By Simon Miraudo
June 10, 2014
Dragons don’t kill people. Bad people with dragons kill people. So goes the lesson of How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s only great movie. Kids can do with that metaphor what they will, except, hopefully, apply it to drugs or guns. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, it continues the story of nascent Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), his pet dragon Toothless, and the new alliance of man and dragonkind in the questionably named township of Berk. This time around, they’re all threatened by a dragon-collecting warlord voiced by Djimon Hounsou and called Drago Bludvist (his name should indicate where he falls on the good-evil spectrum).
It feels heavily inspired by Hayao Miyazaki in its mythology building, interest in comings of age, and creature designs (the eyes, especially). Even the sorrowful subplot involving Hiccup’s long absent mother (voiced by Cate Blanchett) reuniting with his father (Gerard Butler) reeks of Studio Ghibli. How to Train Your Dragon 2 can hope to be as good as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro, but hoping’s as close as it’s gonna get. Early on DeBlois upends the status quo of the first film, only for everything to quickly return to safe, familiar equilibrium, making everything feel so samey, and so soon, just two entries into the series. Not all the heart-swelling flying sequences in the world can flap away the sensation of franchise fatigue here.
There are touching moments, courtesy of the undervalued Baruchel, Butler (who really only should ever be employed for voice work) and Blanchett (playing graceful and feral at once as this Dian Fossey type). There are also some amusing moments, thanks to supporting vocalists America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, and Kristen Wiig, all now pretending to be twenty-something Vikings suddenly overcome with raging hormones. And there are mildly inspiring moments, carried aloft by composer John Powell’s hero music; still the best reason to ever see these pictures. There just aren’t many memorable moments, and considering the first How to Train Your Dragon had one for the all-time archive (Hiccup first taming Toothless), it can’t be denied DreamWorks too is subject to the law of diminishing returns.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 arrives in Australian cinemas June 19, 2014.