‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ Review

Published 4 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:20 am,

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Poster How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the rare sequel that improves upon its predecessor in nearly every single way imaginable.

In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Jay Baruchel) and his best friend/Night Fury, Toothless, have successfully brokered a union between the Viking village of Berk and the region’s dragon inhabitants. Instead of slaying the winged creatures, the citizens of Berk have embraced the company of dragons - as human and dragon-kind work and play together in harmony. Following their successful defense of Berk against the Red Death in How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup and Toothless now spend the majority of their days mapping the world beyond the village walls in search of adventure, exotic locales, and new dragon friends.

Still, Hiccup’s days of carefree voyaging may be drawing to a close – as his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), prepares to retire, selecting Hiccup as the new Chieftain of Berk. Despite support from his girlfriend, Astrid Hofferson (America Ferrera), Hiccup is unenthused by his father’s offer – fearing that he isn’t actually the leadership type. Ignoring Stoick’s request, Hiccup turns his attention to investigating an uncharted land – where he discovers that not all Vikings have embraced life with dragons. After years abroad, legendary dragon master Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) has returned to the region, declaring war on the dragon race – as well as any humans that would offer them sanctuary.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Hiccup Toothless How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Hiccup and Toothless in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′

Following on the success of its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a strong franchise sequel – one that will have no trouble entertaining both children and adult moviegoers. The film might not be as revolutionary as the original but returning director Dean DeBlois takes the foundation he established in How to Train Your Dragon and layers on new directions for the series story - greatly expanding upon the Viking world and its inhabitants (both human and dragon). It’s a bigger, and arguably better, film experience that features more dragons, larger scale action set pieces, as well as a poignant message on the challenges of growing up.

While the original film remains beloved (for good reason), the core premise and narrative relied heavily on caricatured side characters, familiar tropes of animated storytelling, and a straightforward tale of a boy and his dog/cat/dragon. In the sequel, DeBlois continues to examine the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless as well as the greater world outside of Berk but, this time, the primary focus falls on the young human hero as he confronts one of life’s most difficult questions: what now? Whereas How to Train Your Dragon was an underdog fantasy story that championed the virtues of compassion and friendship, the sequel is a coming of age story – forcing Hiccup to decide where he fits into the foggy future (and lands) that stand before him. Fortunately, even when How to Train Your Dragon 2 embraces familiar coming of age cliches, it provides a fresh and exciting angle through which to explore them.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Valka Cloudjumper How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Valka and Cloudjumper in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′

Jay Baruchel returns to voice a slightly more mature but still reluctant Hiccup – and the character again presents a likable and accessible face to the franchise. In many ways Hiccup is a perfect character to explore the challenges of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. He’s a capable and brave hero – one that, ever since his introduction in the first film, had a relatively clear idea of his convictions and strengths. As a result, it’s intriguing to see Hiccup challenged in a new way – having to balance his decisions and beliefs against those of the greater good.

In addition to a host of new dragons, the film also adds several new heroes and villains – most notably the mysterious dragon rider Valka (Cate Blanchett). Valka shares Hiccup’s passion for dragons but also serves as a cautionary tale for the importance of human contact – after she left humanity behind to care for her winged friends. In juxtaposition, Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) carries out antagonist duties – a man that bends dragons to his will, using them as ruthless weapons in a bid for domination over humans and dragons alike. Caught in between is the dragon trapper, Eret (Kit Harington) a sword for hire, with ripped biceps, that is employed by Bludvist. Eret isn’t the most original entry in the series but How to Train Your Dragon 2 makes smart use of the rascal - for both comedic and dramatic effect.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Astrid Hofferson How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Astrid Hofferson in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′

Unfortunately, with a number of new players on the field, many fan-favorite supporting characters from the first film are given slightly less to do this round. While Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), Astrid Hofferson (America Ferrera), and Toothless are provided with a moments to shine, many returning heroes are sidelined or almost entirely absent in the sequel. It’s a necessary compromise, since DeBlois focuses on an impactful arc for Hiccup, but some fans might still wish that other established dragon riders were furnished with their own spotlight scenes.

Like the first film, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is even better in 3D and the premium experience is definitely encouraged, even for frugal moviegoers who are normally reluctant to splurge on ticket upcharges. Animation films usually benefit from increased depth of field but the How to Train Your Dragon sequel was built for 3D - without relying on gimmicky pop-out effects. It’s thrilling to watch Toothless thread a rock formation in 2D but the 3D once again adds immersion that will capture the freedom and rush of dragon flight for moviegoers (both young and old).

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Drago How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Drago Bludvist in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the rare sequel that improves upon its predecessor in nearly every single way imaginable. The characters have evolved – moving beyond basic animation tropes for an emotionally charged story that is just as breathtaking as the film’s high-flying visuals. DreamWorks is two-thirds of the way through their planned How to Train Your Dragon trilogy and, after How to Train Your Dragon 2, there’s little doubt that many viewers will be eager to get their eyes on the next Hiccup and Toothless adventure.

If you’re still on the fence about How to Train Your Dragon 2, check out the trailer below:

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 runs 102 minutes and is Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our How to Train Your Dragon 2 episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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TAGS: how to train your dragon, how to train your dragon 2

21 Comments

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  1. Great review Ben! I’m so pleased to hear this sequel is ‘Amazing,’. The first one moved me emotional at the end, with both friends being ‘broken,’ talk about a perfect ending to a wonderful movie. I’m taking my family for father’s day to see this, I’m sure we’re going to love it.

