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.