Five years on: the ‘vikings’ are still inexplicably Scottish, their kids remain, more inexplicably, irritating all-American teens; Jay Baruschel still sounds like Tom Hanks; but the dragons and the flying sequences are even more thrilling. Just as well, given some dodgy politics.
At times terrifyingly dark, intense and scary, the kinetic theme-park ride can’t conceal the broadest-brushed life lessons in a hackneyed script. But why does Kate Blanchett’s character look like a space alien, and what’s with the borderline racism?
How to Train Your Dragon, from the book series by Cressida Cowell, was a hugely well-executed fun animation from Dreamworks, and pretty much the whole team front- and back-of-house return for the sequel. The ridiculously named, and boldly one-legged romantic lead, Hiccup, has to face up grown-up responsibilities; but as usual, his spirit of adventure leads him and his friends into all manner of mayhem.
Teen angst, long-lost relatives, parent issues and the looming threat of the outside world make this a scary place for the younger audience – and in our cinema, they lapped it up.
Gerard Butler and Craig Fergusson provide the Asterix comedy bluster, Blanchett arrives as a Tolkien-esque Dragon-godmother (doing who knows what accent??). Hiccup’s ill-assorted companions continue to annoy by being perky, doltish, loud and generally stupid. Whilst Kristen Weig’s Ruffnut lurches straight out of Bridesmaids, leering at Kit Harrington’s pointless cockney dragon-trapper Eret. What the…?
Hiccup has transformed his home town into a Harry Potter theme-park of cuddly Dragon-quidditch, played with sheep that never get eaten. However the threat of war looms in the shape of Drago Bludvist; a brutal dictator in the mould of Darius from 300, which is where I have a problem with the movie. Bludvist is clearly from the Land of Foreign, a dark-skinned invader, voiced by a black actor (the excellent Djimon Hounsou); a merciless mass-murderer with no redeeming features whatsoever.
The response of mild-mannered pacifist diplomat Hiccup? Draw the light sabre – well, flaming sword – and declare all-out total war. As if America’s children don’t have enough bad influences, you’ve just convinced another generation that all foreigners are insane mass-murderers only to be feared and exterminated. We’re somewhere on the line between 1950’s Westerns wiping out those pesky redskins, and Liam Neeson in Taken 17. Thank you, Dreamworks for this dose of Neo-Con propaganda.
But, if you can get past the dodgy politics, How to Train Your Dragon-2 is thrilling, spectacular and jaw-droppingly beautiful. So it should be, stealing wholesale from Avatar, Pacific Rim, Sword In The Stone, Brave, and even Game of Thrones and injected with a huge slice of imagination from Miyazaki, pumped up with the biggest, best and most detailed CGI money can buy.
Properly ‘epic’, quite how they top this one for parts three and four of the ‘trilogy’, I don’t know. RC
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Writer: Dean DeBlois
Running time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Astrid, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington