How to Train Your Dragon 2

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How to Train Your Dragon 2
A brown haired boy, holding a helmet by his side, his friends and a black dragon behind him. Dragons are flying overhead.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDean DeBlois
Produced byBonnie Arnold
Screenplay byDean DeBlois
Based onHow to Train Your Dragon 
by Cressida Cowell
Starring
Music byJohn Powell
CinematographyRoger Deakins (Visual Consultant)
Edited byJohn K. Carr
Production
  company
DreamWorks Animation
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date(s)
Running time102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$145 million[2]
Box office$170,896,047[3]
 
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How to Train Your Dragon 2
A brown haired boy, holding a helmet by his side, his friends and a black dragon behind him. Dragons are flying overhead.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDean DeBlois
Produced byBonnie Arnold
Screenplay byDean DeBlois
Based onHow to Train Your Dragon 
by Cressida Cowell
Starring
Music byJohn Powell
CinematographyRoger Deakins (Visual Consultant)
Edited byJohn K. Carr
Production
  company
DreamWorks Animation
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date(s)
Running time102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$145 million[2]
Box office$170,896,047[3]

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated action fantasy film produced by DreamWorks Animation[4] and distributed by 20th Century Fox, loosely based on the book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell. It is the sequel to the 2010 computer-animated film How to Train Your Dragon and the second in the trilogy.[5] The film is written and directed by Dean DeBlois, and stars the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig with the addition of Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou and Kit Harington. The film was released on June 13, 2014, and received positive reviews.

The film takes place five years after the first film, featuring Hiccup and his friends as young adults.[5] DeBlois revealed in an interview about the story: "At the end of last film, all these Vikings who were previously somewhat landlocked are now on the backs of dragons so the entire Northern Hemisphere opens up to them. And with that Hiccup's curiosity increases, the map expands and inevitably they are going to come across new dragons, new cultures."[6] Hiccup then "discovers a larger conflict brewing between humans and dragons and he finds himself at the center of it".[5]

Plot[edit]

Five years after the Viking village of Berk has made peace with the dragons, dragons now live amongst the villagers as working animals and companions, and even take part in racing sports. Hiccup goes on adventures with his dragon, Toothless, as they discover and map unexplored lands and territories. Having come of age, he is being pressed by his father, Stoick the Vast, to succeed him as chieftain, although Hiccup remains unsure if he is ready for this responsibility.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a colossal ice formation and encounter a dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort and attempts to capture their dragons for an insane conqueror called Drago Bludvist. The two riders return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing, and Stoick orders the villagers to fortify the island and prepare for battle. Against Stoick's orders, Hiccup flies off with Astrid and they surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret so as to be taken to Drago in order to reason with him. However, Stoick, Gobber, and Berk's other dragon riders pursue and find them.

Stoick explains that he once met Drago and found him to be an unreasonable madman, but Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable and flies off with Toothless. They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka, who is revealed to be Hiccup's long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago's traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. Stoick tracks Hiccup to the island where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret to find Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk's dragons.

Drago and his army lay siege to Valka's sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle ensues between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all dragons on the island. Drago's Bewilderbeast emerges victorious and seizes control of all the dragons, including Toothless. Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders him killed as well. Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha, approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. Drago leaves Hiccup to his fate and, riding Toothless, leads his now larger army to destroy Berk. Stoick is given a ship burial and Hiccup, now filled with regret at the loss of his father, decides that he will fly back to Berk to defend his people and live up to his father's legacy.

The dragon riders ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast's control, and arrive at Berk after the Alpha had already attacked the village and taken control of the dragons there. Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the Alpha and repeatedly fires plasma blasts at the Bewilderbeast. This frees the other dragons from the Bewilderbeast's control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new Alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue of Stoick erected in his honor, and Hiccup doing his duties as chief, proudly declaring that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has its own dragons.

