When a family favourite reaches for a sequel, the franchise has to be careful it doesn’t catch a case of contagious sequelitis. For the much anticipated second part of the How to Train Your Dragon series, I’m happy to report that this latest adventure only suffers from slight sniffles. Otherwise, this is the follow-up that the 2010 hit deserves.
We’re reunited with Hiccup (voiced by Jay Barachel) and his colourfully named pals like Snotlout and Ruffnut (voiced by Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig). Most importantly, Hiccup is still best friends with his pet dragon, Toothless. Owning a dragon is now allowed and zippy pastimes featuring the scaly comrades are deemed as normal. But when a ruthless baddie wants control of all the dragons in the kingdom (including distant undiscovered ones overseen by the elusive Dragon Rider), Hiccup’s island must protect what they love.
Because everyone and their grandma has a dragon (a quiet “dragon lady” gathers a lot of snickers whenever she appears), this opens up How to Train Your Dragon 2 for intense combat sequences – there are a lot of these. Where the first film surprised us with how much emotion it had and how much it was able to win us over with new creatures and characters, the sequel is much more interested in showing off how mystical and cool they are. How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t feel like a cash-in or a promotional tool to sell a new line of dragons, but it does prefer action over heart.
It’s hard to complain, however, when everything looks as gorgeous as it does. Writer/Director Dean DeBlois has outdone himself to make sure the quality of the animation lives up to the standards the first outing set. The moments where the audience is soaring with Hiccup and Toothless are stunning. If you see this with the incredible 3D, you may feel like you’ll free fall through the clouds as well.
The incredible battles are as immersive as the simpler moments when Hiccup and Toothless are gliding. DeBlois’ film doesn’t gyp the audience out of a good time. When the film is taking a break from large scale fare, we aren’t wishing for more activity to occupy the screen.
Deblois’ script also isn’t afraid to make you feel worried while second guessing where the story is going. He doesn’t take pride with the sombre twists, but he wants to take family films in an area that most are too skittish to dabble in nowadays. There are a lot of tones in How to Train Your Dragon 2 that feel very similar to The Empire Strikes Back, and its refreshing to see a modern filmmaker take unexpected bold moves like that. It helps deter us from the more generic touches that live within the film’s villain, although Djimon Houston does a good job voicing the intimidating crook.
Sequelitis is mentioned because Deblois’ movie doesn’t exceed the bar How to Train Your Dragon effortlessly placed – it’s very close. Nonetheless, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a dazzling addition to the series. It keeps up with the amusing fantastical feel, and gives all audiences something to enjoy.