How To Train Your Dragon 2 Review

9 Overall Score
Visuals : 10/10
Screenplay : 9/10
Characters : 9/10

Looks Beautiful, Darker and More Mature, Still Fun

Weak Comedy Relief

It’s arguably the toughest task in the moviemaking business to top a runaway success. The sequel is an art form that has existed for years, but it’s rare that the sequel actually eclipses the greatness of the original. There are of course exceptions to the rule (The Dark Knight, Shrek 2, The Empire Strikes Back, etc.), but there’s a reason why the saying “lightning never strikes twice” exists. This introduction to the highly anticipated animated sequel How To Train Your Dragon 2 is unwarranted, however, as this is not a disappointing sequel. In fact, it falls into the category of the exception. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a better film than its already fantastic predecessor in almost every conceivable category. It’s a darker, more mature pseudo-epic without losing the touch of adventure and fun that the first film wore on its sleeve.

Four years following the release of the original How To Train Your Dragon, the sequel returns to the village of Berk five years later. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) has led a dragon revolution throughout Berk, as the once fearful and malicious town has learned to coexist and even tame the wild beasts. Hiccup prefers to spend his time away from Berk, exploring the outside world with his Night Fury dragon Toothless. The two best friends stumble across a plot by madman Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) to lead a dragon army across the lands and to rule the kingdom. As Hiccup and Toothless try to stop this evil, Hiccup discovers a secret from his past that will change the way he looks at dragons forever.

how to train 3

How To Train Your Dragon 2 looks gorgeous. The first film successfully mimicked the sensation of flying through its inventive cinematography and beautiful art design. The adrenaline rush I felt as Hiccup and Toothless were gliding over glimmering bodies of water and ducking through vast landscapes has been paralleled by few experiences. The sequel recreates this sensation with even more polish than before. The flying scenes are equally as extraordinary here, but the film really benefits from its different locations. Our main characters swoop through ice glaciers, luscious forests, and blue skies throughout their story. This diversity serves to not only provide exciting new scenery, but aids the film’s attempts to advance the story. I recommend you see this on the biggest screen possible (IMAX 3D if you can).

There is a tendency to label “better” and “darker” as synonymous in today’s Hollywood, and that simply isn’t the case. Dragon 2 is indeed a darker film than the first, but here it feels like a natural progression. The first film took some narrative chances, but ultimately was more focused on being a enjoyable ride for adults and kids alike. With the expansion of the universe and the introduction of new (and potentially dangerous) characters, it makes sense that the stakes are much higher. Director and writer Dean DeBois, who was co-director and co-writer on the first film, ups the ante with several narrative twists and turns that challenge the audience as much as it challenges its characters. Simply put, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is never predicable, and it certainly is never boring, which is a huge win for not just an animated film, but for any film period.

DeBois’ script also does a phenomenal job with its characters. As half a decade has passed since the last time we saw Hiccup, he’s not the same awkward teenage boy we remember (something the animation beautifully reflects in character design). He’s a young adult on the verge of manhood, but is still at heart the curious and inventive kid we all came to love. His relationship with Toothless is as strong and endearing as ever, and remains the film’s main emotional core. But we see his other relationships develop in a consistent and human way, from his romance with Astrid (America Ferrra), to his responsibilities towards father Stoick (Gerard Butler), to a mystery character voiced by Cate Blanchett. Hiccup’s character arc is reminiscent of Simba’s in The Lion King, and comparisons towards that film will never been negative coming from me.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 takes the franchise to bold and exciting new directions, but it’s able to have its cake and eat it too. For all the maturity and complexity in the film, it’s still an incredibly fun watch. Most of the lighthearted moments land with ease, as there are a lot of visual gags from the dragons that land especially well for anyone that owns a pet. I cannot say enough good things about Dragon 2; it’s the quintessential middle chapter of a trilogy that builds upon the success of the original with ease, and gets you excited for the next installment. It’s an ambitious, constantly entertaining thrill ride that soars as high as the clouds ascend.

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Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

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