Note: There are major spoilers in numbers eight and nine. There are vague spoilers in six and seven. You have been warned.
- Alternate titles: How To Train Your Dragon 2: WHYYYYYYY, How To Train Your Dragon 2: On Your Left, Pixar*, How To Train Your Dragon 2: Toothless (And Some Other Characters, But We Know What Your Priorities Are), How To Train Your Dragon 2: Jon Snow Rides Dragons
- My little Hiccup grew up! For the record: I have been in love with these movies since the first once came out in theaters in 2010. Therefore, I am allowed to call Hiccup "my little Hiccup" because that's how fandoms work.
He's older than me now, but we'll ignore that.In the first movie, he's awkward in an adorable way, unsure of himself, just trying to find his place. It's the beginning of a coming-of-age. In this movie, he's still all of those things--Hiccup will never not be awkward. He's still not sure where he fits with the rest of his village, but he has more confidence. He's gained a role, even if he's unsure it's one he wants. It's even more of a coming-of-age story than the first. (Also, did we just get Neville Longbottomed by an animated character?)
- I'm disappointed in Astrid's role in this movie. In the first movie, Astrid is an awesome fireball of sass, confidence, and curiosity. She's more comfortable with herself than Hiccup, which intimidates him. And yet, the end of the movie sees them developing a cute relationship that works despite their somewhat opposite personalities. Five years later, and they're still together. They're super-comfortable with each other, which would make sense if they've been a couple for several years. Astrid still has so much more confidence than Hiccup, but we didn't get any moments where Astrid completely steals the show. She never tells Hiccup off like she does in the first movie (and there are times in both where it's deserved). She isn't a damsel in distress--she does her fair share of dragon riding and fighting--but she seems so much more passive. She proves her strength by going off to rescue Hiccup, but I feel like her character development took a backseat.
- That being said, I'm glad that there is no relationship drama. So many movies (and books) that establish a relationship feel the need to mess with it in the sequel. Many times, this is more annoying than anything, and comes across and forced and unnecessary. In HTTYD2, there is no relationship drama between Astrid and Hiccup, and I appreciate that. While their relationship is an important part of the story, there are bigger things to worry about. (Also, at one point, Stoick refers to Astrid as his "future daughter-in-law". This leads me to wonder...are they engaged? Or is Stoick just making an assumption?)
- It's so visually interesting. It's full of color and action. The characters look cool, and so do the landscapes and everything in between. Even if it had no plot or even sound, it would still be interesting to look at. I know about as much about animation as I know about performing brain surgery, but it seems to me that someone at DreamWorks knows what they're doing. And they do it well.
- I love Hiccup's mom. I was wary of this particular plot point, since there were so many ways it could go wrong. Fortunately, it was handled so well. Her reunion with Hiccup is just the right mixture of emotions: confusion, awkwardness, joy, regret. She's afraid that Hiccup won't accept her, but he does. She's impressed by his skill with the dragons, and he's impressed by how much he has left to learn. It's a relationship that has so much room for growth in future movies. Her reunion with Stoick was handled equally well, if not better. But it hurts, since it was so short-lived.
- KIND-OF SPOILER: This movie took a dark turn. It isn't uncommon for sequels to get darker, but it's often unexpected in an animated PG movie. It's no Order of the Pheonix or Mockingjay, but it deals directly with a death caused by a main character, imminent destruction of a home, and more. It's sadder, and maybe even a little bit angrier. It was a risk, but I think it paid off. It adds interesting layers of character development while still leaving space for another sequel. Even if it does mean I'm in another sad fandom.
- SPOILER: Zombie Toothless is scary. Toothless is my favorite part of these movies. I don't know how you can see him and not want a Night Fury. He's friendly and loyal like a dog, but smarter. And can fly. What more could you want? When he was under the control of the alpha dragon, all of that cuteness suddenly became menacing. Now, no matter how much you love Toothless, you'll always have that image in your memory. Have fun with that.
- SPOILER: I go about my daily life and I'm fine until my brain decides to remind me that Toothless killed Stoick. Them I'm no longer fine. This is a kids' movie. It's rated PG. But that...that's harsh, for any movie. I think everyone in the theater was at least a bit shocked when this happened. While I suspected that a major character was going to die (they dropped the Hiccup's-mom-is-alive spoiler bombshell in the trailer months ago, and there's only one reason to drop something like that so soon: you're hiding an even bigger bomb somewhere), I never expected this. And then I just sat there, my brain going "DO NOT WANT". Just when they had gotten the family back together, too. The worst part, though, is when Hiccup pushes Toothless away immediately afterward. It's such a hard moment because Toothless can't possibly understand what he's done or why Hiccup is angry, but Hiccup can't even bear to look at him.
- Whoops, I accidentally joined a sad fandom again. I don't try to do this. It just happens automatically. I wouldn't have considered HTTYD a "sad fandom" before, but now it definitely counts as one. Why does this keep happening?
- Jon Snow, what are you doing in Berk? Get back to the Wall. I'll admit that it took longer than it should have for me to take Eret, the dragon hunter, seriously. He's voiced by Kit Harington, and, well, I associate Kit Harington with Jon Snow, for obvious reasons.
Is this a subtle message to Jon/Daenerys shippers?
- Ruffnut is basically Tumblr. Her adoration for Eret is just like Tumblr's obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch or [insert male celebrity here]. I expect GIFs reflecting this as soon as the DVD comes out.
- The soundtrack is fantastic. I own the first movie's soundtrack, so I was already familiar with the themes and style of the second movie's music. While HTTYD2 used many of the same themes from its predecessor, it also built and expanded on them. It will sound familiar to people who know the first movie's music, but it's not the same, either. It's epic, majestic, haunting, or subdued, in all the right places. I could say more, but why bother when you can just go listen to it yourself?
- Dragons. I love dragons, and books/movies about them. I love these movies, Eragon (but please, the book...), A Song of Ice and Fire, etc. I even wrote a book about dragons. And the ones in this movie don't disappoint. There are cute and awesome ones in the first movie, but there's even more variety in the sequel. It's like Pokémon--there are just so many. Even ice dragons. How cool is that?
- I'm skeptical about a third movie. I love both these movies, and I will gladly go see the third. The plot isn't begging for a third movie, but it left enough lose ends to make another possible. The problem is that sequels have this nasty little habit of going downhill, and I would rather see this series end on a high note. Maybe the third movie will be awesome, but I also think there's no point in making another just for the sake of it.
- Ultimately, I still like the first movie better. You know how I feel about the sequel, but overall, the first is still my favorite. It's easy for that to happen with anything, since when you watch the sequel, the first has already become a long-time favorite. Still, HTTYD has a bit more charm than HTTYD2. I'm not sure what specifically makes it better, but at this point, I still like it more.
But Hiccup does have a fire sword in the sequel...
Did you see HTTYD2? How do you think it compares to the first movie? How do you feel about That Thing That Happened?
*Yes, I did just throw in a Winter Soldier reference. I'm still not over Bucky Barnes. Don't judge me.
PS: I saw OneRepublic, The Script, and American Authors live last night. It was amazing. Everything about it was just...awesome. OneRepublic and The Script have been some of my all-time favorite artists for a long time, and it was so cool to get to see them live.