How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theatre in ages — and just one week ago I had thought nothing could ever top Disney’s live action stunner, Maleficent. Not only did I not want Dragon 2 to end, but I was bummed that I couldn’t immediately watch it all over again. And those who snark that I loved it because it had a heart-thumping cast of mountain men with enormous biceps and sexy plaited beards, well, you’re only partly right. Dragon 2 is much, much more than hunky Vikings.

Dragon 2 is the second outing of what will be the Dragon Trilogy. Don’t assume it suffers from sequel-itis. Thanks to the return of director/co-writer Dean Dubois, Dragon 2 has all the crowd-pleasing qualities that everyone loved the first time — a compelling story, empathetic characters, side-splitting hilarity, astonishing musical score, stomach-flopping flying scenes and dragons of all kinds. It’s just darker, scarier, more subversive, and visually will knock your socks off.

Know upfront that Dragon 2 is not aimed at kids, it’s aimed at the Kid inside all of us. Its wit and surreal history and especially the occasional wisdom of its mature characters, guarantee that adults will enjoy this movie just as much as, if not more than, kids do. I’m thrilled to point out its male-centric script features several notable female roles — a worthy rarity these days.

Dragon 2 has the most incredible life-like, can’t believe your eyes, take your breath away, hang onto your seats animation ever — and I’m not even talking about the 3-D version. All this is because of some genius new software and technological advances that Dreamworks developed and uses for the first time in this film. It’s worth all the millions it must have cost.

In the previous film, How to Train Your Dragon 1, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (voice of Jay Baruchnel) from the Isle of Berk, was 15 years old. Unlike his father, Stoick the Vast (voice of Gerard Butler) and all the other Viking warriors, Hiccup did not walk like a tree trunk. Heck, he didn’t even shave. He was such a wimp, that no one would let him go on any of the tribe’s dragon-slaying expeditions.

But Hiccup, being a clever boy, sensitive and humble, an original thinker and compassionate to boot, ended up befriending a magnificent scaly Night Fury black dragon, named Toothless. After many trials, including a near-lethal battle with the Red Dragon in which he loses part of his leg, Hiccup and Toothless transformed the entire culture of the island. Berk has become the paragon of coexistence between Vikings and dragons.

Flying behemoths are safe and happy and baby dragons are drooling and cooing and giggling all over the place.

In Dragon 2, it’s five years later. Hiccup is “all grown up,” age 20, still a stubborn, original thinker, and walking well on his prosthetic leg. Hiccup hears Stoick’s constant reminder, “A chief takes care of his people,” but he doesn’t want the mantle of leadership. He just wants to keep finding new worlds with Toothless and recording them on his map, inventing flying machines, kissing feisty Astrid (America Ferrara), and fooling around with the other students from Dragon School. (Worth checking out on the internet: www.dragonschool.com)

As all Vikings know, a man can’t avoid his destiny… One day Hiccup discovers a magnificent cave of ice, filled with hundreds of new dragons, many of whom, he learns, have been injured while escaping the traps set by a nasty dragon-napper named Drago (voice of Djimon Hounsou). The caretaker of the dragon sanctuary is a strange shamanic being, right out of a Paleolithic rock carving, called The Dragon Rider (voice of Cate Blanchett). Though Hiccup insists on trying to talk Drago out of his nefarious plans, he soon learns that pacficism is worthless against the ambitions of a mad man, especially one who controls a gigantic alpha dragon with the power to hypnotize other dragons.

Flying footage (so mesmerizing it permeates your dreams for days afterwards) zooms among the elements of the story — soaring from discovery through despair and tragedy, swirling in and out of family and friends, carrying the burden of courage — this time on the backs of the baby dragons, who are the only creatures too inexperienced to be manipulated by the tyrant Drago and his plasma-hurling Bewilderbeast. As Hiccup cries to rally the troops, “They may have armadas and armies — but we have our dragons!”

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