If there's only one thing that is guaranteed during the Summer months, it's sequels. With a total of 13 sequels coming out this Summer (not including reboots), it's often difficult to wade through the doldrums of repetition.
So what makes How To Train Your Dragon 2 stand out? Because it follows all the rules of sequel-making. It continues the story of the first film without too much repetition, the new characters fit in perfectly with the originals, and ups the stakes and action without going over the top. But even more impressive, Dragon 2 manages to actually be better than the first, improving on the formula by proving that it's okay to mature with the characters, as well as its audience.
Picking up four years after the first film, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is now 20 years old, and he and his dragon Toothless have spent more time mapping out the lands and working on new flying techniques than worrying about the future – which includes preparing to take the chief positing from his father Stoic (Gerard Butler) and eventually marrying his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera). On one such map-making excursion, Hiccup and Toothless discover a clan of dragon trappers, led by the mysterious Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who looks to gain control of every dragon in the land. However, while concocting a plan to stop Drago, Hiccup discovers something that rocks his world: his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) is actually alive, and has a knack for dragon training herself.
If you're a fan of the first film, you may have a difficult time with How To Train Your Dragon 2. The character relationships don't really expand from the first, with maybe the exception of Hiccup and Toothless, and returning writer/director Dean DeBlois chose to carry a new chapter in the story rather than expand on the first. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for those who may have missed the first film, it doesn't seem like a great step forward for the franchise.
With that being said, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a true triumph. While the four-year wait was excruciating, Dragon 2 has vastly better animation, better action, and stronger drama that the first film, which makes the film a treat for any fan of the franchise. DeBlois makes the bold decision to make the film a little more mature, but, after four years, the audience has matured by this time as well, and so, while the film does seem a bit darker and more violent than original, there's a reason for it. It may not be for younger audiences (five years or younger would probably not be the best idea), but anyone who enjoyed the first film will certainly find this amazing.
FINAL VERDICT: How To Train Your Dragon 2 may not pay much homage to the first installment, but it certainly takes things to the next level. With bigger action, stronger writing and drama, and more beautiful animation, Dragon 2 is a rare occurrence of the sequel being superior to its predecessor. Sure, it's darker and more violent, but it's also more amazing (especially if you manage to see it in IMAX) and will steal your heart almost instantly.