How To Train Your Dragon 2 Digital Release Review

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise put together a fair stock of extended content before it even got to the sequel, and the second film, while not quite as solid as the first, avoids the usual pitfalls of sequels, and delivers all the fun and adventure viewers are after.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens with an introduction to the new world Hiccup’s village has become, what with dragons now a part of daily life. Before long, Hiccup gets a surprise he never would have thought possible, he meets an unknown dragon rider. This leads to some wondrous encounters, and some unnerving ones, but ultimately Hiccup learns that the mystery rider is his mother. Of course, this sets the stage for the film to follow in the footsteps of the first, shifting the undercurrent of emotional play from Hiccup’s struggles with his father, to those that follow more closely with motherhood. The happy reunion is short-lived though, because it turns out that someone is killing and/or capturing dragons on a massive scale, and Hiccup and his band of dragon riders aren’t equipped to keep dragonkind safe.

The first film blew me away, and I was surprised by the little details that really pulled it together for me. The true target audience probably doesn’t care that much about pacing, or the subtlety of connections, or even that the story often avoided the cookie-cutter plot outline as often as not, but it made it a treat for me. These technical details hold up again, even to the extent that things get a bit more dramatic and intense than I would have expected, but it’s the cute dragons mixed with thrilling adventure that is going to hold your audience, and the film manages these as well. Most importantly, it works with the necessary shift toward actually having a villain far better than I dared to hope, keeping true to the various characters that fans have fallen in love with, not just in the first film, but in the made-for-TV productions as well.

How to Train Your Dragon Review

I have long been amazed at the extent to which it seems that most of the best storytelling comes to us via animated efforts now, but having several years on a project has its potential benefits, and that shows here even more than most.

It also holds up to the first well in its almost Mr. Rogersian appreciation of its audience’s ability to… just plain be actual people. It delivers complexity and a richness of thought and emotion, without ever having to talk down to anyone, all while keeping so many balls in the air that it nearly dares you to keep it all straight. From Hiccup’s various relationships, to the development of the dragon rider crew generally, to the backstory that eventually leads to the danger we now face, it is all laid out with an eye toward the assumption that the understanding necessary to pull from the motifs is there, even for those who don’t know what motifs are.

As Hiccup and his crew battle dragons, henchmen, and their crazed leader, they equally battle control, vengeance, power, and weakness, and all from several angles. That may not sound like the endorsement for fun that an animated film is looking for, but while the cute and zippy dragon pulls kids in, they are as critical of character development and story as anyone else.

As I said, this one didn’t have quite the effect on me that the first one did, but that’s comparing two outstanding features to each other. The addition of a powerful maternal focus is a pleasant surprise, and the overall ability to make you laugh, cover your eyes (depending on age) and simply wish to hang out with the dragon riders is as strong as ever, and kids are going to love it.

How to Train Your Dragon Review

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Digital Release Features

If you haven’t opted for a digital release version of a movie recently, this is one of the best options that has come along recently to reintroduce you to the idea. When you open the title, it looks just like the Blu-Ray menu, and you get all the bonuses. The video is fantastic, though this will naturally depend on what you’re using to play it. I’ve noticed in the past that computer screens are not necessarily the optimal video experience for a feature film, and I would expect that to be even more true with an animated movie, but there was nothing missing with this one. The colors and details were crisp and rich, and even the darks and shadows came through well.

Watching on an iPad, or other touchscreen device, makes for an easy experience, with all the bonuses in a convenient “file” slide menu.

This one has quite the list in store for you, including a number of bonuses that the kids will enjoy. That’s oddly something that seems to be moving toward a rarity these days.

The one that stands out as the most valuable is probably the bonus “show” – Dawn of the Dragon Races – which is basically a stand alone short (26 min) that shows us how the dragon races featured in the film came to be. It’s a slick and funny “episode” that gives you a lot more time with the rest of the dragon riders, and will probably feel familiar to those who have seen the TV series from the franchise. It’s a nice bonus.

Also of prime value is the making of featurette, which is right around an hour long. It’s a far more interesting look than most things in this category, as those related to animated films usually are, but this one gives so much detail on so many facets of the project that everyone will enjoy their time. This one reminds me of the bonus feature on Up, which almost breaks the barrier into something that didn’t need the film to connect to.

An assortment of short features let you in on the world of How to Train Your Dragons, as explained by the cast. Hiccup gives us an introduction to the upgrades of the village, complete with concept art, and full maps. We also have one on Inventions, Dragon stats, and the war machines seen in the film. All of them are, despite being very short, pretty cool additions, even if only for the look at the artwork behind the animation.

