DM Haight

A gargantuan creature stares right through you. You’re paralyzed. Frozen with fear and awe, you breathe slowly. The creature blows a puff of frozen smoke your way, and the fear subsides. The awe remains. This is a direct image from How to Train Your Dragon 2, a best animated feature nominee at the 2015 Academy Awards. What makes this image so powerful? Was it the boy facing the dragon, despite fear? Or was it the dragon, who displayed not only power, but wisdom and kindness? Perhaps it was the images to follow, of that wisdom being blown out, and that boy capturing the power left behind.

Film maker Dead DeBlois crafted a piece that is not only visually stimulating and enticing, with varied textures and life-like skin, textiles, hair, and earth, but also a soul that goes deeper and deeper with every viewing. The realities of life are not simply glazed over as they often are in Disney fare. Dreamworks and DeBlois elected to deal in the raw, gritty world of loss and resurgence. There are two sides to every story. A villain is made villainous, not born. A hero is crafted, not given glory through birthright.

Jay Baruchel returns as Hiccup, the son of the village chief, heir to the seat of power, dragon rider, and 20 something kid who has a knack for cartography. Hiccup has grown from the whiny, insubordinate son, into an adventurer, scholar, and leader. His Father’s determination is his own now, and his quest to discover himself, although over played in most films about adolescent growth, is underplayed until the very end, when Hiccup has to accept the responsibility bestowed upon him by his fallen father. Reuniting with his mother is more satisfying than it should be. The normal family drama and anger that tends to follow such revelations is tossed in the trash and what’s left is the perfect reunion: A son and father who regain a person they both loved, cherished, and desperately needed back.

The refreshing new dragons takes us away from the somewhat goofy creatures we knew in the first installment, and drags out the majestic monsters we were yearning to see. The gargantuan dragon I referenced at the beginning of this review is known as “Bewilderbeast,” the alpha that has an uncanny ability to control the flock of dragons Hiccup’s mother, Valka, has apparently accrued. Besides this awe-inspiringly wise creature, there are a slew of others, which have been designed to emote certain characteristics that coincide with our perceptions of sinister, brave, power, and glee, making this film one of the most exciting in terms of artistic expression.

While in Berk we enjoy the popping colors, personalities, and games the villagers play. Outside of Berk is a far more dangerous and tempestuous land, concealing a most terrible force that has been biding its time to attack. Drago Bloodfist. Of course, he has a name like that. But it’s a character who we assume is all bad. But, as we learn from this film, that doesn’t have to be true. Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou, is a more complex villain than we are used to getting from our standard animation releases. He’s an awful person, yes, but when we come to understand his reasoning and his ability and desire to learn how to better control, we can see a bit of ourselves glimmering back at us. Screaming into the sky and blurting out words of revenge are not his only talents, and it’s good that he’s so bad. A perfect villain for Hiccup, one I can only imagine will return to fight again in the third installment of this supposed trilogy.

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