Cast[edit]

Jay Baruchel speaking at the 2014 WonderCon.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

After the success of the first film, the sequel was announced on April 27, 2010.[14][15] "How to Train Your Dragon ... has become DreamWorks Animation's next franchise. We plan to release the sequel theatrically in 2013," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation's CEO.[15] It was later revealed that DeBlois had started drafting the outline for a sequel in February 2010 at Skywalker Ranch, during the final sound mix of the first film.[16]:10 The film was originally scheduled for release on June 20, 2014,[17] but in August 2013 the release date was moved forward one week to June 13, 2014.[18]

Director and writer Dean DeBlois promoting the film at the 2014 WonderCon.

The film was written, directed, and executive produced by Dean DeBlois, the co-writer/co-director of the first film.[17] Bonnie Arnold, the producer of the first film, also returned, while Chris Sanders, who co-directed and co-wrote the first film, acted only as an additional executive producer this time due to his involvement with The Croods.[19] When offered the sequel, DeBlois accepted it on condition he can turn it into a trilogy. For the sequel, he intended to revisit the films of his youth, with The Empire Strikes Back and My Neighbor Totoro[20] having the pivotal inspirations for the film.[21] "What I loved especially about Empire is that it expanded Star Wars in every direction: emotionally, its scope, characters, fun. It felt like an embellishment and that's the goal."[22]

The entire original voice cast – Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson, Ferrera, Hill, Mintz-Plasse, Miller and Wiig – returned for the sequel.[23] On June 19, 2012, it was announced that Kit Harington, of Game of Thrones fame, was cast as one of the film's antagonists.[13] At the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International, it was announced that Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou had joined the cast; they lent their voices to Valka and Drago Bludvist, respectively.[24]

While the first film was set in a generic North Sea environment, the creative team decided to focus on Norway this time around. Early in the sequel's development, about a dozen of them traveled there for a week-long research trip, where they toured Oslo, Bergen, and the fjords.[16]:12–13 DeBlois, together with Gregg Taylor (DreamWorks' head of feature development) and Roger Deakins (a cinematographer who served as visual consultant), then broke off from the group to visit Svalbard and see polar bears in the wild with the assistance of armed guides.[16]:12–16

DeBlois explained that he had learned from directing Lilo and Stitch (2002) that "if you set an animated film in a place you want to visit, there's a chance you might get to go there."[16]:14 He had wanted to visit Svalbard for some time, after learning of its stark beauty from a couple of backpackers he met during earlier visits to Iceland to work with post-rock band Sigur Rós on the 2007 documentary film Heima.[16]:14

Animation[edit]

During a visit to DreamWorks Animation in November 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama tried a motion capture camera of the kind used to capture live-action reference performance for the film.[25]

In the years before the film's release, DreamWorks Animation had substantially over-hauled its production workflow and animation software. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film that used "scalable multi-core processing", developed together with Hewlett-Packard. Called by Katzenberg as "the next revolution in filmmaking," it enabled artists for the first time to work on rich complex images in real time, instead of waiting eight hours to see the results next day.[26] The film was also the studio's first film to use its new animation and lighting software through the entire production. Programs named Premo[27] and Torch allowed much more subtlety, improving facial animation and enabling "the sense of fat, jiggle, loose skin, the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together."[5]

By the time production was complete, over 500 people had worked on the film at DreamWorks Animation's headquarters in Glendale as well as its branch offices at PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City and DreamWorks India in Bangalore.[16]:158–159

Release[edit]

The film was screened out of competition on May 16, 2014 at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[28] It was digitally remastered into IMAX 3D and released to international theaters on June 13, 2014.[29]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

How to Train Your Dragon 2 received broadly positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "certified fresh" score of 93% based on reviews from 113 critics; the site's consensus states: "Exciting, emotionally resonant, and beautifully animated, How to Train Your Dragon 2 builds on its predecessor's successes just the way a sequel should."[30] Metacritic gives the film a score of 77/100 based on reviews from 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[31] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore during the opening weekend gave the film a grade A.[32] Audiences were a mix of 52% female and 47% male. Children responded most strongly, with those aged under 25 giving a grade A+.[33]

