There aren’t many animated movies today that are made for an audience besides children, that just adult bits thrown in so the family can stand sitting through them. I’ve enjoyed animated films for many years, and still enjoy them, despite that many of them are incredibly predictable and have the same message repeated over and over again. This is not the case with “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
When it was announced that the sequel was hitting theaters in 2014, I was excited. I remembered the prequel, and I had watched it over and over again since then. Besides the beautiful animation, and the delightful cast of characters, I find more themes meant for adults than children in this movie that can speak to both audiences on a surprisingly deep level each time I see it. The sequel is just as fantastic as the first, with even more to offer to audiences in terms of animation and storytelling.
First and foremost, the animation for this film is beautiful. I had the good fortune to see it in an IMAX theater, and it blew me away. The many flight scenes were incredibly well done, and the atmosphere of IMAX made it that much more palpable. Every time a character took off, you felt as if you were on the back of the dragon with them. Everything else was incredibly smooth and detailed and the motions of the characters seem almost exact to that of a living human, or animal in the case of the dragons.
When it comes to animated films, it’s difficult to find female characters that look different from the rest. This wasn’t the case for this film. The animators at Dreamworks make sure to give each female character a unique look that is their own, as well as unique personalities. It’s also clear to see how the characters have evolved since the first film, and their development is truly something I enjoy seeing.
The film was made with new animation equipment called Apollo that allowed for real-time rendering, and quick fixes to any errors. This software was created through a partnership with Intel over a five year span, and helped the animator’s creative processes, much more than their previous software called Emo, which took anywhere from fifteen seconds to twenty minutes to render any changes that had been made. The new software allowed for animators to work on incredible subtleties in the animation of the characters that I had missed the first time I saw the movie, so I went to see it again just to try to find them all. Every small twitch or facial expression is expertly made and makes you believe that the people you see on the movie screen are just as real as you or I.
The film also deals with a surprising amount of adult content that shows you this film is not limited to children only.
The characters go through different frustrations, separations and even flirtations. There’s a reunion of the main character’s family when his father sees the long-lost mother and the scene where he first meets her after having been gone for twenty years has some of the most incredible animation I’ve seen in a long time. The incredible subtleties to their faces and motions truly brings them to life in heartbreaking way.
The movie soundtrack is also incredibly well-made. The composer John Powell creates an incredible atmosphere with his music that fits each scene perfectly. He composed the music for the prequel film, which earned him an Academy nomination for Best Original Score. He didn’t receive a nomination this year, sadly, but his work is still fantastic. My favorite on the soundtrack composed by Powell is the only song that actually has any lyrics to it, which was performed by Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, and Mary Jane Wells. Their voices mix together well and the music creates a charming melody that makes it hard not to get up and dance like a Viking.
Looking through the film, the only problem I could find is that, while I adore that the film has moments for adults, the themes might be a little too dark for children, specifically the theme of death. Spoiler alert, there is a death in the film, though I won’t say who, and when that moment comes, it’s actually quite shocking. The death itself wasn’t very graphic, but the scene caught me off guard and it was a fierce reminder of our mortality. I think this might be something that would catch the kids off guard as well, and if people aren’t comfortable with bringing their children to it, then I would recommend that they don’t. Other than that small flaw, I think the movie is fantastic.