For a very brief moment in 2010 directors Dean DuBlois and Chris Sanders were the new 'It' team of comedy mayhem. The pair had just made the first film, aptly titled How To Train Your Dragon, and petered over the nether of commercial and critical success. A rare achievement in any artistic endeavour. The first was genuinely fun, funny, and heartfelt with the depiction of teenage crushes and asserting one’s manhood.
In many ways a sequel seems utterly unnecessary: Hiccup found the courage to face his Viking leader father and showed the community that dragons aren’t the evil creatures of lore. But the sequel is here and it’s without the Sanders half due to scheduling conflicts. It’s hard to tell what’s lacking without his input, as his fingerprints aren’t that of an auteur, but it definitely feels much safer.
Part two takes place five years later where the town of Berk has reassessed its anti-dragon approach and they’re part of the working wheel, playing assistant to the town’s smithies. The young adults, Hiccup and company, use dragons as we use cars and regularly host races for prizemoney and as a means of skill testing.
It’s a fun little ditty that quickly summarises the first film’s themes – reconsider your judgement because dragons are awesome! – along with a few immature jokes that make the voice casting of Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of teenage humiliation movie fame, sensible, and then it wonders where to go to next.
Dreamworks, with DuBlois, have agreed to a sequel so long as there’s a third and final film afterwards. How To Train Your Dragon 2 in many aspects is built around serving the purpose of the third film. The second act where Hiccup meets a person from his past that I won’t spoil here mostly resembles a stitched up montage. There’s no weight to this important moment: Hiccup gets over any teenage angst lightning fast and quickly they’re best friends.
The fight that the film is supposed to build towards is summed up in less than ten minutes with a lame battle that doesn’t take full advantage of the impressive set piece it offers.
Aside from one sobering moment towards the end, most of the film has this weightless feel, as if we’re on the back of a dragon above the clouds with nothing to do but marvel at the sky. Nice view, but that’s about it.
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire