There is so much going on with the story and so many characters being woven in and out, it seems like it would be easy to get lost and confused, but everything just flows along nicely. What really puts this story over the top is that DeBlois isn't afraid to pull any punches when it comes to delivering a thrilling and emotionally draining piece of entertainment. I would say there were no less than two or three scenes where tears and sniffles were happening in the theater.

As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the animation was flat out stunning and I would highly recommend seeing it in 3D if you have the opportunity. I'm not sure about IMAX although the up-conversion process seems to be better suited for animation than live action so maybe give it a try but only at a true IMAX theater, please. Some of my favorite scenes are those, just like in the first movie, when Hiccup and Toothless are flying over the ocean and various landscapes. The animators do such a wonderful job of putting you right there with them while they are taking in all of the amazing scenery flying by underneath them. Seriously though, each and every frame of the movie is breathtakingly filled with so many dragons, riders, boats, flames, rocks, and other various things, it almost demands a second viewing just to take it all in.

Oh my goodness this is such a good movie. I hope I have successfully conveyed that to you while not giving anything away. I really want you to see this movie and enjoy it just as much as I did. Honestly, it will be very hard for the name How to Train Your Dragon 2 to not show up in my year-end top 10 list.


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