Making the Grades
It’s not often that a sequel lives up to the original film but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is one that does. And banking on the success of this movie, Dreamworks has already announced a release date in 2016 for How to Train Your Dragon 3.
Gerard Butler voices Stoick, the chief of a Viking village on the remote and rocky island of Berk. Big, burly and blustering, he rules with a heavy but compassionate hand. In the past, his villagers were plagued by dragons that swooped down and made a quick lunch of the inhabitants’ sheep. Luckily Stoick’s son Hiccup (voice by Jay Baruchel) put an end to the trouble when he learned how to train the dragons to work with the people instead of against them. Since then life has been pretty harmonious for the seafaring pirates.
Now with the dragon situation remedied, Stoick is anxious for his son to assume leadership of the town. Yet the scrawny and sensitive Hiccup worries he will never live up to his father’s expectations. As well, he is preoccupied with mapping out the uncharted lands around their island.
One day, after crash-landing on a previously unexplored landmass, Hiccup and his dragon Toothless discover a secret world populated by hundreds of dragons. Even more unexpected is the woman who has made it her mission to protect the beasts from Drago, an evil dragon hunter (voice of Djimon Hounsou). He intends to enslave the flying creatures. However Valka (voice of Cate Blanchett) also has a secret she’s been keeping from Hiccup.
The revelation, the ensuing battle with the dragon hunters and Hiccup’s feelings of inadequacy make this story better suited for a slightly older audience. Hiccup has grown up since his first adventure ended five years ago and the subject matter in this script reflects that. Instead of thinking girls are yucky, Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) share a kiss or two. And a couple of different boys have gone soft in the head for Ruffnut (voice of Kristen Wiig)—though it is hard to know what they see in her.
As well, battle scene between gigantic dragons (that look like close cousins of Godzilla) might be a little scary for very young viewers. Nevertheless, this film is packed with plenty of other slapstick comedy and sight gags to keep most kids entertained. And for adults, the animation is incredible, especially when Hiccup and Toothless skim along the surface of the ocean kicking up a spray as they hit the waves.
Still the visuals are only part of this film’s appeal. While it may seem obvious, every child eventually has to find his or her way in the world independent of parental expectations. And that is a dilemma for Hiccup who is anything but a typical Viking. Luckily for him, there is more than one way to lead a village.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Hiccup wants to resolve the conflict with the dragon hunters by talking instead of fighting. What do they ultimately do to stop Drago and his dragon hunters? Why does diplomacy not always work? Are both groups of Vikings playing by the same set of rules of combat?
One of the characters says he cannot change because he was born that way. Is that kind of argument an excuse for not wanting to improve or change? Does Hiccup have to be just like his father in order to be a good leader? How does Hiccup overcome his physical challenges?
How can parents and children learn to appreciate their differences? What strengths do each of them have in this story?