How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up five years after the events of the first film – Hiccup is moving ever closer to becoming chieftain of his village just like his father but seems reluctant to take on the role he was born for. Instead, he seems happier exploring and mapping unknown parts of the world until he discovers the current peace between humans and dragons is under threat.
DeBlois focuses on more adult, darker themes for the second outing. Indeed, the director cites The Empire Strikes Back as an inspiration and that film’s expanded scope is evident in the film which seems bigger in every way. Where the first film looked at acceptance – between the dragons and the vikings – and friendship – between Hiccup and Toothless – the sequel focuses on family and responsibility.
This new focal point fleshes out Hiccup’s character as he learns more of his family history – his growth from boy-to-man feels satisfying and his triumph by the film’s conclusion is well earned. The downside to this, however, is that it means Toothless, the star of the show in the first HTTYD, is more of a backseat passenger for large stretches this time around.
And while the returning cast of characters are as strong as ever, not all of the new additions strike a chord. In particular, the film suffers from a lacklustre villain whose motivations for enslaving the world’s dragons never expands beyond the character simply being evil (which doesn’t get as easy a pass in a film series that puts so much emphasis on character growth).
One area in which the sequel inarguably improves on the original are the visuals. As far as this particular brand of CGI is concerned it is difficult to envisage in the future how anything could ever improve on How to Train Your Dragon 2. The detail from all things large and very small is astounding and the flying sequences are a marvel.
How to Train Your Dragon was perhaps the first animated film by Dreamworks worthy of sharing the same company as many of Pixar’s finest productions. It is of no surprise, then, that Dreamworks would release a sequel and while the intimate simplicity of the first makes it a more emotionally interesting movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a fine example of how to correctly honour a film with a worthy sequel. (7)