Spoiler-Free HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 Review – Learning to Fly

Opening in theaters on Friday, June 13, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is destined to be a summer crowd pleaser.  Packing in action, comedy, a little romance, and a whole lot of adventure, DreamWorks Animation’s newest feature is an entertaining experience for the whole family.  For more details, continue reading for the full HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 review – 100% spoiler free.  For all of the press materials, updates, images, and trailers (including the first 5 minutes of the film) for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, click here.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

FILM SYNOPSIS

Picking up 5 years after the first film, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 swoops through the breathtaking isle of Berk, and it’s immediately evident that life here has changed quite a bit.  Dragons are a very big part of their world, and seemingly most of the residents each have their own fire-breathing companion.  The quick pace is set from the start as we’re taken right through the middle of a dragon race, although Hiccup and Toothless are nowhere to be found.  Soon we find them practicing their flight skills off on their own, and stumbling upon a new land just beyond the berm.  They’re joined by Hiccup’s now girlfriend Astrid and her dragon, Starfly.  Hiccup reveals to Astrid that his father, Stoick, the chief of Berk, has asked him to begin preparations to take over as chief, but he isn’t quite sure what his own aspirations are.  Avoiding the decision, they head out to explore the new area where they discover icy ruins and come face-to-face with danger.  After learning that a man named Drago (Djimon Hounsou) is building a dragon army, they flee to Berk to warn Stoick of the looming war.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Astrid (America Ferrara) confronts the foreboding Drago (Djimon Hounsou). How to Train Your Dragon 2 © 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

After warning Stoick, Hiccup disagrees with his decision to take cover and heads out on a mission to stop the war.  This leads to an epic adventure where he discovers his long-lost mother, a dragon’s paradise, Drago, and ultimately, his own destiny.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Hiccup´s long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) has lived among dragons, learned their ways, discovered their secrets, and became their fierce protector. How to Train Your Dragon 2 © 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

THE GOOD (in no particular order)

  • The animation.  While I normally fancy myself a Pixar loyalist, I was really impressed with the landscapes here.  The water, islands, ice caves, clouds, it’s all incredibly stunning.  One scene in particular, which you can see in the trailer above, dragons were animated to give the appearance of flying butterflies – it was breathtaking.  I still wouldn’t dare say the graphics are better than Pixar, but DreamWorks Animation has come a long way over the last few years.
  • Laughs.  There are several chuckle-out-loud moments, and nothing that was too over-the-top or crude.  Gobber (Craig Ferguson) and a love triangle (square, really) involving Ruffnut (an unrecognizable Kristen Wiig) offer particularly hearty laughs.
  • Fast-paced.  At 102 minutes, there were a couple of scenes that could’ve been shorter, but the overall pace of the film moves very quickly.  You jump right into the action and it takes you all the way through the end.
  • Tension. I know this may sound weird, and although the film does have its share of cookie cutter moments, there were a few times where I was found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, not knowing what was going to happen next.
  • Toothless. That face. I just want to smoosh it (then wash my hands because I’m sure he’s covered in dirt).  There’s one particular heart wrenching scene with him, so all spoilers aside, you may want to bring some tissues if you or your kids are sappy like me.
  • Family and forgiveness. I really liked the way they portrayed the family coming together after Hiccup finds his mother, Valka, and I never felt the message was heavy handed.  There’s a scene with Stoick and Valka that is incredibly touching, and possibly another tissue-worthy moment (what can I say, I’m a cryer).
  • Music. This film is beautifully scored and the music blends wonderfully with the film, really helping to drive the emotions in each scene.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Toothless (left) gets acquainted with the dragon Cloudjumper. How to Train Your Dragon 2 © 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Voices.  Now mind you, they’re not all bad.  In fact, most of them are either good or even great, but some of the main characters are just grating.   Specifically, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrera).  If you’ve seen the first film, then you’re already familiar, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.  There are some really tense moments in this film, but as soon as Jay Baruchel would begin delivering his lines, they felt really insincere and I’d feel completely disconnected.
  • Character Design.  While I give DreamWorks high praise for their progress in animation, the overall character design for the humans and several of the dragons are sometimes just downright silly looking.
  • The Third Act.  Okay, so being that this is a spoiler-free review, I can’t reveal too much, but when the action reaches a fever pitch toward the end of the film, it takes a turn that was just unnecessary.  There was no reason for things to go the way they did other than to add drama (which wasn’t lacking to begin with).  To make matters worse, Hiccup is at the crux, and without the ability to emit the right emotion, it was just pointless.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Astrid (America Ferrara) and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) face their toughest challenge ever. How to Train Your Dragon 2 © 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

In the age of the epic trilogy, the second installment of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON really stands on its own.  You don’t need to see the first film to understand what’s happening here, and there are no looming cliffhangers even though we know a third film is in the works.  Overall, there was much more good than bad, and I understand there’s nothing they can do about the main characters voice at this point, but it really does make it difficult to love this film completely.  This film is great for fans of all ages, the young and the young-at-heart, and will leave you excited to see where they end up next.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless make plans for their next adventure. How to Train Your Dragon 2 © 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

TIP: There are no extra scenes at the end of the credits, so don’t bother hanging out in the theater like we did.

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About Chrysty Summers

Growing up in southern California, Disneyland has always been a staple for my family. Today, my husband and I spend most of our free time at the parks, where you can usually find us soaking up the atmosphere of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. We also love traveling to Walt Disney World as often as we can, especially during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in the Fall! Find me on Twitter @PenelopePeach for live updates from around the parks.