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How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes audiences back to the wonderful world of the original film and has Hiccup and Toothless on a another grand adventure. As a big fan of the first film I was hoping for a strong follow-up. I’m happy to say How to Train Your Dragon 2 did not disappoint. The gorgeous sequel expands the universe presented to us in the first film and it is fun, sweet and endlessly entertaining.
By the end of the first picture, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) had successfully changed the entire lifestyle of the Vikings. With Vikings and dragons living together and helping each other, there were any number of directions for the sequel to go. Writer-director Dean DeBlois and the animation team at DreamWorks have crafted a worthy successor to the imaginative original.
The opening scenes of How to Train Your Dragon 2 quickly establish the new paradigm five years later. It’s nice to see that even though the Vikings dramatically altered their way of life, they are still Vikings through and through. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and that certainly applies here.
The Vikings are still as hyper competitive as ever, only now they’ve channeled that energy into a new sport incorporating dragon riding. Hiccup enjoyed great success but his goals are still at odds with those his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), has for him. Stoick is still grooming his son to become chief and Hiccup wants nothing to do with it. He spends his time working on more inventions and exploring the world beyond Berk and is working on a map of the world.
Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) are out exploring when they encounter a band of dragon hunters capturing dragons for the dragon army of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou). Astrid and Hiccup are mistaken for different dragon riders and after making a narrow escape they return home. It turns out Stoick knows Drago Bludvist well enough to predict a looming war. While Stoick is locking down Berk, Hiccup sneaks out, hoping to reason with Drago and convince him to stop enslaving dragons.
The movie really kicks it into high gear from that point. Hiccup encounters a new dragon rider and discovers a whole world of dragon interaction. There’s an early reveal that kicks off the second act that I won’t spoil that could have been included in the movie just for shock value. Instead the screenplay uses this reveal to help define the themes of the film and to inform the characters' relationships. Hiccup and Stoick are at odds in their philosophy once again, but I appreciated that there was no easy answer this time.
As much as Hiccup was able to bring change to his people, there are some people that you just can’t reason with. Stoick has a point and sometimes you just have to fight, especially for the things you believe in and the people you love. The movie also continues the message from the first film of appreciating nature and the world around us through the relationship between the humans and the dragons. The film is able to have a good amount of thematic richness and all the while remain a really fun and entertaining summer spectacle.
The first film was a beautiful piece of animation work and How to Train Your Dragon 2 is just as, if not more, gorgeous of a film. There are moments with Toothless soaring through the air and breaking through clouds that are just breathtaking. There are vistas and mountains that shine in the computer generated sunlight in a way you hardly ever see outside of Pixar movies.
You could pause the movie at almost any moment and you’d have a wonderful painting you can hang in your living room. Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers in the business, is credited as a visual consultant on the film and his influence is felt. There’s also just so much fun to be had. The supporting cast is fun and they all have their small moments. The combination of the writing and visuals and fun voice performances all combine for the exact type of exciting time at the movies that people look for in the summer.