Sequels are tricky business. As much as fans may crave a continuation of a story they love, it’s hard to ignore the glaring fact that, unfortunately, most sequels can never compare to the original. Jay Baruchel, who voices the main character of Hiccup in “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” says this is something they were acutely conscious of from the very beginning.
“Every day [“How to Train Your Dragon”] becomes more and more of an institution,” Baruchel says. “So now the caliber of the first movie becomes the basement of quality on this one; no matter what it has to at least be as good as the first one, ideally better. So there’s a bit of a weight that comes with that.”
And while the pressure to make a sequel that could live up to the beloved first film was definitely present, America Ferrera, who voices the spunky blonde Viking Astrid, saw a great advantage when it came to the second film.
“With the first one we went through a lot of steps of just discovering ‘Who are these characters?’ and ‘What is this world?’ and it was more of a discovery process,” says Ferrera. “Going into the second film just felt like we weren’t creating anything, we were just playing on what we had already established.”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” takes place a few years after the events of the first movie. Now, Vikings and dragons live among each other in peace in the island of Berk. However, trouble starts to stir when Hiccup comes across a dangerous dragon hunter (Djimon Hounsou) that’ll stop at nothing to get his way.
While watching this movie, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the visuals, which feature sweeping landscapes bursting with color and detail. Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins, who’s best known for his work on the films of the Coen brothers, worked on both “How to Train Your Dragon” movies as a visual consultant — something that writer/director Dean DeBlois said spectacularly impacted the breathtaking look of the film.
“Just about every frame was affected by his prolific career as a live action cinematographer; his use of natural light is unlike any other,” says DeBlois.
“[Roger and I] actually took a trip to Norway and then to the deep Arctic and to Svalbard and we rode around on snow mobiles and avoided polar bears and took incredible photographs of the light up there, and just how it filters in at the Northern latitudes – that all found its way into the movie.”
And even though “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is an animated movie, those involved with the film insist this isn’t just for kids.
“I don’t want animation to be just for kids…I’m on a mission to lift that stigma,” says DeBlois. “I definitely don’t want it to exclude kids, but I think it’s such a powerful medium that it can reach beyond that; you shouldn’t have to feel even oddly uncomfortable to go to an animated film without a kid.”
Ferrera agrees with his sentiments. “I think it’s so clear that it’s just another medium,” says the actress. “Storytelling can transcend mediums.”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is now playing in Miami Beach theaters.
Lauren Cohen is a film critic in South Florida. You can read her online at http://www.examiner.com/movie-inmiami/lauren-cohen.