It was with excitement and trepidation that Craigy Boy and I donned our 3D glasses last night to watch the latest animated offering from Dreamworks, How to Train Your Dragon 2. Excitement? Because the first instalment blew us away. Trepidation? For the very same reason. When it comes to Hollywood blockbusters and their sequels ’tis rare indeed that lightening strikes twice and as such we were bracing ourselves for some dragon sized disappointment.
Less than five minutes into the opening scene, reminiscent of a game of quidditch with dragons replacing broomsticks and a black sheep standing in lieu of the coveted golden snitch, and I knew we were onto a winner: any film which causes me to laugh out loud within the first few minutes has some serious potential!
So it would seem that Hiccup’s heroic and herculean effort to unite viking and dragon some five years earlier has paid off. Man and fiery beast are living in relative harmony and life in Berk is good. Hiccup and Astrid have a little thang going on and icy relations between father and son have thawed considerably, with Stoick priming his son to take over as commander in chief.
Hiccup is less than enamoured with the idea of shouldering such tremendous responsibility and prefers to soar the fluffy cloud filled skies on the back of his beloved Toothless in search of new life and new civilisations, boldly going where no other boy and his dragon have gone before.
It is during one of these self-appointed reconnaissance missions that Hiccup learns of a deadly threat to the peace and harmony that he, his people and their dragons now enjoy - Drago Bludvist, an evil and sadistic warmonger who is amassing an army of dragons with only one objective in mind: to kill and to conquer.
Much of the action of the film from this point forward becomes dominated by death defying aerial battles that will have you sitting on the very edge of your seat, even more so if watching in 3D. On more than one occasion I didn’t realise I was holding my breath until my lungs begged me to supply them with oxygen. I felt it was in my best interest to oblige.
The films culminates with the battle of all battles as the forces of good and evil gather for one last, almighty stand. There is death and destruction and tragic personal loss for Hiccup which makes this sequel considerably darker than its predecessor yet these moments of emotional intensity are interspersed with the same humour and charm that made the first film so incredibly endearing.
Speaking of endearing, Toothless undoubtedly steals the show once more with his slobbering and puppy dog antics that will tug on even the hardest of heartstrings. His wild and wacky facial expressions ensure that he makes a deep emotional connection with the audience without him having to utter a single word.
In the case of Cate Blanchett it would have been better had she not uttered a single world. The Oscar winning Australian actress voices the role of Valka, dragon rider and founder of a safe haven for abused and neglected dragons everywhere (RSPCD?) and a long lost figure from Hiccup’s past. Never has a dodgier Scottish accent been heard since the staging of Brigadoon. Seriously Dreamworks, there are some real live Scottish actresses out there with genuine and authentic Scottish accents that are nothing less than a pure joy to listen to. Think Kelly McDonald of Brave. Heck, I’d have taken a chance on Susan Boyle over the toe curling efforts of Blanchett!
Rant from a real live Scottish person over. It’s the one blip in an otherwise impeccable and epic adventure that will have hearts soaring as high as the dragons and riders themselves.
Ginger Warrior, over and out.