Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014 by IcelandicEel
No film in human history has as many dragons as How to Train Your Dragon. Except now. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has more dragons. It has so many dragons that there may not be a single dragonless shot in the entire film. Try to find one. Good luck.
However, if you walk into the theater tomorrow with the intention of counting dragons, you may be one of the few people who finds Dragons 2 less exciting than the previous film.
I had the amazing opportunity to see an advance screening of Dragons 2 last weekend in a theater full of people from DreamWorks. There is something special about seeing the film with people so closely connected to it. You can tell how much love and care went into making this film for us. And it shows. Dragons 2 is gorgeous. I have never seen any animated film come close to the level of visual impressiveness of the first film. Dragons 2 pushes beyond that into new territory. The story is also incredibly moving. It is impossible to watch the film without feeling like your heart has been ripped out. I'm still waiting for #DragonsChallenge7: Can you make it out of the film without crying?
This may come as a shock, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is not really about training dragons. Nor is How to Train Your Dragon, though. The first film is about relationships. Hiccup learns that is real gift isn't his strength or ferocity, but the ability to communicate and bond with others. He has to learn to handle the complexity of multiple relationships — father and son, chief and heir, Viking and tribe, dragons and Vikings, and of course, boy and dragon — all at the same time.
In Dragons 2, Hiccup again must tackle the challenges thrown at him from the many worlds to which he belongs. He struggles with what is expected of him versus what he thinks is right, and he tries to use his talent at diplomacy and compassion to prevent another disaster on Berk. However, in Dragons 2 these gifts prove to be less useful. Hiccup's relationship with Toothless pays off in the end and saves his tribe. But though Hiccup spends much of the the film trying to convince us that diplomacy is the answer, he ultimately fails.
Is How to Train Your Dragon 2 a worthy sequel to the amazing first film? I think it is. But I am worried people are going to try to compare it to How to Train Your Dragon when the two are incredibly different films. Although I don't feel like I love the sequel at the same level as the original, I also haven't been exploring every second of the film for the last four years.
Animation-loving dragon fans are irritatingly good at finding and studying moments that make a film special. One moment that stands out for me is a little head movement Valka makes early in the film. I am sure this movement will be analyzed to death on this site after the release date. You may miss it if you blink, but I think it is a brilliant piece of funny physical characterization.
These tiny moments are some of my favorite parts of How to Train Your Dragon and are the reason I feel uncomfortable comparing it to the iceberg tip that I saw when I watched How to Train Your Dragon 2 for the first time. Nevertheless, I do expect a large number of dragon fans will (eventually) prefer the sequel to the original. There are just as many of these gems in Dragon 2 — we just haven't found them all yet. I have a feeling this film will be just as well-loved as Dragons 1.
It can't be easy to make a sequel. It must be incredibly difficult to decide which elements of the original world should be kept and which can be changed. I had no clue what to expect from the film, but Dragons 2 seems to know what audience members want, and it delivered. In fact, if this movie doesn't win Best Animated Feature, I will eat an entire Bewilderbeast. The amount of care DreamWorks has put into this film is incredible. How to Train Your Dragon 2 goes beyond the world of the original not only in quantity of dragons to be trained, but also in ambition and heart.
After you see How to Train Your Dragon 2, you too will know what it feels like to be Hiccup when he stumbles into Valka's beautiful dragon sanctuary and mumbles, "I don't have the words."
Updated 5/12 after seeing the film again!