A general rule in the movie world is that sequels rarely surpass the film that preceded them. Most merely present you with the further adventures of the characters you’ve come to love while adding very little to the development of those characters. There are, however, those rare sequels that not only give you more of what you expect but expand on the characters and the world they inhabit. Even rarer are those sequels that improve on the original in every way. It is with great joy that I tell you that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is one of these precious gems.
In 2010 Dreamworks brought us the story of a Viking lad named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the unbreakable bond he formed with a dragon named Toothless. Together they faced tremendous challenges not the least of which was overcoming the animosity between humans and dragons. In the end their friendship triumphed and the promise of a bright future awaited. It was a fun movie with gorgeous animation, memorable characters, great performances and some of the most original dragon designs I’ve ever seen.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 took everything I loved about the original to the next level. The story is set five years later with Hiccup no longer a boy but a young man who has to face new adult responsibilities. With the ever loyal Toothless by his side he must battle an evil warlord hellbent on conquering the world. The catch, how do you defeat a villain who can bend dragons to his will and turn your best friend into a mortal enemy?
Amid the danger and excitement is a wonderful coming of age tale about facing responsibility, staying true to your friends, and unbreakable family bonds. What I really enjoyed about this film is that it gave more insight into Hiccups family. While his father Stoic (Gerard Butler) was given a considerable amount of screen time in the first film it is here that his stoicism breaks and the depth of his character is revealed. Add to that an unexpected family reunion and you have great character piece that will entertain both children and adults.
A significant improvement over the first installment was the addition of a menacing antagonist. This was the one thing I found lacking in the original and this follow-up remedies it with a vengeance. Drago, voiced with villainous glee by Djimon Hounsou, is a gloriously over the top bad guy but one that leaves a lasting impression. The strength of the villain can often make or break a story and Drago is the kind of villain who will leave you quaking in your seat from the moment he stalks on screen for the first time to the moment he… well, there is no need to spoil the movie.
The animation is gorgeous, but that is to be expected from a Dreamworks film. The flying sequences and scenery are breathtaking; I highly recommend attending a 3D screening to experience them to the fullest. There are a few new dragon designs here that are a must see for the artists out there as well as the return of all of your favorites. As someone who dabbles in character design I’ve been very impressed with the amount of effort that the designers and animators at Dreamworks put into making their characters unique. There is something wonderful about a film that can be appreciated purely on an aesthetic level.
I’m not too old to enjoy a movie about dragons. If you have a sense of wonder and a willingness to indulge your inner child then you’re not too old to enjoy a movie about dragons. Take your kids, take a friend, take your significant other, or just take that part of you that yearns to be told a good story. If you haven’t seen How To Train Your Dragon then you should check it out, but even if you don’t you can still enjoy this sequel. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is that rare sequel gem that truly shines.