High flying sequel
The filmmakers of “How to Train Your Dragon 2” should be applauded for taking 4 years – practically a lifetime in Hollywood years – to make the sequel to the hugely popular original installment. It may have been just that restraint that allowed them to make the nearly perfect sequel: a visually breathtaking film with an enormously enriching and layered story while adding an unusual depth of emotion only rarely found in family friendly animation.
If the first HTTYD provoked similarities to “E.T.” then this sequel offers the complexities and even occasional dark themes of “The Empire Strikes Back,” a bit of a risky artistic ambition that nonetheless rewards children and adults alike.
Five years have passed since our young hero Hiccup (Voiced by Jay Baruchel) helped bring peace to his Viking hamlet of Berk, where dragons and villagers frolic together in harmony. Stoick (Gerard Butler) wants his reluctant son Hiccup to take over his position as village chief, but his adventurous heir is too busy investigating new territories with his dragon companion Toothless and chilling with his loyal girl-pal Astrid (America Ferrera). The film starts right out of the shoot with some fantastic, pulse racing aerial sequences that look as beautiful and often realistic as any animation yet produced.
Soon however, Hiccup will discover a menacing warlord named Drago (Djimon Hounsou) who is assembling a dragon army as well as the fierce dragon rider Valka whose identity offers a key to Hiccup’s past and will change his future forever.
A main plot point involves Hiccup’s inclination towards peaceful resolution versus his experienced father’s memory of the violent realities of the past. Another somber plot twist earns its heartfelt emotion, while themes of courage, family and teamwork continue to resonate. This is heady stuff for a PG rated film, and it may be a little too authentic for toddlers.
But for most, especially those who loved the first film, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” represents an exciting as well as challenging follow-up. An intimate knowledge of the original is not necessary to enjoy this film as a nice narrative introduction and overview begins the film.
Just when we begin to tire of money-grabbing sequels that taint a beloved franchise along comes a second installment that expands on the themes of the original and in some ways is more satisfying than its worthy predecessor.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” offers a textbook lesson in “How to Do A Sequel.”
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor