Rated PG for action and some mild rude humor
Written by Dean DeBlois, based on the “How to Train Your Dragon” book series by Cressida Cowel
Directed by Dean DeBlois
Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and more
The best sequels give the world they portray a chance to grow.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” the new Dreamworks movie following Hiccup, his dragon Toothless, and the other Vikings of Berk, is a more mature film than its predecessor in pretty much every way. Hiccup is older, the world is bigger, the themes are more serious and the stakes are far higher. While it’s missing some of the innocent wonder of the first film, the sequel has a depth and richness that makes it beautiful in its own way.
The movie is set five years after the original, with dragons so entrenched in Berk’s way of life that no one can remember the days when they were enemies. Hiccup is more of a free spirit than an outcast now, wanting to spend his time exploring and tinkering with his flight suit, but his father is pressuring him to accept the role of chief.
Then someone starts killing dragons, Hiccup discovers that his mother isn’t really dead (I would have prefaced this with a spoiler warning, but the trailers told you before I could), and all too soon it looks like war will become inevitable.
The movie wrestles with darker, more complicated issues than the original, and though loyalty and friendship still triumph the fight is a lot tougher and more heartbreaking. It’s entirely possible that you will have to deal with sobbing children at one or two points, and if you share my tendency to get slightly too emotionally involved in this sort of thing you might shed a few tears as well.
But oh, there are some beautiful moments. Hiccup’s bond with his dragon is still the emotional heart of the film, and the years since the original have given it a depth and richness. The movie tests their friendship in a way it’s never tested before, going through some trials I don’t remember ever seeing in an animated movie, but everything that happens to them just gives the ending that much more of an impact. Just like the original, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a beautiful testament to the power of friendship.
This time, though, the impact of that bond is rivaled by the sequence where Hiccup’s father Stoic discovers his wife isn’t really dead. Much like the opening minutes of Disney’s “Up,” their scenes together encapsulate an entire love story written in miniature. Their first meeting is after all those years apart is utterly heartbreaking, and the scene where they sing together transforms them both. As you watch, you’ll entirely sympathize with the surprise and quiet delight on their son’s face.
Emotions aside, it’s also a visually gorgeous movie. The flying sequences are possibly even more breathtaking than they were in the original, with the animators taking full, glorious advantage of the additional dragons introduced in the film. The additional pop from the 3D is like icing on the visual cake, making “Dragons 2” one of only a small handful of movies where I would consider the higher ticket price entirely worth it.
In every way, the movie is a worthy arena for these dragons (and the humans who ride them) to stretch their wings.