Nov 172014
 
Title: How To Train Your Dragon 2
Genre: Family/Fantasy/Adventure
Starring: Jay Baruchel,
Cate Blanchett,
Gerard Butler,
Jonah Hill,
Kit Harington,
Craig Ferguson,
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Certificate: US: Not-Rated
UK: PG
Picture: 1080p
16:9 (2.35:1)
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Subtitles: English
Runtime: 1 Hours 37 mins
Extras: Short,
Featurettes
Studio: Dreamworks Animation
Release Date: USA: November 11 2014
UK: November 17 2014
See If You Like: How To Train Your Dragon,
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

After the success of Shrek, moving on to Madagascar, and the Kung Fu Panda series, Dreamworks Animation release another hit, with 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon; a brilliant, original, family film following a young boy who befriends a dragon; and whilst it can be difficult to provide a follow-up to such a successful family film, Dreamworks have done an excellent job; as How To Train Your Dragon 2 is every bit as good as the first movie.

Revisiting the world of Hiccup and the Vikings he shares his hometown of Berk with, How To Train Your Dragon 2 picks up the action five years after the events of the first movie (where everyone has gone from fearing and fighting dragons to embracing them as part of their culture, and living alongside their winged companions), and given the Vikings new found ability for flight seeks to fully expand their world by taking them to new places, and meeting new friends and, of course, new enemies.

Friends come in the form of a host of new dragons, and another seasoned dragon-rider (who, it turns out, has plenty of ties to Berk), whilst enemies come in the form of dragon trappers, and the man they work for; a vile, and rather typical, evil warlord named Drago Bludvist, who’s intent of trapping every dragon he can find in order to expand his dragon army, and conquer anyone who opposes him.

The story is simple enough (we’ve got dragons, the bad man wants our dragons, lets stop him), but somehow, in family-film terms, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is an epic; every second of its 1 hour 42 minute runtime is well utilised, the scale and scope of the film feels much bigger than most animated movies would dare attempt, and while Berk doesn’t really feel that vulnerable (even during a Berk-based battle), the whole movie is fraught with a sense of danger and foreboding that comes from the unknown, and actually makes you feel like these kids have something to fight for (especially when a major character gets hurt in a way you really don’t expect).

It all adds to the expansion of the world, and the ageing of Hiccup and the people of Berk; because while the innocent, playful, getting to know your dragon, stuff from the first film may have disappeared from this movie, what we’ve got is an organic world which has grown in realtime, successfully aged the characters (in both looks and actions, even if Hiccup and his friends are still a little bit childish for supposed 20-year-olds), and given us a darker, more intense film, which still maintains many of the endearing qualities of the original the camaraderie, the comedy, the setting, and the dragons, and will still be just as appealing to the young ones.

In terms of voice acting, Jay Baruchel (RoboCop) is still a touch grating as the whiny Hiccup (but undeniably suited to the role), Gerard Butler (Olympus Has Fallen) delivers another excellent turn as Hiccup’s Viking father Stoick the Vast, while Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street) and Craig Ferguson (Brave) also reprise their well-suited roles, and are joined by excellent newcomers Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood), Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, and Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator) as the voice of the tyrannical Drago.

Musically the score was a little off (it fit the world fine, but was far too reminiscent of Pixar’s Brave), the entire Viking culture seems just a little too Scottish, and there were scenes that looked liked they’d been screen-grabbed straight out of Avatar, but in the end these are all minor gripes, and in what’s essentially a children’s film, they really don’t do anything to harm the movie at all.

Delivering, tension, emotion, fun, some stunning animation (which is a world away from the first film), and essentially making a family-friendly epic, Dreamworks Animation have delivered everything you could want with How To Train Your Dragon 2; a successful expansion of the first film that was well written and directed by the returning Dean DeBlois, How To Train Your Dragon 2 does not disappoint, and is bound to be enjoyed by children, parents, and anyone who appreciates a well crafted animated movie.

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Picture:

Flying onto Blu-ray with a faultless video presentation which remains stunning throughout, brings exceptionally rendered textures, an expansive range of vibrant, stable, and inviting colours from a clearly appealing palette, as well as exceptional fine detail, superb depth, strong contrast, and bottomless black levels which remain free of any and all issues and anomalies, and mean How To Train Your Dragon 2 could just be your next reference quality Blu-ray.

Audio:

Just as strong is the exceptional 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack which accompanies the How To Train Your Dragon 2 Blu-ray; a consistently enveloping mix which constantly fills the soundstage with well placed directional effects, smooth pans, excellent use of ambient effects throughout, appropriate bass levels, and always clear dialogue; which proves to be hugely engaging, and only furthers the cause for How To Train Your Dragon 2 being your new reference quality disc.
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Extras:

Though the special features on offer here aren’t exactly stellar; including a series of statistics for each dragon class, a similar feature looking at the various weapons used by Drago, and another looking at Hiccup’s various inventions (including his prosthetic leg), a collection of stills, deleted scenes, a short where Hiccup shows us around the world of Berk, and trailers for other Dreamworks Animation movies, may look good on paper, but are lacking in any real substance, and fairly skippable overall.

The Bottom Line:

Yet while the bonus material might not be as special as the film itself, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a fantastically animated, wonderfully entertaining, family film which is sure to be enjoyed by all; effectively continuing the story of Hiccup and Toothless, taking it to the next level, and coming to Blu-ray with reference quality picture and sound means it’s not only a brilliant, infinitely re-watchable film, but a solid all-round addition to any Blu-ray collection.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Blu-ray ratings