How to Train Your Dragon is, no question, a beloved animated film. The heart and soul of the film was the touching relationship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the dragon Toothless. In How to Train Your Dragon 2, everyone on Hiccup’s island of Berk has a dragon and it is because of Hiccup and his ability to open their eyes to see a former foe as friend.
With that combative relationship between humans and dragons now compassionate, where does that leave the drama (and heart) for the sequel?
It comes from the most unexpected and surprising place. We meet Hiccup’s mom Valka (Cate Blanchett, a blessing of an addition to the cast) -- as seen in this How to Train Your Dragon 2 clip.
Filmmaker Dean DeBlois lets us know where she’s been for two decades, living in a sanctuary for dragons trying to keep them safe from the evil Drago (Djimon Hounsou) who has been kidnapping dragons and building an army. Looks like Hiccup’s apple does not fall far from the tree!
Adding in Valka does several things. It gives Hiccup some history. It shows that the citizens of Berk and their dragons now have something to fear and they have to come together to fight. And it also, believe it or not, slightly darkens the tone as the stakes and the costs are higher in How to Train Your Dragon 2 than in How to Train Your Dragon. And that is never a bad thing for a sequel, much less the middle chapter in a planned trilogy.
DeBlois is clearly heading somewhere special with this series. He has always imagined it as more than one movie. So, the fact that the first film was such a hit guarantees that we will be able to see the fullness of his vision when it comes to this great epic tale of humans and dragons.
There is plenty of action, and visually, it is a journey that feels like flying on the back of a dragon -- high above the earth. In that vein, we cannot recommend enough witnessing it in 3D. Not only is it an emotional, humorous ride, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is also a visual marvel.
All the old favorites from the first film are back and as good, if not better, than in the original. Of particular note is Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut. She is one tough cookie, as you recall when you watch How to Train Your Dragon online. But, when she sees new addition Eret (Kit Harrington), she turns to utter mush.
And we cannot say enough about Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson. The camaraderie between Stoick and Gobber pops off the screen even more in the second film. And with the introduction of Blanchett into the mix, she brings a familial feel to the film that is even higher than the first time around.
Our How to Train Your Dragon 2 review also has to point out that it compellingly sets things up for a third film where Hiccup will have grown exponentially from where we first met him at the beginning of How to Train Your Dragon.
That’s what is so special about this series in general. Whether it's an individual character like Hiccup (or his father), or even the movie as a whole, growth is the ultimate goal.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 achieves that on numerous levels.