I think Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise is fantastic fun for both children and adults, but I wish I’d known a couple things before I took my children to see the new movie, “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
Please note, this review contains some spoilers. I won’t give everything away, but don’t read any further if you’d prefer to be totally surprised.
A new beginning
The movie starts on familiar territory with Hiccup’s father, Stoick, certain he knows what’s best and Hiccup equally positive that his father is totally wrong. While this dynamic was a big part of the original movie, it still feels fresh here because it’s an issue that families continually face.
While out doing what he thinks it right, Hiccup runs into a mystical dragon rider who makes his dragon whispering skills look like child’s play. It doesn’t take long for the filmmakers to reveal this magical person is his mother, Valka.
The pacing of the story demands Valka’s absence be explained away, accepted and forgiven by all involved in a matter of minutes, but my children weren’t quite as quick to let this go. The absent parent is a common enough element in children’s movies, but my kids were both disturbed that Valka had virtually abandoned her family, choosing to stay away and presumed dead for two decades. To be perfectly honest, I had a hard time talking about it with them myself because I, too, was uncomfortable with the way the movie seemed to gloss over her choice and its consequences.
A sad ending
As one door opens, another closes. Since books and movies set in historical periods often refuse to allow the son to fully assume his place as a leader until the existing leader, typically his father, dies, Stoick’s death isn’t really a huge surprise. It’s beautifully handled, but emotionally wrenching, especially with the added complication of Toothless’ involvement.
The big picture
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” offers amazing visuals, characters you can care about and a rousing story about thinking for yourself, forgiveness and the critical differences between dominance and friendship. Like other offerings from the franchise, it’s a story the whole family can enjoy with adventure, magic and heartwarming characters who triumph in the end. There’s even a small touch of romance. Just be ready for a few difficult conversations after the credits roll.