How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Appropriateness Rating: Good
Entertainment Rating: Awesome
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) is a sequel to the Original 2010 film (reviewed here). It follows the same hero, a young Viking boy, Hiccup, five years after the events of the last movie. Since his discovery in the last movie that the dragons are in fact kind creatures that can be tamed and the adoption of his views by the rest of his village the dragons have become an integral part of their society and they are much loved. Armed with a new efficient vehicle (the dragons they ride!) Hiccup seeks to explore new places and find new things and he comes across some others that still don’t realize how great dragons are and how humans and dragons can live in harmony. He discovers that he’s not the only one – there is someone else trying to save dragons from the dragon trappers.
In terms of a sequel this film was well done. It had its own new story while bringing back some of the most loved interactions like those between Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. However, it does disappoint when it comes to the portrayal of the villain of the story who is the only “different” person in the sea of Vikings. It’s still a great movie to watch, but don’t forget to point out the negative portrayal of the villain to your children because without mentioning it they might internalize the message that being different – not fitting in with the all-White majority – makes someone evil. This message is unfortunately so widespread in popular culture and media that many children internalize it and it causes some deep insecurities about their own identity!
Warnings: more physical attraction between male and female characters, boyfriend/girlfriend interactions, kissing scenes, prejudiced portrayal of the villain, condoning prejudice
As with the first film this film contains many instances where the young characters are shown to be attracted to members of the opposite gender and many girlfriend/boyfriend interactions, especially that now Hiccup and Astrid have become close and have become boyfriend/girlfriend.
The film also shows two of the other Viking boys trying unsuccessfully to attract the attention of the girl twin Roughnut, but she ignores them. Unfortunately, she eventually finds someone else to be attracted to and the scenes showing her obsession with this newcomer, zooming in on and commenting on his muscles, etc, are not appropriate.
There is also a kissing scene between Hiccup’s father and mother when they are reunited near the middle of the movie.
The biggest warning relates to the portrayal of the villain which disturbed me when I watched and made it difficult for me to enjoy the movie, but which younger Muslim children did not even notice until it was pointed out to them! The villain is physically much darker not just in the way he dresses but also in his skin. He has different facial features from all the other vikings and he is described as being different/from a different land. Everyone tells Hiccup that it’s useless to try and talk to this villain and he must be defeated by force, and Hiccup resists this idea, insisting that there must be a way to convince the villain, but, unlike in the last movie, Hiccup turns out to be wrong and the others and their prejudiced views turn out to be right! This spoils the movie a little bit, but in terms of adventure and excitement it’s still fun to watch.
Messages: not condoning wrong actions of majority
This film unfortunately didn’t have as strong a message as the last one. In the previous film there was a clear message that the dragons should not be fought, but this time since most of the characters already know this there isn’t a new, good message that comes out!
There is one character, Hiccup’s mother, who is reunited with her family after a long absence. It turns out that she did not try to return to her village after being carried away by a dragon because she knew they would not listen to her entreaties to stop killing dragons. While it’s not a good message in the sense that she should have returned to her baby son, it still shows that she could not condone the views of the majority and stood up for her beliefs in the small way she could. The fact that Hiccup did eventually succeed in convincing the rest of the village of the same idea also shows that one should try harder and have hope when they are standing for something right.