It’s always interesting to see how films tackle a sequel. There’s also the issue where they might take the formula of the original and simply add a new story to it (see: The Hangover 2). Or they might try an entirely different story, where nothing connects to the original. How To Train Your Dragon 2 took the higher road—using familiar elements from the first film, the story was fresh, strong, and incredibly enjoyable.
Five years after the original film, dragons live among the village of Berk, working and playing alongside humans. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) works to map out previously unknown territories with his dragon, Toothless. However, now that he’s come of age, he’s beginning to feel pressured by his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), to succeed him as chieftain. When Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) discover a group of dragon trappers, lead by Eret (Kit Harrington)—who vows to capture their dragons for a crazed man named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou)—Hiccup realizes that there may be a lot more that he doesn’t know about the world. When he discovers a connection between him and a mysterious dragon rider, he quickly finds that there is a lot he doesn’t know about himself as well.
Because this film is set five years after the original, Hiccup is now about 20 years old, and watching him battle the inner turmoil of being unsure of oneself in the face of the future is something that anyone, young and old, can easy connect with. Between battles with his father about him finally growing up and becoming chieftain, to trying to connect with a world that seems to be far darker than anticipated, Hiccup deals what many will face, are facing, or have faced previously. The movie allows him to grow into a strong character and a successful young man.
What gives him the opportunity to grow really stems from his interactions with the many characters. The mysterious dragon rider, whose identity is actually a spoiler (but if you’re curious, watch a recent trailer), allows Hiccup the chance to discover what makes him unique and what gives him such a bond with dragons. The meeting causes him to take pause and reexamine everything he’s understood about his life so far, and how he handles it shows how much he’s matured as a character.
That’s not to say the other characters don’t provide support. The entire original cast has returned, and while many of them are there to perform their usual antics, Astrid and Stoick are the most interesting characters for Hiccup to play off. From the supportive girlfriend who understands what he’s going through (and is able to take down anyone in her way if necessary), to the powerhouse father who doesn’t understand that Hiccup may actually know what he’s doing, they are easily relatable and enjoyable to watch.
Overall, if you liked the original film, you’ll absolutely love this one. If you’ve never heard of How to Train Your Dragon before this review, you must live under a rock, but you’ll still have a great time.
Also, for fans of the How to Train You Dragon soundtrack, make sure to pay attention to the music. Returning composer John Powell makes sure to pay homage to the previous film’s soundtrack, and it sounds amazing.