For those of you who aren’t ardent Toothless fans, that’d be How to Train Your Dragon 2.
I have to admit that this movie was not quite as awesome as the original.
There is at least one awesome scene of awesomeness not found in these two trailers, however!
I liked how they handled introducing Hiccup’s actually-alive mother: they definitely showed her (spoiler?) feeling deservedly guilty for running out on her family. She was afraid and felt like no one in the village would listen to her – but Hiccup succeeded where his mother failed because he didn’t end up running away. I also love how they handled a certain confession of Hiccup’s – neatly subverting a potential miscommunication-drama sub-storyline that I would have found extremely irritating and cliche. Thumbs up for that!
A certain other event happened that would be a major spoiler if I said anything about it… so I will say no more than that it didn’t pack the emotional kick that I think it needed. I’m not sure why; I’ll have to re-watch the movie to see if the music is just not pulling the right emotion-triggers, but honestly I think that was a “you’re supposed to cry now!” moment and it just… wasn’t.
One of the humor sub-plots was hilarious teenage jockeying to impress potential mates – that was handled very well by the secondary dragon-rider characters while leaving the Hiccup/Astrid romance to develop in a straightforward and heartwarming manner. I definitely like how Astrid’s character has matured in this movie; she seems much more self-confident and assured than she did in the first. She’s also not hitting my “domestic partner abuser” radar anymore too, so kudos for Dreamworks in fixing that little problem!
There is one thing that they could have cut out or altered in this movie that would have made it much better – and it’s something that doesn’t show up in the trailers, so I think that Dreamworks knew that it wasn’t a selling point for the movie. It’s not quite at the level of false advertising, since there is a giant Viking army battle with dragons, and I think the resolution of it is handled well, actually, but…
Hiccup is as close to a pacifist as a Viking could possibly be. Now some of this is portrayed as idealism that doesn’t match the grim reality, and that’s why the weird “peace! peace!” mantra in this movie doesn’t ruin it entirely for me. Vikings were raiders, and I realize that this is a fairly-young-kids’ movie (which is why there’s no gore) but the word “peace” does not match the word “Viking”. And the whole “dragons are peaceful creatures!” shtick got old really fast because obviously they are huge freaking predators who eat meat like fish and sheep and (in the first movie) people. Sure, they’re social predators, so like wolves, they can be domesticated. The dog/cat allusions are particularly strong in this movie, although there are some really good scenes that have a sort of “alien” feel to them, especially when Hiccup first lands in his mom’s dragon den. But about half of that “peace! peace!” shtick needed to be cut out in favor of slightly more realism.
I mean, it’s not like kids can’t handle a little harsh reality. Ever read the real fairy tales? They’re particularly gory. My four-year-old niece came up with a very Grimm-like original fairy tale on her own, in fact, possibly influenced by the tale of Hansel and Gretel. Not showing gore on the big screen, I can understand completely – visuals hit harder than text. But a movie with a giant army and (SPOILER) two major “on-screen” deaths (I won’t say who, but you probably won’t be able to guess because it’s not the most obvious human candidate) needed to be a little less utopia-flavored in the narration.
Minor irritation: Hiccup’s nose. Did they have to make it look like that?
Even though it hit a couple of relatively minor sour notes, I still walked out of that movie wanting a Night Fury of my own and really appreciating the art design team. I’m not running right out to buy the movie score this time, but I do plan to watch this movie in theaters again, with a different set of relations!