At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Peter Debruge of Variety praised the film and its ambitions: "The pressures to make a giant four-quadrant monstrosity must be enormous, and yet, like his unflappable hero Hiccup, How to Train Your Dragon 2 writer-director Dean DeBlois has prevailed, serving up DreamWorks Animation’s strongest sequel yet — one that breathes fresh fire into the franchise, instead of merely rehashing the original. Braver than Brave, more fun than Frozen, and more emotionally satisfying than so many of its live-action counterparts, Dragon delivers. And good thing, too, since DWA desperately needs another toon to cross the half-billion-dollar threshold."[34] Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "It's the unflinching edge that gives the film its unexpected depth."[35] Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press gave the film three out of four stars, saying "How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn't play it safe, and that's why it's the rare sequel that doesn't feel somewhat stale."[36] Lou Lumenick of The New York Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Dragon 2 really soars when our hero is aloft, imparting some important lessons about family, ecology and war for young audiences. It should also do very healthy business for hit-starved DreamWorks Animation."[37] Joe McGovern of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "The flight path needs straightening, but this is still a franchise that knows how to fly."[38] Jody Mitori of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film three out of four stars, saying "For audiences who want a sweet story, they can't beat the first film of a boy finding his best friend. For those who are ready for the next stage, try this one about a boy becoming a man."[39]

Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film four out of five stars, saying "It seemed as if there was nowhere new to go after the first film, but this is a richer story that dares to go darker and is thus more rewarding."[40] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Dragon 2, like The Empire Strikes Back, takes sequels to a new level of imagination and innovation. It truly is a high-flying, depth-charging wonder to behold."[41] Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars, saying "DeBlois, who also wrote the script, successfully juggles the multiple story lines, shifting allegiances and uncharted lands."[42] Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Gruesome? A little. Scary? You bet. But that's exactly what makes the "Dragon" films so different, and so much better, than the average children's fare."[43] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars out of five, saying "For once, we have an animated sequel free of the committee-job vibe so common at every animation house, no matter the track record."[44] Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying "The story seems to be going somewhere until it comes to a halt with the inevitable showdown between the forces of darkness and the forces of light."[45] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Taking its cues as much from Star Wars and Game of Thrones as from its own storybook narrative, How to Train Your Dragon 2 breathes fire into a franchise sequel."[46]

Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Nearly as exuberant as the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 nimbly avoids sequel-itis."[47] Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The impressive part is the storytelling confidence of writer/director Dean DeBlois. He has created a thoughtful tale as meaningful for grown-ups as it is pleasurable for its young primary audience."[48] Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "This may be the first and last time anyone says this, but if How to Train Your Dragon 2 is this good, why stop at 3 and 4?"[49] Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Young and old fans of the first movie will be lining up for the wit, for the inventiveness of the characters, for the breathtaking visuals - and just the sheer fun of it all."[50] Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "One of this year's true surprises, the superior animated sequel not only is infused with the same independent spirit and off-kilter aesthetic that enriched the original, it also deepens the first film's major themes."[51] Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This was not a sequel that anybody needed, outside of the accountants. And there's another already planned."[52] John Semley of The Globe and Mail gave the film four out of four stars, saying "More than just teaching kids what to think about the world they're coming into, it's a rare film that encourages them to think for themselves."[53]

Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "How to Train Your Dragon 2 is its own standalone picture, with a surprising range of emotions that surpasses the original and a brisk pace and manner of storytelling that give it purpose and direction. The fact that it’s also so much fun, no matter what your age, almost feels like a bonus."[54] Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, saying "Not only does this second movie match the charm, wit, animation skill and intelligent storytelling of the original, I think it even exceeds it."[55] Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post gave the film a positive review, saying "How to Train Your Dragon 2 is soaring, emotionally swooping, utterly satisfying fun."[56] Bob Mondello of NPR gave the film an 8.5 out of 10, saying "It's clear that [director Dean DeBlois] took inspiration from the first Star Wars trilogy - not a bad model for breathing new life, and yes, a bit of fire, into one of Hollywood's more nuanced animated franchises."[57] Inkoo Kang of The Wrap gave the film a mixed review, saying "If there isn't enough to feel, at least there's a lot to look at. Thanks to the superb 3-D direction by DeBlois, we swoop through the air, whoosh down dragons’ tails, and juuust baaaarely squeeze into small crevices, but still, those experiences are only like being on a really great rollercoaster — they don't mean anything."[58] A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B-, saying "There aren’t just more dragons, but more characters, more plot, more everything. The trade-off is that the charm of the original gets a little lost, a casualty of rapid-franchise expansion."[59]

