Way back in 2010, a little gem from DreamWorks Animation - a studio previously known for comedic blockbusters like Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda - both literally and figuratively spread its wings with critics and audiences alike, and it unexpectedly made me a fan just like that. The original How to Train Your Dragon still remains my personal favorite DreamWorks animated movie of all-time, and tied for my favorite cartoon movie not made by Disney. In fact, I really regret not seeing the original movie in the theater, but this sequel more than made up for that. Four years of hype and anticipation surrounding this movie made the wait, for me, more and more antagonizing, but I can say with a big, fat smile on my face, that it was well worth it.
Five years after the events of the first movie, Hiccup (again played by Jay Baruchel) is now 20, yet he still retains the charm and spunk from the original movie. Hiccup not only has maintained his friendship with Toothless, the rare Night Fury, but has also strengthened it exponentially. Because of this new peace between Vikings and Dragons, the rest of the dragon riders from the first movie are now having competitions with their dragons, and these dragons have also become integrated into these guys' everyday lives.
Hiccup is being groomed to become the next chief of his tribe by his burly and brawny father, Stoick (again played by Gerard Butler), while his relationship with Astrid (again portrayed by America Ferrera) has also grown - they're now officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Hiccup and Toothless mainly like to explore new lands and discover new dragons, but one of their discoveries leads to them coming upon this ice cave, and then our young Viking hero gets to meet his mom...who happens to be a mysterious Dragon Rider named Valka (played by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett)! Valka shows her son some hidden secrets and abilities that Hiccup, until now, didn't even know they had, and she reunites with Stoick and they decide to pick up right where they left off from when Valka was whisked away from Berk by Cloudjumper, her dragon, which she likes to ride like a surfboard! Turns out that she's even more experienced with dragons than even Hiccup! But soon, the normal ho-hum dragon-integrated lifestyle of Berk is soon threatened by Eret, self-proclaimed "greatest dragon trapper alive" (played by Kit Harington from Game of Thrones), and also Drago (played by Djimon Hounsou), who actually is the elite Dragon Trapper, and the film's primary villain.
Drago has a plan - to control the humongous Bewilderbeast, and in turn, controlling the rest of the dragons so that he can destroy Berk. But all Hiccup wants to do is just talk some sense into him, but as we see in this movie, it's easier said than done. From that point, the battle lines are drawn, sacrifices are made, and relationships are pushed to the ultimate test in a movie that is sure to resonate with people young and old just as much, if not more, than the first one did way back when.
In a word, it's amazing how far DreamWorks has come ever since making the original hit, and you can clearly see why here. The visuals are top-notch, the decision to make our heroes older is risky but it pays off big time, the music that got John Powell an Oscar nod still retains familiar cues from the original movie and also ups the ante, and on top of it all, the movie still has the spirit of the original movie, along with, I daresay, a Dark-Knight-esque kind of atmosphere that really made the first movie work, especially towards the end of this movie.
These characters feel real - they have real emotions, and these actions that our main heroes take sometimes have real consequences, for better or worse, and you really feel like you're a part of their world. All of that is what made the original one work, and it remains here. Oh, and if you're wondering about the humor, it's still there to keep the kids giggling and engaged throughout, along with some funny lines provided by Gobber, again played by Craig Ferguson. Those moments are still there, even with the heavy emotional moments packed throughout the movie.
Overall, I expected big things out of number two, and it certainly does not disappoint. This is a movie that absolutely met my expectations...and also set them even higher for No. 3 in the summer of 2016. Go ahead and see this movie with your whole family, because I know they'll all have a, pardon the pun, high-flying experience.
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