Toothless is back! Four years after our first outing with Hiccup and his Night Fury friend, we find ourselves back on the Isle of Berk, and see how life has progressed for this tribe of vikings and their dragons. Through Hiccup’s eyes, and we soar above the clouds and beyond the known realm of Berk’s existence, learning there is even more beyond the borders than we imagined. How to Train Your Dragon 2 not only provides action and humor but a surprising emotional undercurrent that will resonate with kids and adults and leave you wanting to come back for more.
The movie opens five years into Berk’s future, with dragons fully incorporated into the village’s life, complete with stables and a saddle shop where the old weapons factory used to be. The vikings of Berk love their dragons and their hero, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). They have dragon races around the village with the now young adults who were the last class of trained fighters vying for position (and for each others’ attention). Hiccup, however, is nowhere to be found, instead off with Toothless to the edge of their known territory to scout new lands and find new dragons. Astrid (America Ferrera) knows where to find him, though, and it becomes clear that what Hiccup is searching for is himself. He is afraid to become chief and still struggling with his relationship with his father and hopes to find his destiny, as it were, out in the world.
Pushing their exploration a bit further, Astrid and Hiccup soon discover that the people of Berk aren’t the only ones interested in dragons, but that there are trappers like the man they meet named Eret (Kit Harington) who collect them for someone called Drago Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou), who is raising a dragon army. Hiccup and Astrid race back to Berk to tell the chief Stoic (Gerard Butler), setting into motion events that will bring up old wounds and send both Hiccup and Stoic on an unexpected journey.
Hiccup discovers that a mysterious Dragon Rider has been working against Drago, rescuing the dragons captured and leaving everything covered in huge pillars of green ice. When he finally meets the Dragon Rider, he discovers that it is his own mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), not really dead the last twenty years, but living in an isolated secret garden as a sort of dragony Jane Goodall. Valka is strong and intelligent and graceful, and clearly full of love and regret for leaving behind her son who took so much after her. Before Hiccup can decide what to do, his father turns up with his friend Gobber (Craig Ferguson) to take Hiccup back to Berk to prepare for war with Drago.
While Hiccup’s fascination with his mother and her sweetness toward him are lovely, it is the interaction between Valka and Stoic that really brings the heart to this movie. Stoic isn’t the fierce, yelling Viking in her presence, though even she expects him to be. Instead the sweetness of their interaction and the depth of their relationship that begins to shine through is moving. In one of my favorite scenes of the movie, they go through all the stages of their romance again as Stoic re-proposes to her in song. This isn’t a sudden turn toward musical theater cheese, which would be completely wrong for the movie, but rather fits in perfectly with the culture the movie creates. What I love the most is that the song is a joint venture, an agreement of an equal standing as a team in a relationship, each taking their half to create the melody together. Even later, in the midst of battle, Stoic doesn’t simply go macho warrior with Valka fading from the awesome warrior she is in her own right; instead he defers to her, since things are happening on her own turf, and only steps in with the assist when two fighters are needed instead of one. I would say that their relationship is the single best thing about this movie, and I do dearly love Toothless.
The story takes an unexpected (but not wholly unpredictable in terms of film tropes) turn, and Hiccup finds himself all too soon having to figure out what his role in the world is and how he’s going to face the threat of Drago, looming ever nearer to Berk.
This movie is highly entertaining and beautifully animated. Even Toothless has some new surprises for us (and the blue glowy thing is SO cool), and it was great to be re-immersed in such a well developed world. I would be remiss to not mention the score as well, which is gorgeous and epic but also soft and subtle when it needs to be. I’m all about classical styled scores, and this is one I’ll be adding to my download list.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is at least as much fun as the original, and definitely worth catching in theaters so you can fly through the clouds with Toothless. I’d even spring for the 3D, if you’re into such things.