This is Berk.
It snowed and hailed awesomeness in 2010 when the team of its creators put seemingly all possible amounts of wisdom, humor and feeling into making it a ground for a beautiful tale about friendship. Hiccup met Toothless, Vikings met dragons, brilliance met hard work; and an endearing film was made. It was a concoction of the right amounts of genius and emotion. It worked.
Few people were surprised when the studio announced a sequel, and fewer people believed that a second trip to this magical place was necessary. The minuscule portion of the fans who did believe waited for four years in anticipation, keeping themselves warm in the hope that Dean DeBlois can still recreate the magic on his own without his collaborator Chris Sanders.
In the still above, Astrid tells Hiccup, “What you’re searching for, it isn’t out there. It’s in here.” The fan inside me screamed out joy when How To Train Your Dragon 2 ended; because the excruciating wait was worth it. Because HTTYD2 took everything that was great about the first film and used it to establish a deeper, more fulfilling route into the world of its awe-inspiring creation rather than being just another shameless Hollywood cash-grab. The characters: grown and wiser. The animation and 3D: breathtaking and startlingly detailed. The writing: funny, intelligent and surprisingly dark. Hiccup has his mother, Berk has a new chief, Dreamworks has a new winner. Filmmakers, take note: this is how you make a sequel.
The amount of detailing that goes into the color, atmosphere and particle movement (snow) is stunning to say the least. The “I grew facial hair for you” bursts of an adolescent mindset are juggled lovingly between the characters we’ve come to admire. HTTYD2 dares to explore and break the constraints of all the hyper-spirited action one can set to the backdrop of the sky – and it soars.
John Powell’s meditative, rousing background score has a moving emotional wavelength all of its own: skyrocketing and diving with the film to stir up the feels. The melodies shoot skyward when the characters fly; the rhythm bubbles softly when the characters ponder or weep. It is a symphony that melts so comfortably into the narrative that it’s difficult to think about it as something separate from the animation, or the voice acting for that matter. Cate Blanchett owns her role of Valka, with everyone from Jay Baruchel to Jonah Hill reprising their previous roles. An unexpected turn in the third act may be a little intense for the kiddies. I broke down in one scene but turned to wipe the tears quickly with my sleeve, only to discover the 50 year old man sitting beside me doing the same.
It is so gratifying to see a film which you’ve devotedly loved has been so thoughtfully rekindled and continued. With a new covering above the similar skeletal structure and the same beating heart, HTTYD2 is that satisfying, faithful sequel that actually succeeds in living up to the ingenuity of the original. Undoubtedly one the best time you’ll have at the movies this year. Cressida Cowell, on whose books the two films are based, must be proud.
The astonishingly talented Dean DeBlois strikes again for Dreamworks. Your move, Disney.