Movie review – ?How to Train Your Dragon 2: Anything but toothless

2014-06-22 15:00

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Dreamworks, the company that brought you the Shrek and Madagascar franchises, has knocked it out the park again.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an animated masterpiece. It’s that rare creature – a sequel that matches the original in quality. It not only builds on the ­wonderful world of characters, but has enough depth to work as a standalone feature.

The plot picks up where the first movie left off. Hiccup is the hero of Berk, a town that has evolved into a haven of peace where Vikings and dragons are best friends. His father, Stoic, wants to mould Hiccup into a chieftain who could one day take the reins, but Hiccup wants nothing more than to navigate the skies with his adorable Nigh Fury dragon Toothless, discovering unknown regions and mapping them out. However, when he and his friends find out that a maniac called Drago is out to capture dragons and destroy Berk, Hiccup has to forfeit what he sees as his destiny in order to protect his town.

There is a central message here: sometimes growing up does not mean ploughing ahead with your own ideas, but compromising your own wants for what your family and loved ones need from you.

This message is pretty unique for an animated hero. Take Shrek. The story was about how the world adapted to suit the grouchy, oddball ogre – not how Shrek compromised some of his more annoying traits for the sake of those around him.

It’s a powerful lesson, one that is at the heart of becoming a grown-up. One of the biggest lessons I learnt entering my mid-20s was that sometimes it’s not all about you – sometimes the best thing you can do is compromise for others.

This lesson is even more welcome, considering we live in a world of selfies and narcissistic social media.

Of course, if no one’s watching, the messages are useless. Which is why How to Train Your Dragon 2 is also a rip-roaring, action-packed, hilarious romp filled with the most beautifully ­animated creatures you have ever seen on film. Toothless, with his gummy smile and large, expressive eyes, is achingly cute. All the dragons are styled to act like dogs – their tongues hang out, they lick their trainers, they sniff each other’s butts, they play catch.

Every little kid is going to walk out of that cinema wishing they had their own dragon.

Grand battle scenes are interjected with quiet, tender moments. Hiccup’s reunion with his mother, Valka, is as sweet as anything – and it is rare to see a mother and son’s relationship depicted so ­wonderfully in a kids’ movie. The climax of the film offers a battle scene as grand as some of the best war scenes from Lord of the Rings – but with more colour and fewer Orcs.

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