How to Train Your Dragon 2

10 Things Parents Should Know About How to Train Your Dragon 2

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dreamworks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon 2 is in theaters today, once again inviting us into this world of dragons and vikings. Thanks to Spin Master, I was able to attend an advance screening this week with my family. Here are 10 things you should know if you’re considering the movie.

1. What’s it about?

At the end of the first movie [uh, spoiler alert], Hiccup has managed to convince his dad (and the leader of the clan) that humans and dragons can live peacefully together. The sequel picks up five years later, when the little village of Berk has been completely transformed to reflect this peaceful coexistence. Hiccup and his friends have now entered adulthood, and the movie is really about their transition into greater responsibilities. Hiccup, in particular, chafes against his future as the leader of the clan.

But as Hiccup and his dragon Toothless explore farther from home, they encounter dragon trappers, a plot to build a massive dragon army, and a mysterious dragon warrior.

2. Who’s in it?

Most of the cast from the first movie is back. The younger Vikings: Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, America Ferrera as Astrid, Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig as the twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut. Gerard Butler is back as Stoick, with Craig Ferguson as Gobber, his right-hand man (who happens to be missing his left hand). In addition there are a few new characters, voiced by Cate Blanchett, Djimoun Hounsou, and Kit Harington, but I can’t say much more without providing some spoilers.

3. Will my kids like it?

Are there Vikings and dragons in it? Heck, yeah. There’s plenty of action and excitement. There is humor interspersed throughout the movie, but it’s more of an action adventure than a comedy. There are, of course, battles (people vs. dragons, people vs. people, dragons vs. dragons) and some of these can be pretty intense, but probably nothing that most kids who have seen cartoon movies can’t handle. Unless your kid has a phobia of dragons, in which case you might want to preview it first.

4. Will I like it?

If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one, too: it has a lot of the same heart but doesn’t just retread the same plotline. There are some scenes that seem like they’re written especially for parents (and kids who are approaching adulthood). Also, the animation itself is incredible. Computer animation makes leaps and bounds in progress every year; when I first saw Stoick on-screen, I was amazed by the texture of the fur on his cloak. Even though the characters in HTTYD are very stylized, they look solid and tangible. And, sure, it’s a fun flick.

5. Is it geeky?

Yep! One of things I loved about the first film was that Hiccup was a scrawny geek in a world of brawny fighters. He’s not quite as scrawny this time around, but he’s still more of a thinker than a fighter. As in the first film, he’s got a few fun inventions that he’s come up with, though you’ll wish there were more. And Fishlegs, the chubby Viking, is still quite the dragon geek. In the first film, he’s the one that quotes stats about dragons. This time around, you get a glimpse of his next level of geekery.

6. Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Sadly, no. There are really only three or four female characters with speaking parts (and Ruffnut is mostly played for laughs), and I don’t remember them talking to each other. However, I was at least pleased that there are some strong female characters in the movie who aren’t reduced to damsels in distress, but you’d think it wasn’t that hard to let them have a conversation with each other, right?

7. 3D worth it?

A couple of years ago I was still pretty skeptical about 3D, but with computer-animated films, the 3D is pretty much built-in and not tacked on afterward. I think the movie would be a blast to watch in 2D, but I was glad I got to see it in 3D. There aren’t a lot of silly effects that fly out of the screen, but the scale of the world when the dragons are in flight feels bigger when you get that extra depth.

8. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?

That’s a tough one—the movie clocks in at 102 minutes, so if you can hold it, that’s best. This being a kids’ film, there’s a lot of action going on, but that means you don’t want to skip the quiet, dramatic moments, either. There’s a scene [minor spoiler alert] where a character dies; if you leave right at that moment, you’ll get back in time for some of the conversation that follows.

9. Any good previews?

We saw previews for three upcoming animated films: Home, Penguins of Madagascar, and The Book of Life.

Home (which has the least-Google-able title ever) is based on Adam Rex’s book The True Meaning of Smekday, and features the voice of Jim Parsons (aka Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory). I really loved the book, and I’m excited to see how it turns out—though at least from the preview it looks like the story may have changed somewhat.

Penguins of Madagascar: the penguins finally get their own movie, with the same title as the TV series—and I’m sure it’ll be a crowd pleaser. The penguins are rescued by animal secret agents, led by a wolf voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch… but they’re not really interested in being rescued.

The Book of Life, produced by Guillermo del Toro, looks like it’s inspired visually by the Mexican Day of the Dead, and is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

10. Is there anything after the credits?

At the beginning of the credits, there are some beautiful images that look like concept art for scenery, but there isn’t any extra scene at the end.

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6 thoughts on “10 Things Parents Should Know About How to Train Your Dragon 2

  1. Thanks for this. I am planning to take my 4 year old niece but wasn’t sure about it. This and having her watch an episode of Dragon Riders of Berk which follows Hiccup and the gang has helped.

    1. He makes some good points, and I’m not using the Bechdel Test as the litmus test for whether this movie is good or bad. However, since I have daughters, I also care when we go watch a kids’ movies how the female characters are portrayed … and whether they spend all their time fawning over guys (as Ruffnut does) or whether they actually have a meaningful story arc, etc. It’s funny that he mentions Mako Mori and Tauriel, because they both also show up in this article (WARNING: Spoiler Alerts for How to Train Your Dragon 2 and several other movies):

      The article argues that, even when Hollywood gives us a Strong Female Character (Bechdel Test aside), they’re still often relegated to serving some male character’s story arc or going all mushy when the guy shows up. This is true of the LEGO Movie, HTTYD2, Pacific Rim, The Hobbit.

      If the Bechdel Test is mostly useful not as a measure of an individual movie but of Hollywood as a whole, I’d argue that it’s still valid to show that many individual movies that we consider good are still failing to show females interacting with each other in realistic or useful ways, and not just in action movies. The fact that there are very BAD movies that do pass the test only reinforces that it’s such a low bar—why can’t more GOOD movies pass this very simple benchmark?

      1. Let me just say that Ruffnut “fauning over the guys” was the FARTHEST thing from Anti-feminist. In fact, is was one of the most progressive and nuanced things I’ve seen in an animated movie, recently.

        You see, our world is so ruled by the male gaze– hell, even in Disney movies, often it’s the male gazing lovingly at how pretty the female is. Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2, however, shows a humorous play on the FEMALE gaze. It’s put into focus and used as something relatable and comedic. So often in movies they use some guy gawking over girls as comedy relief. Because it’s like, well…. “haha, boys will be boys!” and its something the audience is supposed to relate to. As in, “We all do it too.” But when it’s ALWAYS from the boys’ point of view, it gets really objectifying to women. But here they spun it around, and I just think it’s great that they had a female character as the comedy relief, doing something that’s been too-often seen as funny on guys but creepy on girls. Way to turn the tables!

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