“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” the sequel to the surprise 2010 hit “How to Train Your Dragon” from Dreamworks Animation, has been hyped for weeks. This modern take on a Viking-era saga is one of this summer’s most anticipated—and highest-rated--movies. The movie review site “Rotten Tomatoes” has rated the film at 92% positive--higher than Disney’s “Maleficent” or even last year’s megahit “Frozen.” “Dragon” is even rated higher than the other hit film of the summer, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
The hype is entirely justified. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a sequel that surpasses the original film in terms of its scope, its power, and its raw emotion.
The second film picks up the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), son of Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), chief of the Hooligan tribe of the island of Berk, five years after the events of “How to Train Your Dragon.” Berk has adjusted to the presence of friendly dragons. There’s scarcely a home on the island that doesn’t have a resident fire-breather. Dragon-racing has become Berk’s favorite sport. Even Stoick has changed, learning to ride and love the fairy creatures that he once hunted and killed. But his attempts to groom Hiccup to take over as chief meet with failure. Hiccup prefers to wander the skies with Toothless, his dragon and best friend. Even girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) is not as close as Hiccup and his Night Fury.
Hiccup’s soul-searching about his father’s attempts to make him chief is suddenly interrupted when he and Astrid come across a band of dragon hunters led by Eret son of Eret (Kit Harington). They learn that Eret works for the ominously-named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), who uses dragons to build an invincible army. Eret and Drago are opposed by a mysterious masked vigilante—who turns out to be Hiccup’s long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett).
From that point, both the action and the emotion build without stopping. Stoick, Valka, and Hiccup have to overcome the tensions caused by their twenty-year separation and work as a team to stop Drago’s plans. The tale doesn’t end easily—the struggle nearly destroys Berk and a major character dies in the conflict. He’s given a magnificent sendoff that could have come straight out of “Beowulf.”
Those who enjoyed the first movie will enjoy this one even more. But it’s not necessary to have seen “How to Train Your Dragon” before seeing the sequel—the second film stands up quite well on its own.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is in theaters now in both 3-D and 2-D.