    • @vslayer36

      Oh, you were moved emotionally at the end of the first one… I SO want to say something but it would spoil the movie… Um, let’s just say, WATCH THIS MOVIE AND BE READY… The review doesn’t exaggerate the score, this is an easy 9/10 or 10/10 any day of the week. Oh man, I hope there’s a spoiler discussion, and after you watch it, see me in there so we can talk, lol. :-D

  2. Amazing CGI, clear, detailed and realistic. Overall a good movie to watch. The Mom tie-in was weird for me. Everyone was just ok with it all and I was hoping for more backstory. This would have prolong the run-time however so I can understand. 3D was not impressive just adequate.

    Here’s hoping the next one will be about more Night Fury’s :) with Mom and Pop.

  3. Awesome movie… Beats out LEGO for top animated flick so far…. 9.5/10 from me… Great story… Great action.. great emotional beats… Loved it….

    • Id argue against that lego movie thing.
      But then again I dont think this one was better than the first.

  4. Idk, to me it felt like a long episode that does a lot of stuff and just resolves very quickly. The parent stuff was great but theres something “very dramatic” that happens in the film that I think shouldve been a focal point and was never really addressed/resolved and just glossed over and shouldve had the main character questioning himself and his relationship to another.

    And the antagonist was taken out very cheaply I thought after all his build up, with the two just coming together and one of them doing something I dnt think was telegraphed as possible to do.

    Looked great though.

    • I second that. I felt there were a few serious, dramatic issues that should have been focal points but were glossed over. But I think that delving into them the way I’d like would be too heavy for the kiddies.

  5. Definitely impressed. The mom’s armor, that was amazing! Great story, good lesson, good effects, and Toothless’s character was greatly increased. Reminded me of my own pet, he’s a cat though, and doesn’t shoot flaming energy balls, but yeah. definitely a 9.8/10 for me.

    Only problem was the villain, wasn’t built up quite enough for me.

    • the villain sounded like arnold schwarzenegger!
      I couldn’t take him seriously

  6. One of the best animation for me so far.

    Really close call between Lego but for me HTTYD2 > Lego. So I hope this year HTTYD2 would take biggest award spot

  7. I definitely agree with this review and I can’t wait for the 3rd entry as well as the new season on Netflix. Does anyone know if the show takes place before or after this movie? I know the first two season were directly after the first.

  8. I don’t usually agree with Cody, but this time i very much do. I found this movie to be disappointing tho good. They did what Despicable Me 2 did, making everything cutie. Even some very serious scenes they felt the need to let toothless jump around the back of the scene and drew my attention away from the character. The mom was underdeveloped, as is the we are now a family again instantly arc. The villain was barely in it and uninteresting and the film revolved around another Giant Dragon just like the first film. Beautiful animation but the film while darker in many parts were rather cheesy and aimed towards kids on all of the jokes. Maybe 1 or 2 jokes for adult. I still prefer lego movie by a significant margin.

  9. Just saw this movie. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is just incredible. The good thing is it focus both kids and adult audience with more mature, darker story with kids joke along which I don’t mind but some scene is really hilarious.
    Best Animation by far.

  10. A) animation – fantastic
    B) why use the same gags from the first movie-unsuccessfully?
    C) disappointing to not see more from the main group of vikings (snotlout, the twins, fishlegs)
    D) the fight scene was way too quick!
    E) & the super sad part of the movie-WHY?!?!?!?!
    F) And why do the movies not follow the book series so much? The books are amazing.
    G) it’s a good movie, but I didn’t love it.

    • See, I’m of the mind that I’m HAPPY it doesn’t follow the book series, given the horrendous monstrosities that are the Percy Jackson series. They take the characters and setting, and take it in a wonderful, exciting path that doesn’t rely on cutting out scenes of the books to make a target time limit or risk losing the audience’s attention.

    • Forget the books! These series and movies from Dreamworks can even have the same name, however takes place in a parallel universe, with some similar characters and similar situations. So think that is another tale of Vikings and dragons and enjoy!

  11. My son loved it !
    It was an entertaining family film. Good scriptwriting.

  12. Did anyone catch the hint to a third HTTYD? When Stoics friend, Gobber, says why he never married, “that and one other reason”. At the end of the movie, you see him and Valkra happily working side by side. I predict a mate for Toothless will be found too.

  13. @Ken J

    I finally saw the movie, and YES, I was once again emotionally moved: This time TWICE! I wish there was a spoilers discussion area cause I’m interested in what you thought as well.

    • @vslayer

      I know!! Oh well, we’ll have to do with spoiler alerts…

      ****SPOILER ALERT****
      Yah, I actually saw it again with someone who hasn’t seen it yet, and it was worse the second time around knowing what was coming… It made their reunion extra emotional for me… What a great movie…

  14. Yup — a truly great movie, at least as good as the first one, and it has me eagerly awaiting the next installment. Along with everything else, this movie is one of the very few 3D efforts that’s actually worth seeing. I saw the AVX 2D version first and while it was good, the standard projection with 3D was spectacular.