About a week ago, I gave a very enthusiastic review of the latest Dreamworks Animation release, How to Train Your Dragon 2. Having great adoration for the first film, it’s no faint praise that I found this film to be an improvement in EVERY aspect possible. That point of view still stands, but if there was any one detriment to my overall experience, it wasn’t with the actual movie. It was with my theater’s scheduling.
It’s no secret that I considered the first How to Train Your Dragon the best use of 3D I’d ever seen in a movie, so suffice it to say that the sequel was one of the VERY FEW movies I actively sought out seeing in 3D. Well, as it goes, my local theater had a wonky schedule. My local AMC houses ETX screenings, and while it’s basically just a form of IMAX-lite (and not a cheap one, at that), it still makes for a stellar piece of quality viewing. However, my theater decided to relegate Dragon to its smaller 3D theaters, reserving its biggest screen to the decidedly non-3D, non-IMAX 22 Jump Street. Needless to say, I was furious with this ridiculous move, cashing in on 22’s popularity, when it really doesn’t justify it like this movie does. However, logic must’ve struck them, as they added screenings for this movie in ETX the next weekend. Having wanted to see it this way from the beginning, and simply wanting an excuse to see the movie again, I immediately pounced upon the opportunity. The movie itself is even more rewarding a second time (and I hope it will continue to be on subsequent viewings), but as for my thoughts on the 3D, at the VERY LEAST, the film is every bit on par as its predecessor, and in some areas, is even an improvement.
That is no easy task to improve on what was already the best use of 3D around, but this movie somehow accomplishes it. If ever a movie justified paying the inflated price at the cinema, this is it. Obviously, what stand out the most are the signature flight sequences. These scenes are hair-raising to watch, and practically an experience all their own. The way the camera moves, the way they follow the characters, you feel as if you are right there, flying right alongside these dragons. The thick clouds, harsh weather conditions such as snow, and various massive obstacles further add to the immersive experience, and the lush environments create such a calming sense of tranquility. They’re also useful in generating utter excitement, as that epic battle sequence about two-thirds into the film is just a masterstroke of adrenaline-pumping staging.
So, how do these movies manage to do 3D so well, yet other movies have tried and failed miserably to do so, pretty much to the point that they ape these ones? For me, it’s because no other movies have been able to utilize their space and environments the way this movie does. This type of 3D could have easily become gimmicky and distracting in far lesser hands, but with Dreamworks, they know when to subdue themselves and not draw attention away from the narrative. One other great usage of the technology is to further establish an intimate connection with the characters. When the more serious scenes play out, you feel like you’re occupying the same space as them, up close and personal with every aching emotion in them. It’s also quite meaningful in the close ups of the dragons, whether it be staring straight into the souls of Toothless and Cloudjumper when they face you, or whether the lingering stares of the Bewilderbeast are striking absolute terror in you. On that note, anything featuring the Bewilderbeasts looked incredible, letting you absorb every inch of their massive size and staggering weight.
However, just because I’m so high on the 3D, don’t assume that’s my only reason for loving it so much. If a movie DEPENDS on its 3D to be any good, it’s never going to stand the test of time (A prime example being Life of Pi). Indeed, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a film that stands on its own merits. On a second viewing, its mature strengths only continue to improve, and catching new details on screen are an absolute delight. So no, it doesn’t need its 3D to be fully enjoyed, but to enhance the magic of the experience on screen, it’s one of the rare movies that will make every cent worth it. It is an event that is not to be missed, and it’s the format that I recommend anyone to see in. Reserve your tickets, and prepare to be astounded…