When you have enjoyed a film and then you hear that a sequel will be made it makes you cringe a little. The cringe is as a result of having suffered through many a poorly executed sequel and having it sour a little your view of the entire film series. While How to Train Your Dragon was not a ground shaker it did have its heart in the right place and was as a result an enjoyable watch. I took in Dean DeBlois’ (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), a Canadian which made my hope that this was a good film double, film with my fingers crossed.
Five years have passed since Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel – Million Dollar Baby, This is the End) managed to bring peace between Vikings and dragons on the island of Berk. So much so that each Viking there now has a dragon to ride. Times are good in Berk so they spend a lot of their time taking part in dragon races. Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, End of Watch), Snotlout (voiced by Jonah Hill – Moneyball, The Wolf of Wall Street) and the rest of the young Vikings engage in the races.
Hiccup spends his time creating a map of the world. This irritates his father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler – 300, P.S. I Love You), who wants Hiccup to assume the leadership of Berk from him. Hiccup is not interested in this type of life, but doesn’t know how to tell his dad. While exploring the world aboard his beloved dragon Toothless Hiccup stumbles upon a dragon trapping outfit led by Eret (voiced by Kit Harington – from television’s Game of Thrones). Eret tells Hiccup and Astrid that he is capturing dragons to supply Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou – Gladiator, Blood Diamond), who is amassing a dragon army.
While trying to locate Drago in order to talk him out of his dastardly plan Hiccup stumbles upon the icy world of the mysterious and feared Dragon Rider (voiced by Cate Blanchett – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Blue Jasmine). It turns out that the Dragon Rider is someone from his past and is actually a protector of dragons. Together with his new ally Hiccup will try to talk Drago out of his plan without violence occurring. In this quest Hiccup is going to set out on the road that will lead to his discovering his lot in life.
My fingers uncrossed very early on. It did not take long for me to relax and realize that the second film in the series was just as good as the first. And maybe even a little better. This is what animated family films should be about. It is filled with feel good moments, action, suspense, laughs, and plenty of emotion. All this is made possible by the strong script co-written by DeBlois and Cressida Cowell. It is simple, but not dumb. It is emotional, but not sappy. It involves plenty of lessons for young viewers, but is not preachy. In other words, it has a solid base.
That base is well supported by the voice talent in the film. Besides the lead Baruchel, there is Ferrera, Blanchett, Butler, Hill, Hounsou (who possesses such a perfect “villain” voice that I wonder why he hasn’t been asked to do this before), Harington, Craig Ferguson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, and T.J. Miller. All use their voices to convey the emotions of the story and flesh out their characters making them realistic.
What I really have to give props to the people behind the film for is the fact that they do not shy away from bringing tough stuff to the screen. Just because it is an animated film doesn’t mean it has to be aimed solely at the under 6 age group. Older kids enjoy animated films and they should be made for them as well. DeBlois does not shy away from dark moments in How to Train Your Dragon 2. It is definitely scarier than the first in sections. This is definitely a more mature film than the first.
Finally the animation is great. It is crisp, clear and colourful. I saw it in 3D and even that was well done. I usually find 3D a cash grab rather than something warranted. In this case it is worth the couple of dollars extra.