The usual suspects are also included – deleted scenes, still gallery, trailer – and they are what they are. With the exception that deleted scenes for animated films are always a lot cooler than for other films. Two of them are very rough, and would have made for good scenes, while a third is a little further along, but is probably the least interesting addition.

There’s also a commentary, and it’s probably one of the only commentary tracks on an animated movie that is not only worth the time, but is something kids might actually sit through. The writer/director and a few others are on board, and they make it a very entertaining addition. As much as some are probably interested in all the details of the construction of the film that often are the main points in these tracks, this one gives a lot of insight into how the story came together, and what ideas drove the direction of the characters… and where the jokes came from. It’s a good one.

Overall, this is a great one to pick up as a digital release, and an extraordinarily strong film besides.

Catch the all-new animated adventure, DreamWorks DRAGONS: DAWN OF THE DRAGON RACERS, exclusively with the Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD Double Pack and Digital HD

[quote_box_center]

Soaring past the $500 million mark at the global box office, DreamWorks Animation’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is not only one of the best reviewed films of the year, but also 2014’s highest grossing animated film to-date and one of the top ten grossing films of the year in any genre.

The thrilling second chapter of the epic HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON trilogy returns to the fantastical world of the heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless. The inseparable duo must protect the peace and save the future of men and dragons from the power-hungry Drago when Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment releases DreamWorks Animation’s critically acclaimed HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 on Digital HD October 21 and on Blu-ray™ and DVD November 11.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, the next chapter to the Academy Award® nominated film released in 2010, is “sensational…an instant animated classic,” proclaims Access Hollywood. A hit with audiences and critics alike, the film received an outstanding audience reaction with a coveted “A” CinemaScore® and certified 92% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com. Variety’s Peter Debruge declares the film is “Braver than ‘Brave,’ more fun than ‘Frozen’…Dragon delivers.” It’s a must-own title for the whole family!

Fans will get even more excitement, adventure and, of course, more dragons when DreamWorks Animation releases DRAGONS: DAWN OF THE DRAGON RACERS, an all-new animated adventure featuring the original voice cast. A hunt for lost sheep soon turns into a high-flying sprint in the all-new epic adventure as Hiccup and friends battle to become the first Dragon Racing Champion of Berk! DRAGONS: DAWN OF THE DRAGON RACERS will be available exclusively on the Blu-ray™ combo pack, DVD double pack and Digital HD.

The all-star film talent features Jay Baruchel (This Is The End), two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Gerard Butler (Olympus Has Fallen), Craig Ferguson (“The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”), America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”), Academy Award® nominee Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Neighbors), T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley”) and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids).  The film also adds the voice talent of Academy Award® nominee Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) and Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”).

The Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD feature hours of bonus materials that explore the world of dragons and more. Furthermore, the Blu-ray™ and Digital HD contain four exclusive featurettes, deleted scenes and a 60-minute behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the film, shot and created by the film’s writer and director Dean DeBlois.

[/quote_box_center]

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Special Features

DreamWorks Animation How To Train Your Dragon 2 Blu-ray™ & Digital HD include:

Feature film in high definition

  • Fishleg’s Dragon Stats – How much do you know about your favorite dragons? Explore the Dragon 2 Guide and learn more about your favorite fire-breathing friends!
  • Drago’s War Machines – Gobber the Belch narrates this inside look at the fierce creatures and “high-tech” weapons used by Drago to expand his growing dragon army.
  • Berk’s Dragon World – Explore the massive stable created to house the dragons of Berk, along with other changes made on the island to promote harmonious living.
  • Hiccup’s Inventions in Flight – Learn the secrets of how Hiccup and Toothless work together to form the ultimate high-flying team in this fascinating interactive tour.
  • Deleted Scenes — The awesome adventure continues with telling deleted and extended scenes, including action-packed footage you couldn’t see in theaters!
  • Commentary by Simon Otto, Bonnie Arnold, Dean DeBlois, and Pierre-Olivier Vincent
  • Where No One Goes: The Making of How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Writer-Director Dean DeBlois and his team take you behind the scenes of creating the film’s eye-popping visual effects and epic story
  • Dragon Races – Catch the thrilling aerial action and exciting play-by-play commentary as you cheer on your favorite riders in a spectacular dragon race!
  • Image Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • World of DreamWorks Animation – Move to the music videos from your favorite  DreamWorks Animation feature films

 

RU?

Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.