Dreamworks has built a franchise out of How To Train Your Dragon–with the first movie, two television seasons, and now a second movie. The question is: does it hold up? In this writer’s opinion, yes, it certainly does. One thing I’d like to say right out of the gate is that I have not watched either of the television seasons, but I did not feel like I was out of the loop on anything in the second movie. There may have been references—obviously I would be none the wiser—but I didn’t notice any important elements that were impacted. The only thing that may feel awkward is that five years have passed since the first movie, so I suppose that if you followed the TV series then the time leap may not feel as extreme. Now, onto the review:
Berk has changed a lot since we were first introduced to it back in 2010. The Vikings have not only embraced dragons, but they have also bonded with them and formed a sport that involves dragon riders catching sheep and depositing them in nets to score points. This is how the movie starts off, and it’s certainly a fun and engaging scene. It’s probably to no one’s surprise, though, that our main protagonist, Hiccup, is nowhere to be found. Instead, he is out exploring the land with Toothless, taking full advantage of the ease of exploration now allowed by dragon flight. It’s a nice, relaxed start to the movie, which builds up more tension once Hiccup is joined by Astrid. Hiccup proceeds to reveal that his dad wishes to make him chief of Berk. Not long after, we are introduced to the main plot of the movie.
It turns out that another Viking, Drago Bludvist, is amassing a dragon army. It also turns out that Drago and Hiccup’s father, Stoick, have some history with each other. While Stoick issues an order to lock Berk down, Hiccup, in true form, escapes in an effort to reason with Drago. His initial plan to reach Drago via the dragon kidnapper’s boat goes awry, though, when Stoick and Gobber show up, forcing Hiccup to go off on his own in pursuit of Drago. This is the catalyst which leads us into the other major plot point of the movie (and the one with which most viewers are probably familiar—at least if you’ve seen the previews): the introduction of Hiccup’s mom.
From this point on, we bounce between the reunion and story of Hiccup and his mother (and eventually Stoick’s reunion with her) and Astrid and company’s journey to confront Drago, where they believe they’ll also find Hiccup. These two plot points eventually converge, as we find out that Drago desires to destroy the dragon nest where Hiccup’s mom resides. His next target is Berk, perhaps as a result of Astrid’s negligent bragging. This, of course, results in an epic battle scene with a stormed beach, plenty of foes, and–of course–plenty of dragons. Summarizing the plot beyond this point may result in some true spoilers, so you’ll have to see the rest yourself.
As far as the plot is concerned, I kind of felt that there wasn’t a lot “going on,” so to speak. I don’t really know how to explain it, because a lot does happen. The best I can say is that the plot doesn’t really jump around between a lot of different scenarios or sub-plots. Once we get into the thick of things, we’re pretty much in one of two places: either with Hiccup and his mother or with Astrid and company. This isn’t really a bad thing; it just kind of felt… odd. I think it would be safe to say that this is more of a character-driven movie than a plot-driven movie. Regardless, the story carries on at a good pace, and never really comes across as slow or boring.
Visually, the movie is beautiful; maybe even more so than its predecessor. The only time I honestly felt the visuals were sub-par was a scene that showed a lot of dragons flying around. Being inexperienced in graphics terminology, I don’t really know what to call it, but it felt like the scenery and the dragons didn’t blend right. Honestly, it’s my only complaint, and it probably lasted for less than a minute. Other than that, the visuals are stunning, particularly the previously mentioned battle scenery.
Now, for the part that Christian viewers are probably most interested in: content. In case you’re unaware, this movie is rated PG, and I feel it stays within that realm. There is no language used, other than Astrid exclaiming, “Oh my gods!” (a reference to the fact that Vikings believe in multiple gods). In fact, that may be the most offensive thing to you (the pagan society of Vikings, that is), depending on your personal outlook on the use of such things in fantasy media. Other than that, there is at least one allusion to foul language, with Hiccup exclaiming something to the effect of, “Let’s go kick Drago’s…” with the end being cut off as he flies behind a pillar.
There is nothing to really worry about in terms of sexuality. The worse is that, supposedly, the film contains a subtle reference to Gobber being gay. My assumption is when he makes a comment to the effect of, “This is why I never married. Well that and one other reason.” If this is the case, then we can simply make that anything we want. I vote that we just consider Gobber a eunuch. The man has already shown that he has a propensity for losing body parts to dragons, after all. I hope you laughed at that. Seriously, though, I don’t know how much hype that particular inclusion is actually getting, and I certainly don’t think Christians should be okay with pushing the homosexual agenda in a kids’ movie. If this was an attempt at doing so, well, as I’ve shown, we can easily make it something else.
Anyway…. If you don’t like violence and fighting, then that will probably be the biggest complaint you’ll find in this movie. Dragons fight, people fight, and an important character dies. This might be a little harder for younger viewers to see. It’s not a gory death—there is no gore to speak of in the movie as a whole—but it is still there. Also, one of the King dragons is killed, and it is implied that he is gored by another dragon. The fighting itself doesn’t get to be any worse than what you saw in the first movie; it’s just these two instances of death that you may want to approach carefully if you are taking younger children to see the movie.
All-in-all, I highly recommend How To Train Your Dragon 2. If you were a fan of the first movie, then this movie certainly will not disappoint. It will keep you entertained and will probably move you to tears.
+ Entertaining story + Great visuals + Successfully builds upon the established foundation
- Potentially subtle homosexual reference
The Bottom Line
If you liked the first How To Train Your Dragon, then you should definitely see this one. It's fun for the whole family--kid appropriate, without making mom and dad feel like their IQs are dropping a mile a minute.