The fictional Scandinavian town of Berk is a pretty cool place now that dragons and humans live in harmony.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless are still free spirits who are trying to map as much of the world as they can; something that may have to fall to the wayside now that Hiccup’s dad, Stoic (Gerard Butler), wants to hand over the title of Chief to his son.
The 20-year-old is hesitant to accept this mantle, he’d rather chart new territory (literally and figuratively) than lead his father’s people. Before Hiccup can decide if he wants to be Chief or not, he discovers a new bad guy called Drago Bludvist is capturing and controlling a dragon army. His plan? To defeat all humans who once refused to bow down to him, which includes Hiccup’s father.
Hiccup thinks if he finds Drago and talks to him, the Vikings can avoid a war, so he takes to the skies with Toothless and his friends in order to save his home.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a great follow-up to the heartwarming first installment. It’s darker than the first movie, but everything that made the first one so amazing is here—and better than ever.
1) First of all, it has breathtaking flying sequences and action scenes that remind audiences 3D can serve a purpose in the moviegoing experience.
2) One of my favorite relationships, the “awww” inducing friendship between Hiccup and Toothless, grows in its depth as the two characters age and mature. Other characters get lovely moments together as well.
3) The movie’s content and humor can speak to people of all ages.
One other motif that follows from the first movie: this kids’ film isn’t afraid to show what real loss looks like—and stick with it instead of solving it via a last minute solution. In the first movie, Hiccup loses his leg in the final battle. This movie doesn’t dwell on his lost limb, but rather subtly shows the reality that Hiccup has to live with on a daily basis. How to Train Your Dragon 2 also doesn’t shy away from the permanent, sometimes staggering cost of each choice we make. In this sense, the series is one of the more profound children’s movies I’ve seen.
Overall, seeing this movie in the theater was a great experience, but a couple of aspects of the movie rubbed me the wrong way. Too much time is spent on the comic relief side characters all having crushes on each other…with no payoff. Some of the interactions were funny, but they were sometimes distracting from other things that were going on. I don’t particularly care for this type of subplot, but it needs to have some sort of definite conclusion if the writers want to spend so much time on it.
Lastly, the film just skates past the fact that a character’s parent abandoned their child for no apparent reason. Rationalizes it, even. There’s not even a line of dialogue dealing with the anger or the tension this would cause. It didn’t debilitate the entire film, but it bothered me nonetheless.
Despite these small aspects, How to Train Your Dragon 2 was one of my favorite animated movies of the year. The characters grow, the bad guy is despicable and frightening, there are tender moments, scary moments, funny moments, and action that will knock your socks off. Much like Hiccup, this second installment is more grown-up than the first movie, but it’s a worthy sequel.