Four years in the making and this sequel does what few ever manage; soaring as high as its predecessor!
Life on the island of Berk has improved since Hiccup proved to the viking people that the native dragons could be friends, even pets. We see Hiccup’s impression on the village with everyone using gadgets and inventions, however our hero is not feeling confident with his father’s plan to make him the new chieftain. But when a notorious dragon training tyrant called Drago has plans to take their pet dragons for his army, Hiccup feels he can resolve the problem without violence.
I felt the 2010 film didn’t require a sequel; it functioned as a single feature and even the series of books it is based upon does not give it a sequel, but… this new film is great!
Our characters have grown up, but they maintain their snappy dialogue and relations and possibly the best part: they aren’t angst-ridden teenagers! Hiccup may have identity issues, but the film does not linger on this, it doesn’t even try the old cliche of putting deliberate wrenches in his relationship with Astrid (this is very tastefully handled in general!) Toothless too has retained his cute charm and gains plenty of knowing looks towards Hiccup’s more harebrained ideas. I love where they take his own personal story. Hiccup’s father, Stoick the Vast, remains one of my favourites, in fact a lot of the film is focused on his past which I really appreciated; it fit what we did and did not know from the first film.
I was going to argue that Drago (Djimon Hounsou) the exotic villain of the piece, is the weakest element, but upon further reflection he does provide a tremendous amount of weight to our lead characters, and even acts as a mirror to Hiccup’s own ethics (being a dragon trainer himself) and I believe his character will improve over further viewings.
The graphics are gorgeous. Over the four years between films the characters and locations have been virtually made high definition, most obvious being Astrid’s hair! The 3D too was very good, much like the first film.
I’m talking a lot about the characters, but that is because I love good characters more than the stories themselves, and these two films have had a consistently great cast!
My only gripe does not affect the film itself. While the plot’s narrative felt far more predictable this time around, I hate this film’s trailer. The trailer gave way too much away! Trailers need to stop doing this because there are reveals in this film that should be both intense and surprising, but if you’ve seen the trailer entire scenes become needlessly ambiguous. This review is not giving away any of this and I implore you: if you haven’t seen the trailer yet… don’t! Just believe me and go and see the film (and the first one if you haven’t already!)
HTTYD2 does what sequels rarely do these days; it takes everything that made the original good and didn’t mess with it. It doesn’t over-complicate its already splendid characters with cliched yo-yo plotlines, it doesn’t throw in grandiose concepts that break the narrative’s simplicity, it merely gives us what we want: more! Expanding the world, explaining the lore just enough to keep things light and fun but also challenge us with intensity and daring.
I think I have a new Film of the Year.
Additional Marshmallows: All the way through this film I was listening to one particular character’s voice… for ages I was like: “Is… is that…? Is that really Jon Snow’s actor in this film??” Yep. Game of Thrones’ star Kit Harington features as a newcomer and he is pretty funny too!