Picking up five years after the events of the first film, How to Train Your Dragon 2 finds Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) dealing with new challenges including his father‘s (Gerard Butler) plans to hand over the kingdom of Birk to his son, an enemy (Djimon Hounsou) creating his own army of dragons to conquer the world, and the unexpected return of Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) who disappeared and has been presumed dead since Hiccup was a baby.
Returning the original cast of characters including Astrid (America Ferrera), Gobber (Craig Ferguson), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), the sequel leaves time for the events of the the television show to take place without forcing the viewer to have seen the series to make sense of the current state of events. Blanchett’s addition of Valka, a woman more at home with dragons than her own son, and that of Hounsou as the film’s new villain Drago Bludvist prove to be excellent choices, but the heart of the film remains Hiccup and Toothless.
While mapping out the wider world Hiccup and Astrid come upon dragon trappers leading them to learn about Drago and his dragon army. In an attempt to find and talk some sense into the villain, Hiccup is reunited with his mother who has taken it upon herself to keep dragons safe from Drago ever since leaving Birk. What follows is a movie with its share of action, humor, and genuinely moving moments as Hiccup’s hero journey continues and he finally discovers his place in the world.
Along with the dragons from the first film, the movie also gives a variety of new creatures ranging from the massive Bewilderbeast to the various tiny baby dragons under Valka’s care. The script by writer/director Dean DeBlois also takes time to further develop and explain the hierarchy of dragons and how they interact with one another. And Toothless fans should be ecstatic as the adorable Night Fury steals nearly every scene from his human co-stars as DeBlois allows Toothless his own arc as well.
Building on the established relationships to create a film better than the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is one of DreamWorks Animation’s best efforts that doesn’t center around a kick-ass Panda. Given the amount of flight and fast-paced action, the 3D of film is impressive and may actually be worth spending a few extra bucks. The character-driven story that carries the film which should lend itself to multiple viewings either in two or three dimensions.