So before I launch into my dissection of this movie, I need to point out that we are huge How to Train Your Dragon fans. I mean, HUGE. Not only does Toothless remind us of our Maine Coon cat Wraith, but Berk ranks up there in one of the first imaginary worlds Jonathan and I would magically transfer to if we possibly could. (I think Middle-Earth is still number one..)
Be warned, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Ye’ve been warned. Yarrr.
So I have some major issues with this movie. Most of them revolve around Hiccup’s mom.
The excuse Valka gives for abandoning her husband and prematurely born infant son who survived against incredible odds is just WEAK. Seriously, her husband and her have a spat, and even though she herself was on the verge of killing a dragon in her sons room, she feels that she must abandon her family to go live with the creatures? Really!? This is the compelling reason you went not-even-paying-child-support AWOL on your doting family? The excuse and the familial implications behind them just prevents you from fully embracing or loving the character in my opinion.
There should have been a much more compelling reason for her absence, a heroic or honorable reason, so that the reunion would be less “dead beat mom welcomed back home” and more “omg happy reunion sob sob sob”. It would be different if she couldn’t find her way back after years of searching. Or if her staying somehow prevented catastrophe on the village (her presence was somehow keeping the Alpha dragon in check or something similar), or any other excuse beyond, “Yeah, I just ducked out cuz I was emo and misunderstood.”
Seriously. How can a loving mother – a supposed “good” character – stay away from her husband and son for 20 years? It’s heartless. It makes her love of the dragons seem selfish and perverse. I mean, ultimately, she is a horrible mother and wife. And there is no action on her part that redeems her poor decisions. Which would be fine, the grace and love Hiccup and Stoick extend to her is touching and heartwarming, and would make for a wonderful happy ending IF… THEY HADN’T FREAKING KILLED OFF STOICK.
There was no real reason for Stoick’s death, and it completely negates any excuse Hiccup’s mom has for appearing in the script. No happy ending for the jilted lover just sours the script.
Because think about it. Without a reunited family living happily ever after, what was the point of finding “I abandoned my family for my pets” mommy dearest? She did not assist in the battle against Drago. Her dragons didn’t really contribute to the fight. Hiccup and Toothless handle the situation in the exact same way they would have with or without the discovery of the new unfaithful female lead. The only good that could have possibly come from the first third of the movie being devoted to Valka is if it contributed to a happy ending. But it didn’t. They kill off the faithful husband, thus blocking any happy ending feel goods the audience could have derived from the introduction of Valka.
Which leads me to my second major issue with the film. Killing Stoick was just pointless. It served no purpose in the plot. It didn’t advance the story or serve as a pivotal point. It literally caused the movie to crash. His sudden and unexpected death came so close on the tail of the final victory battle / end of the movie, that when the triumphal narration of Hiccup ensues, you’re still busy thinking about the pointless waste. Instead of causing this groundswell of emotion, it just confuses and strangles any emotional involvement in the viewer.
Not to mention making Toothless commit a murder can be pretty damn confusing and traumatizing for some children. I’ve read a couple of comments on IMDB where parents report their kids no longer “loving” Toothless because they don’t understand why he hurt Hiccup’s daddy. Did DreamWorks forget who their main audience is??
I know animated movie deaths in children’s movies can be taboo, I mean, remember how outraged parents were when Disney killed off Mufasa, causing hordes of small children (and adults) to sob in confused outrage? Well at least that fictional death was the foundation of the entire movie. There was a point behind it. The movie could NOT have progressed without the death of Simba’s father. At all. But what about Stoick? Could the movie have progressed without his death? Absolutely. In fact it would have been BETTER storyline-wise.
Stoick could have been badly hurt or wounded, showing that Toothless mind controlled = bad. But afterwards, when he recovers, he can forgive the remorseful Toothless and the confused and frightened children too young to understand the “evil mind controlled Toothless” can have some form of reconciliation and their favorite dragon wouldn’t be sullied in their minds. Children have so few positive role models and icons in this day and age, why put blood on the hands of one as innocent and loveable as Toothless? What a waste.
In fact, Stoick could have been so badly hurt that he had to retire as Chief, and instead live happily ever after with his dragon-loving wife, leaving the story to wrap up in the exact same way, only this time with Hiccup willingly stepping up – as his choice – as Chief. We’d see character growth in Hiccup, going from shirking his birthright and duty to growing into it (not having it thrust upon him via a senseless tragedy) and everyone could live happily ever after. So did Stoick have to die? Not at all. It did nothing but detract from the film emotionally and plot-wise and scar a few hundred unsuspecting children.
Think about the finale. When the movie concludes the same way the first movie does, with the whole triumphant “This is Berk” speech, it is not as powerful, happy, or emotional. In the first movie, Berk has changed, and for the better. The village has grown, progressed, and transformed and it leaves you happy, excited and uplifted. But in the second movie, what has changed since the opening of the film? The town is all beat up, the Chief is dead, and Toothless is a murderer. Wouldn’t the “This is Berk” speech have been much more triumphant if Valka and Stoic are proudly watching the dragon races while their son, who has willingly taken over as Chief races around with his fiancé in the middle of a village being rebuilt?
Other minor points that annoy me:
In the first movie, when Stoick gives Hiccup the helmet that was made from his moms breastplate, that thing was frikkin’ huge! But his mom? B cup at best.
They never explain how Drago Bludvist subdued his alpha dragon? It just doesn’t make sense. There is no legitimate back story to this bad guy beyond the “Hot damn, I’m evil!” persona. Apparently the official website says Drago found his Bewilderbeast when it was a hatchling and through cruel training made it obedient to him even long after it became powerful enough to easily kill him. But the movie? Not a hint of this backstory.
The touching pep talk that Valka gives Hiccup after her husband is slaughtered: “There are no bad dragons. Just bad people.” Is just baloney. That fact was kind of disproven in the first movie when the bad boss dragon needed to be defeated by Hiccup and Toothless.
But aside from these and a few other can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it annoyances, the movie was enjoyable as far as sequels go.
The costumes are beyond cool. All of the hidden compartments and gadgets on Hiccups gear makes the costumer in me want to get all up ons that costume. When the movie first started Jonathan asked me, “Is that a lightsaber on Hiccup’s leg?” And yes. Yes it was. We love the new inventions in this film. Hiccup has a retractable sword coated in Monstrous Nightmare spit, allowing it to catch fire. A gas capsule in the handle can release Zippleback gas for a larger explosion. Can we say, AWESOME???!
In some ways the movie actually exceeded the first, for instance the visuals are just as stunning if not more so. Ditto with the music which is just brilliant. The humor is spot on, and overall it was still refreshing and nostalgic to dive back into the world of Berk. I love the mature features of the characters and subtle character development in the kids.. the comraderie and banter is the same, while still original. And, oh yes, Hiccup is a hottie.
Also, Tessa loved it. She bounced in her seat, kept reaching out trying to grab Toothless in the flight scenes, and was more engaged with this movie than any either other we’ve taken her to.
I was really disappointed in this movie, but I didn’t hate it. It’s not a favorite, but it’s worth giving a watch or two.
So! What did YOU think of this film? Agree with my points? Disagree? Share below!