30/30 Day 10: How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Hi, I’m Tyler Magruder, or sorryjzargo as I go by on the internet.  I am going to hopefully complete a 30/30 this month.  If you don’t know what a 30/30 is, it is a blog series where you write one blog a day for a month (on months with 31 days it is called a 31/31).  I’ve already missed a few days, so this is a make-up blog.

Dragon2

            Today I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 in 3D at a local theater.  Directed by Dean DeBlois, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an animated Viking fantasy film and sequel to 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon.  It features the vocal talents of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, and several other notable supporting actors.  The movie is loosely based on the series of children’s books by the same name by Cressida Cowell and adapted to screen by Dean DeBlois.  The movie is animated by Dreamworks Animation.

Like the last movie I reviewed, one of the main reasons I went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the high IMDb score.  However, I also enjoyed the first How to Train Your Dragon movie, so I would probably have seen it regardless.

I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I will have spoilers about the first one because it’s been out for 4 years already.

The story of How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place five years after the original and follows the young dragon tamer Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) as he reconnects with his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett) and attempts to find a peaceful solution for dealing with the evil Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou).  It mixes many tried-and-true tropes from fantasy and Viking movies and they work well together.

So now let’s get to what makes up the movie, from best to worst.

The animation in the movie is astounding.  The textures, the lighting and the attention to detail are almost flawless.  There was one scene in the film where it looked like an unfinished animation, but other than that I was blown away by the visuals.  The character design was great, fitting well with the Viking/fantasy world.  The costumes and the paint were especially fantastic.  Some of the faces felt out of place in the otherwise realistic animation, but that’s a small complaint.  The dragons were designed in a very interesting fashion.  They had personality and were cute but at the same time intimidating when they needed to be.  Out of all the elements in the movie, the visuals are the best.

The music was also great.  Composer John Powell managed to create music that fit the setting and expressed the tone of each scene.  I still have the main theme stuck in my head, but unlike a lot of songs that get stuck there, it doesn’t annoy me.

Now for the not-so-flattering.  In terms of characters, none of them were particularly memorable.  I still remembered who was who from the original, but they didn’t do much to stand out in this movie.  A lot of key moments in the film banked on an emotional response from the audience, but I just didn’t care enough about the characters for it to work.

Related to the characters, the voice-acting was hit-or-miss.  Several of the supporting actors fit very well with the theme and setting, but the main characters were less than phenomenal.  Jay Baruchel has a wide range of emotions that he uses effectively, but I just find his voice grating.

The pacing of the movie was poorly done.  The first 30 minutes of the movie were exciting and interesting as it introduced aspects of the world that had changed since the first one, but then it struck what felt like an hour of exposition.  Then the inevitable encounter with the bad guy, then the hero’s triumph over the villain.  If they had cut out half of the exposition, I feel like the movie would have been much more enjoyable.  But at just under 2 hours, the movie felt too long and boring.

Overall, the movie suffered from predictability and a lack of excitement, but it was still a decent film.  The world of the movie is particularly amazing, and I’m tempted to just copy it for my next D&D game.  However, the plot failed to interest me and the pacing was sloppy.

For those who require a number, I give it a 6.5 out of 10.

30/30 Day 6: Edge of Tomorrow Review

Hi, I’m Tyler Magruder, or sorryjzargo as I go by on the internet.  I am going to hopefully complete a 30/30 this month.  If you don’t know what a 30/30 is, it is a blog series where you write one blog a day for a month (on months with 31 days it is called a 31/31).  If I miss a day, I will make it up, but hopefully I won’t miss any days and can call this a success.

EdgeofTomorrow

            Today I watched Edge of Tomorrow in 3D at a local theater.  Directed by Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi military movie starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in the lead roles, as well as Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson.  The movie is based on the light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and adapted by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth.

Before watching the movie, I knew very little about it.  I saw a trailer months ago, but hadn’t heard anything since.  The positive score on IMDb (8.1 before I left for the theater) prompted me to check it out.  I’m glad I did.

Just a heads-up, I’m going to try to keep the review as spoiler-free as possible, but I will have some light spoilers on the premise.  So, if you want to know as little as possible, you have been warned.

To sum up Edge of Tomorrow as briefly as possible, it is Groundhog Day set during a futuristic war between humanity and invading aliens.  The main character, Major William Cage (played by Tom Cruise) is a military officer forced into the front lines of a beach invasion, and through a series of circumstances is forced to relive the day over and over.  He teams up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), also known as the Angel of Verdun, in an attempt to defeat the alien scourge with his knowledge of the future.

While the premise of the movie is by no means unique, it is definitely an interesting and thought-provoking one.  I felt that the movie explored the concept as thoroughly as possible without being boring, and despite the movie taking place all within the span of roughly two days, they mixed it up enough so that it never felt like a slog.

Overall, the delivery of the film was excellent.  The opening was presented by a series of videos with some voice and text overlay showing the beginning of the alien invasion.  This segment felt a little rushed, but is preferable to an extended exposition.  It also doubled as the opening credits.  Afterward, it was from the perspective of Major Cage, who was thrust into the action very early in the film.  Cage relived the same day over and over, but fortunately it did not show every day that he relived, only showing the important developments and character moments.  While the movie never explicitly says how many days he relived, I would estimate that they numbered in the thousands if not higher.

The music of the film was forgettable but competent.  Composer Christophe Beck created a score that fit the action and the story well, but outside the context of the film felt pretty generic.  The sound design was excellent, and the weapons, machinery, vehicles and aliens sounded grounded and realistic.

Visually, the movie was excellent.  The advanced technology of the film looked realistic, and the aliens looked like a genuine danger.  Both the practical effects and the CGI looked great.  A few action scenes involving the aliens were overstimulating, but on the whole the visuals aided in my understanding of the movie.  Unfortunately, the 3D did not add much that I noticed, and it made a few panoramic shots problematic to view.

As much as I dislike Tom Cruise as a person, I can’t complain about his performance in this film.  He conveyed a realistic character who developed over the course of the film.  Emily Blunt was also great in the film, but her character was more static than Cruise’s.  The supporting cast fit as well, but none of them were incredibly memorable.  A few accents felt forced, but overall they looked and sounded like competent soldiers.

Edge of Tomorrow is an enjoyable film with exciting action, solid acting and a competent story.  While it is somewhat generic in its premise and can be predictable at parts, I would recommend it for anyone that likes action movies, science fiction, or Groundhog Day’s premise.

And for those of you that need a review score, I give it a solid 8/10.