To paraphrase the tagline of the original “Superman” movie for “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “You will believe a dragon can fly.”
The story begins five years after the original 2010 movie. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now an older and wiser teenager and master Dragon Whisperer. Through his efforts the citizens of his hometown, the Viking village of Berk, no longer fear dragons. In fact, the fire breathers have become part of the fabric of life. They have dragon races—that resemble Harry Potter’s Quidditch matches—and live a peaceful life co-existing with their serpentine pals.
Peace is threatened when Dragon Trappers, lead by the evil Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), set their eye on the domesticated dragons of Berk. To avoid a war Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) must change Drago’s mind about enslaving dragons.
The follow-up to “How to Train Your Dragon” half-a-billion-dollar grossing coming-of-age story is more of an action/adventure movie than the original. It begins with a stunning aerobatics sequence that shows Hiccup and his trusty sidekick Toothless soaring through the air doing barrel rolls, loops and stunts usually only seen at airshows. The slick and sassy scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It’s a wild ride and one that reinvents the franchise.
Director Dean DeBlois has taken some chances with the story, deepening and darkening the tone with subplots about family relationships, prejudice and sacrifice. Some of the imagery is intense—the “alpha” dragons look like they sprung from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft—and may be a bit traumatic for toddlers, but should be fine for kids 6 and up.
It’s not all sturm and drang, however. Baruchel brings the fun with his expressive voice and the script is gently humorous. The focus is firmly on the action/adventure aspects of the story, but there are laughs along the way for ids and adults.
Without slavishly aping the original it thematically expands the universe, building on ideas established in the movie that audiences first fell in love with. In other words, it’s a sequel, with recognizable characters and situations, but also works as a stand-alone film.
Most of all it’s about the on screen imagery. Inventive sequences—it “rains” fish at feeding time in the dragon sanctuary for instance—and beautiful animation carry the day.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is high on spectacle and never wastes an opportunity to entertain the eye and up the wonder factor, but it’s not just shock and awe. An emotional subplot regarding family adds some weight to the fantasy elements of the story.
Jay Baruchel has a unique voice. Instantly recognizable, the nasally twang he uses to bring the character of How to Train Your Dragon 2’s Hiccup to life is so distinctive it even has it’s own facebook fan page.
You would think that kids, who made the Viking teenager and his dragon Toothless so popular on the big screen—the original 2010 movie grossed almost half a billion dollars— and on the TV show and video games, would be thrilled to meet the man behind the voice. Right?
“Friends who have kids will say, ‘Hey! Look! It’s Hiccup,” and then it is utter, sheer disappointment,” he says. “‘This is not Hiccup. It’s a real life human dirt bag I’m looking at.’ Although I have to say I was in a liquor store in Los Angeles a few months ago and I was saying something to the cashier and this guy turned around and said, ‘You’re funny. You know you’re doing something right when you get recognized by your voice,’ but usually with the kids, they’re super bummed to actually meet me.”
Baruchel has voiced Hiccup in two films (with at least one more on the way) and forty episodes of the television show. Director Dean DeBlois says that the actor and the character are now interchangeable, with Brauchel bringing character ideas to the table every time out.
“How much input I ultimately have is purely up to (Dean),” says Baruchel. “I have played this character for seven years and I think he has a very specific way of speaking and a specific way of communicating. What’s really cool is that Dean, who created this epic world that comes from his head and heart, and who has so many things to think about, still finds time to be a collaborator and will always allow me to find my own way into things. I’d like to think we can equally take ownership over (Hiccup).”
One of Hiccup’s vocal tics unmistakably came from Baruchel—his habit of calling his dragon by the nickname Bud.
“That is clearly me,” he says. “I remember the first time we did it in the first one and it just kind of stuck and became a thing. I call everyone Bud in real life and half the work is for me not to call every character in this movie Bud. It’s kind of specific to Toothless now. I still fit in some hoser wherever I can.”