BERK — It’s easy to become a cynical audience member during the summer movie season.
Sure, we love the giant spectacles and brainless adventures for a while, but come late June or early July, we’re all kind of funned out. We’re ready for some emotion mixed back into our storytelling. We ask for, if I may go so far, a point to our big-budget, Hollywood tent pole consumption.
That’s why movies like “How to Train Your Dragon 2” are so important in the summer line-up. It’s a film that absolutely understands summer, with its sequel status in pace, sweeping effects and weightless eye candy. However, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” goes so far as to give its viewers something new. It exists for a reason, and the story it wants to tell is one that will stay with you long after you’re done wiping your eyes through the closing credits.
Picking up five years after Hiccup and his best buddy Toothless have convinced their Viking tribe of a dragon’s good nature, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” moves past the tiny island of Berk. The duo are now exploring and mapping a world beyond what the clan has known, and as their physical horizons expand, so do the complications and confusions that come with broadening one’s understanding.
The Hiccup and Toothless we grew to love in the original film will definitely be there to greet audiences, but once the dominos of fate begin to fall, the sweet and innocent friends from Berk start down a journey that will change who they are forever.
In large part, writer and director Dean DeBlois is the reason “How to Train Your Dragon 2” succeeds at the level that it does.
DeBlois has made it clear that he sees this second chapter as the bridge in his Dragon trilogy. This is the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Berk stories, and like “Empire,” you’ll notice the tonal shift in this adventure.
But this isn’t a sequel that goes darker for the sake of being hip. In many ways, this is a movie that’s growing up with its audience. The 8- and 9-year-olds who enjoyed the first “Dragon” are now 12 and 13, and like Hiccup and Toothless, their worlds are changing in new and sometimes terrifying ways.
The voice acting, lead by actors Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler and Cate Blanchett, feel invested and sincere. And, once again, John Powell supports the story with his panoramic musical themes and altogether memorable score.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a highlight of 2014, and for me personally, the best thing we’ve seen so far in the summer line-up. My fellow FlixJunkies, John Clyde and Curtis Linnell, weren’t ready to go that far in this week’s podcast, but agreed this is a big win for families.
Make a stop by OK.com to check out what other parents are saying about age appropriateness, but I’ll cast my vote for 5-years-old and up. I saw some younger kids at my screening, and they were smiling on their way out, but know there are a few intense scenes that may scare younger viewers.
Travis has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlicksJunkies podcast. You can contact Travis at email@example.com.