While most sequels are made for commercial reasons, this is a film that not only deserves to be seen, but it is also one that feels more like an organic extension of the original. Both films work so well because, unlike many other CGI animated family outings, the focus here is on strong character arcs and good storytelling as opposed to cheap gags and colourful eye candy without substance.
DreamWorks Animation returns to the world of dragons and Vikings in this sequel to their successful 2010 outing How to Train Your Dragon. Five years have passed since the events of the original film, and all is well in the Viking village of Berk. Dragons and humans live together like domesticated dogs and their owners after years of war. While Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is being groomed to take over the chief’s position by his father Stoic (Gerard Butler), he seems to be more interested in exploring with his dragon Toothless. He soon learns how dangerous the world outside of Berk can be when he crosses paths with Eret (Kit Harrington), who claims to be working for a very dangerous man named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou).
Fans of the original will not be disappointed and if you are new to this world of dragons and Vikings I strongly suggest that you watch the original before going to see this one. This is a slightly darker sequel to the first and there are scenes which may upset little kids (hell, even I had to fight back a tear or two). That being said, thanks to some carefully placed cuteness and comedic elements in the film, its more mature scenes are never overbearingly so and there is a good balance in terms of the overall tone of the film.
The Bottom Line
This new adventure has a lot going for it, and as stated earlier, it feels more like an earnest extension of the first as opposed to a tacked-on cash grab. Which is very rare in Hollywood terms nowadays – I haven’t had this much fun in a cinema since The Lego Movie; not that I’m a child who only watches animated movies, but in terms of real story and sheer entertainment value, minus the barrage of hour-long explosion porn – these have been two of this year’s biggest successes.
The cast have all done great voice-over work here, but a special mention must go to Cate Blanchett, who really took the material to new heights by adding an extra touch of class to the proceedings. There are also enough new elements this time around to prevent the film from feeling like a total retread. We get new characters, new dragons, new gadgets and some new mythology. All in all, there’s a slight sense of not wanting to fix what wasn’t broken from the last outing. The icing on the cake to me though is the fact that more than just teaching kids what to think about the world they’re coming into, it’s a rare series that also encourages them to think for themselves.
My only gripe with the rush to the final climatic ending is that it did feel a tad familiar. I also feel that by taking the main focus away from Hiccup and Toothless they’ve lost a little bit of the magic that made the first so brilliant. There’s also that dark turn I said the film would take earlier and to be honest it didn’t sit all that well with me, so I can only imagine how little kids watching this would feel. Parents, you’ve got your work cut out for you on this one. Prepare to answer some pretty deep questions. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I think it’ll make for a highly entertaining trip to the cinema for both young and old alike.