Box office[edit]

As of June 22, 2014, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has grossed $94,596,047 in North America, and $76,300,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $170,896,047.[3] In North America, the film earned $18.5 million on its opening day,[60] and opened to number two in its first weekend, with $49,451,322, behind 22 Jump Street.[61]

Soundtrack[edit]

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Soundtrack album by John Powell
ReleasedJune 17, 2014
Recorded2014
GenreFilm score
Length60:07
LabelRelativity Music Group
John Powell film scores chronology
Rio 2
(2014)
How to Train Your Dragon 2
(2014)

Composer John Powell, who earned his first Academy Award nomination for his music in the original movie, returned to score the sequel. Powell described the project "a maturation story" and stated that he too tried to achieve the same maturation in the structure of his music by developing further every aspect of his compositions from the original film.[62]

Recording took place during April 2014 at Abbey Road Studios in London[63] with a 120 piece orchestra, a 100-voice choir,[62] and a wide array of ethnic instruments, including celtic harp, uilleann pipes, tin whistle, bodhrán, and bagpipes; the latter of which were performed by pipers from the Scottish group The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.[24] The ensemble was conducted by the composer's usual collaborator Gavin Greenaway.[62]

Sigur Rós lead vocalist, Jónsi, who wrote and performed the song "Sticks & Stones" for the original movie, provided two new original songs for the sequel in collaboration with Powell.[24] Belarusian-Norwegian artist Alexander Rybak, who voices Hiccup in Norwegian, also wrote and performed the song "Into a Fantasy". The latter song is featured only in the European versions of the film.[64]

A soundtrack album for the film was released on June 17, 2014 by Relativity Music Group.[65][66] The album features over an hour of score by Powell, as well as the two original songs written by Powell and Jónsi. Rybak's song, "Into a Fantasy", was released separately as a single.

Track listing
No.TitleLength
1."Dragon Racing"  4:34
2."Together We Map the World"  2:19
3."Hiccup the Chief/Drago’s Coming"  4:44
4."Toothless Lost"  3:28
5."Should I Know You?"  1:56
6."Valka’s Dragon Sanctuary"  3:19
7."Losing Mom/Meet the Good Alpha"  3:24
8."Meet Drago"  4:26
9."Stoick Finds Beauty"  2:33
10."Flying with Mother"  2:49
11."For the Dancing and the Dreaming" (performed by Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson & Mary Jane Wells)3:06
12."Battle of the Bewilderbeast"  6:26
13."Hiccup Confronts Drago"  4:06
14."Stoick Saves Hiccup"  2:23
15."Stoick’s Ship"  3:48
16."Alpha Comes to Berk"  2:20
17."Toothless Found"  3:46
18."Two New Alphas"  6:06
19."Into A Fantasy" (performed by Alexander Rybak * only in Europe and the Slavic countries)3:32

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film, titled How to Train Your Dragon 2, was released in June 2014 by Little Orbit.[67] Developed by Torus Games, the game is available for Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Wii U and PlayStation 3.[67] It allows players to choose various riders and dragons, and enter a dragon flight school, participating in trainings, challenges and tournaments.[67]

Sequels[edit]

The third film, titled How to Train Your Dragon 3, is scheduled for release on June 17, 2016.[68] Dean DeBlois, the co-director of the first and director of the second film, will return, along with producer Bonnie Arnold and all the main cast,[69] while Composer John Powell, who scored the first two films, will also be returning.[70]

References[edit]

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