When it was released in 2010, How to Train Your Dragon, the animated adventure based on Cressida Cowell’s long-running series of children’s novels, quickly became Dreamworks most critically-acclaimed animation of all time. Writer and director Dean DuBlois, best known for Mulan and Lilo & Stitch, returns to helm the sequel, which picks up five years after young Viking Hiccup’s adventure to save his best friend, the rare Night Fury dragon named Toothless.
The big names from the first film return and Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, and Djimon Houndsou all join as new and intriguing characters.
What’s it about? Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) never quite fit in on the island of Berk. His father, notorious Viking chief, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is a legendary warrior and fierce dragon slayer, whist Hiccup is more intellectual. But when he meets Toothless, they form a friendship that changes Berk forever.
Five years later and a lot has changed. Berk is now a safe place for dragons and Hiccup has finally found a way to be himself. But just because Berk has adapted to dragons doesn’t mean everyone has. When Hiccup and Toothless stumble across the icy ruins of a house, they find out that there is trouble to come. A mysterious dragon rider, dragon hunters, and a fearsome warrior all pose a threat to the peace they’ve built on Berk.
Verdict: How rare it is to find a sequel that not only lives up to its predecessor, but may even surpass it. Lovers of the first film will not be disappointed. That same blend of adventure, humour, dazzling animation, and genuine emotional appeal are all back in this pacy sequel.
The story feels seamless with the first, which wrapped up with a certain amount of finality. That’s not a problem here, though. The clever time lapse brings us back to these characters at different points in their lives and with different problems to solve. And it expands on the scope of the world quite significantly. DuBlois is not afraid to pull some real punches and, whilst we get to see everything we loved from before – favourite characters return, beloved dragons, and the lovely relationship between Hiccup and Toothless – we see immense challenges being introduced and big changes. The most impressive part is how organic this feels and how much it raises the emotional stakes.
The animation is also a step-up. The first film was beautiful, but four years of technological advancement alone has improved the way the film is rendered – along with the way the film-makers have introduced new and ever more imaginative landscapes for these characters. The creatures are beguiling and the flight scenes border on magical. The canny knack DuBlois has for telling a story visually is on best display here.
John Powell and Jonsi Birgisson, of Sigor Ros fame, have teamed up again to create the brilliant musical score, which without a shadow of a doubt is one of the best features of the film. Tieing together the story and the visuals, the music captures so much of the tone, the feeling, and the energy that it’s hard to imagine what it would be like without it. With the Sigur Ros frontman on board, there is a distinctly Icelandic and upbeat flavour to the music.
Final Words: A wonderful follow-up to How To Train Your Dragon, the sequel takes all of the original film’s best features – stunning visuals, heart-tugging story, bawdy humour, and the lovely Hiccup and Toothless pairing – and builds on it. Bigger and ever bolder, no matter your age, this will leave you feeling exhilarated.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 will be in UK cinemas on 11 July.