Stoking the Dragon-fires, this soaring sequel succeeds in surpassing its predecessor.
This followup to Dreamworks’ breakout hit builds upon the interesting characters and story-world of the original. Charting into untapped territory, Hiccup and Toothless break out of the cramped drama of the first film and explore the more exciting world beyond their island of Berk. Expansive character building and a more epic scale provide the perfect setting for the film to spread its wings and craft an engaging coming-of-age story. It keeps focus on its hero, though to the detriment of the remarkable new characters established.
The second How to grows beyond the necessary exposition of the first film. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now stands at the top of the ranks, expected to take responsibility for the city – a task for which he does not feel prepared. However, this decision takes a backseat as he comes across a long-forgotten foe threatening both his clan and his dragon allies. Caught up in the battle, Hiccup must decide the best approach to deal with the threat, while discovering the identity of the mysterious Dragon Rider who appears out of the clouds.
Having already established the narrative universe and reconciled the simplistic “Us versus Them” plot in its predecessor, the sequel explores the larger world, focusing on Hiccup’s development as a leader and his relationships with fellow dragon pilots. At the beginning, Jay Baruchel’s voice does not fit his new armor-clad image: an element smartly utilized to demonstrate his transition as a leader as he grows out of the voice and into the role as the film progresses. Far superior to that of his first adventure, Hiccup’s journey examines not only becoming a commanding leader, but also one with a discerning mind. This is put to the test by an excellently performed Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), whose scheme both introduces a new depth to the dragon hierarchy and adds an undesired twinge of ethnocentric embattlement.
Furthermore, the newly introduced Dragon Rider is an interesting character, bringing a great twist to Hiccup’s world. However, she is disappointingly underutilized, failing to live up to her established fighting proficiency when it is needed most. Ultimately sitting out the climatic battles, she becoming another damsel for Hiccup to save, only finding purpose after the main conflict is resolved. Thus, sequel follows the original: building strong female characters before having them to do nothing, allowing the male protagonist to achieve his due glory.
Despite a few unfortunate decisions of gender and ethnic stagnations, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the story this narrative world deserves. Director Dean Dublois again proves he knows how to make an adorable creature relatable, and paces the movie well. The film provides an engaging thrill ride that feels epic as one would expect from a story about dragon-riding vikings. Hiccup’s journey is well designed, inviting the viewer to connect their own struggles with his high-flying capers. An appealing adventure flick, Dreamworks has yet again aimed high and landed snuggly amongst the clouds.