How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) Review

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The sequel to the highly successful DreamWorks Animation How to Train Your Dragon, we again find ourselves following Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his trusty dragon Toothless in their adventures on the island of Berk and beyond. Joining the story five years after the first, where Hiccup managed to unite the Vikings of Berk and the dragons that were once the enemy, we see that life now revolves around the relationships that have formed between human and dragon. Everyone has a dragon that helps out in some way and the village has taken to the new sport of dragon racing, where riders such as Astrid (America Ferrera), Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) fly their dragon while trying to catch unfortunate sheep and put them into nets.

While all this is happening on Berk, Hiccup and Toothless are taking to the skies, flying around and trying to charter some of the undiscovered territories that are now accessible to them since they formed a bond and can now leave their home island. While on one of their flights, they come across some dragon trappers headed by Eret (Kit Harrington) who think that Hiccup and Toothless are responsible for encasing their base in ice and try to capture their dragons for their leader Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou). Hiccup tries to tell his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) about this new threat to his village and dragons, and Stoick tells the story of his first meeting with Drago in which he was the only once to leave alive and tells his son to stay away from as he cannot be reasoned with.

Hiccup decides that he knows better than his father and has to try and reason with Drago to stop him capturing the local dragons and building an army to take on other villages. While on his way, he and Toothless are captured by a mysterious dragon rider, Valka (Cate Blanchett), and is taken to an ice fortress where Hiccup learns that someone presumed deceased from his past is alive and has been saving dragons from Drago’s traps and tending to them in the ice cave made by the Bewilderbeast, a gigantic alpha-dragon whom all dragons will answer to.

With the help of Valka and the inhabitants of Berk, Hiccup and Toothless have to try and stop Drago from capturing all of the dragons for his army and restore peace to his home village.

The writing and directing from Dean DeBlois, who is returning from the first one, is great and does everything a sequel should do with How To Train Your Dragon 2 building on the world that was seen in the first movie and expands this to include new lands, dragons and characters that all fit seamlessly into to the world and bring exciting new developments that advance the story and universe as a whole. The new characters added all bring a new dimension to the tale being told and allow interesting interactions with our familiar faces from the first movie. The writing and directing from Dean DeBlois, who is returning from the first one, is great and does everything a sequel should do.  It also does something that not many animated films seems to do and that is age the main characters. As Hiccup is now older, the problems and challenges he has to face and overcome have matured too and it was nice to see how he had grown-up since the first time we met him.

As with the first, the voice talent is great, with everyone seeming to inhabit their characters and managing to portray all the emotions and subtleties of them with only their voices. Cate Blanchett in the new role of Valka, is able to depict both a fearsome and mysterious dragon rider that Hiccup originally encounters as well as the scared and sorry person trying to make amends for leaving Berk.

The character design builds from the first but manages to show how life for all on Berk has changed since the introduction of dragons to their daily lives. The dragons are all unique and the beautiful look of each show that thought has gone into not only how they will appear, but the individual characteristics and skills of each, as Toothless, a night-fury, will be different from Skullcrusher, a rumplehorn, as they have different abilities within the world. We also get to see the expanded capabilities of Toothless, as some on his gifts that were not known in the first movie are revealed and used to great effect.

The animation is gorgeous and shows that DreamWorks is able to match some of the stunning visuals put out by the likes of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. The whole world meshes together wonderfully and some of the scenery seen during our flights with Hiccup and Toothless is truly breath-taking. The visuals are added to by the striking score composed by John Powell, who manages to link the music and visuals to enhance the scenes on the screen.

DreamWorks managed with this first movie in this franchise to knit together humour and momentous, emotional moments that were thought to be lacking on some of their earlier offerings and the sequel is no exception and follows along with this pattern. The story manages not only to offer some genuine laugh-out-loud moments but packs a few emotional punches that bring light and shade to the story being told.

Overall I enjoyed this instalment more than the first and felt that the world building elements and new characters that were added brought something extra to the story that progresses Hiccup and leaves questions unanswered for the next movie that is already in development. If you enjoyed the first one, then you should enjoy this, and if you have not seen either, then I would recommend them both.

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