Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Kind of disappointed that Jordan's Furniture didn't pick this one up at all, as I saw the first How to Train Your Dragon there, and these movies are some of the best use of 3D on a large screen you'll see. I wound up seeing it on one of Boston Common's regular 3D screens rather than the Imax-branded one because, well, 9:30am is pretty early for the "cheap" show (which would still have been $13, but that's the cheapest you see Imax 3D downtown).

Anyway, it's a pretty good movie, although there is one negative in the form of trailers: I got to my seat just in time for my first glimpse of photorealistic Paddington. The slapstick is probably more faithful to the character than I remember, but, wow, does this seem like something that needs to be traditionally animated.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 June 2014 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, RealD)

The first How to Train Your Dragon caught audiences a bit by surprise; DreamWorks had been trying to recreate the success of Shrek so often that a movie that told its fantastical story without tongue in cheek seemed almost unheard of. The sequel is more complicated almost out of necessity, but it's still clever, good-looking, and full of adventure.

It's been five years since Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) befriended dragon Toothless and eventually convinced the other Vikings on the isle of Berk that dragons could be friends rather than just monsters to be feared. Now, while Hiccup's friends have regular dragon races, and his father Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler) wants him to succeed him as chief, Hiccup and Toothless are exploring nearby islands and cataloging the various species of dragons in the North Sea. What they find is a ship full of dragon-hunters let by Eret (voice of Kit Harrington), trapping dragons on behalf of Drago Bloodfist (voice of Djimon Honsou), who is as charming as he sounds. There's another player, though, the mysterious dragonrider Valka (voice of Cate Blanchett), who has been rescuing wayward dragons.

World-building is an interesting thing - How to Train Your Dragon just needed a little bit - "here there be dragons", more or less - but sequels inevitably push that a little further. What kind of dragons are there? What can the characters already established as tinkerers do with what they learn from dragons, and if we posit that dragons exist outside of Berk...? Well, it can be very easy to get bogged down in that sort of minutia, and that's before considering the TV series that ran between the two films. For the most part, writer/director Dean DeBlois does a good job of not requiring any knowledge of that material, and just letting the pieces we see - mostly Hiccup's maps and flaming sword - be fairly self-explanatory as part of the jump forward (itself kind of unusual, since one of the benefits of animation to filmmakers is not needing to worry about actors getting visibly older in the time it takes to mount a sequel). There's enough explanation to give folks who haven't seen the first the set-up, but not a lot of getting-to-know-you time.

Full review at EFC

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