Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

By Perry S. Chen, Movie Review Columnist

 

(5 out of 5 starfish)

(5 out of 5 starfish)

In “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” which is five years after the Vikings of Berk made peace with the wild dragons in the original animation, the giant, fire-breathing reptiles have integrated themselves into every part of their culture. Hiccup and his legendary “Night Fury” dragon, Toothless, spend every day charting unexplored lands together, while Astrid, Snotlout, and the rest of the former gang spend their time competing in dragon races.

However, Hiccup faces pressure from his father Stoick, to succeed him as the chieftain of Berk, as Hiccup’s diplomatic ideals clash with his father’s slightly stubborn methods. Hiccup also discovers something about his long-lost mother that will open another path in his life. Soon, a terrifying threat emerges that threatens to destroy Berk, and the entire way of life of the Vikings: a psychopathic and power-hungry conqueror, Drago Bludvist. As the only man Stoick truly fears, Drago captures dragons and forces them into slavery, claiming he alone can control the dragons for use in his unstoppable dragon army.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2″ is an action-packed adventure about a young man’s coming of age, and how he finds his place in the world. Hiccup challenges the idea that people can’t change, but he is faced with the harsh reality that some people cannot understand reason.

The character design for this film is very realistic. I could especially notice the smallest details in the people that indicated aging, like how Hiccup’s facial structure broadens, and how Stoick’s beard is whiter in comparison to the first movie. The stunning variation between the hundreds of uniquely designed dragons was absolutely incredible. I can really appreciate the time and energy that goes into designing characters, having made an animated short myself. The only non-realistic part of the character design is how every single character has clean, white teeth. However, I won’t count this as a flaw, because if this film were an accurate representation of ancient Vikings’ oral hygiene, Hiccup and his dragon would both be toothless!

In my opinion, the character animation was the most outstanding attribute of the movie. The film captured the minutest details of facial expressions and body language. This was especially apparent in Toothless’ expressive and realistic movements. The black dragon expresses both canine and feline body language. For example, like a dog, he is playful and often shows his affection by licking Hiccup. His feline traits show when his pupils narrow into slits like cat eyes, and from how he arches his back when threatened. I could also notice equally lifelike movements in the people as well, like how the animation captured Hiccup’s expressive movements. With such expressive body language, I could really tell what certain characters are thinking or feeling.

Excluding the new additions to the cast and crew, the voice talents featured the same actors from the first film. All of the actors demonstrated incredible talent in conveying emotion of any particular scene. I could especially feel Hiccup’s emotions and thoughts through his voice, like how his tone can be excited or sober, depending on the circumstances. I definitely think that Jay Baruchel, the voice of Hiccup (whom I interviewed at the press junket for the original film) did a great job in making his voice sound slightly older and more mature than the young, awkward, adolescent version of Hiccup from the first movie.  Even though Vikings don’t have Scottish accents, Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson still played the parts of Stoick and Gobber exceptionally, providing the role of a father and parts of comic relief.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is undoubtedly the best animation film of the year so far. Even with the challenges of making a sequel that is as good as its predecessor, director Dean DeBlois managed to create one that actually surpasses its previous movie. Because of how impressive this film is all around, I give it 5 starfish! It also deserves an Oscar nomination.

Moral: In great sadness one can find great strength.

Jan 11 2015 Update: Congrats to director Dean DeBlois and producer Bonnie Arnold for winning the Golden Globe best animation award tonight!

02 AK Columns, Amazing Movie Reviews, How to Train Your Dragon 2, co-directors picture

How to train your dragon co-directors Dean DeBlois (L) Chris Sanders (R) producer Bonnie Arnold (M) with Perry Chen at 2012 Annie Awards red carpet (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

Perry Chen with Dean DeBlois, How to Train Your Dragon director at 2012 Annie Awards (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen with Dean DeBlois, How to Train Your Dragon director at 2012 Annie Awards (photo by Zhu Shen)

Copyright 2014 by Perry S. Chen

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About Perry Chen:

Perry S. Chen is a 14-year-old award-winning child critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 8th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog, as well as restaurant reviews for DiningOut San Diego Magazine and San Diego Entertainer. He won the San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2013 for his movie and restaurant reviews. Connect with him on Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/perryspreviewsfan