"Everything I loved about the first movie done better. The world is bigger, the stakes are higher, the characters' chemistry is deeper, and the visuals are richer."
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Worth watching in theatres?
Definitely! This movie is a blast regardless of your age. It offers a little bit of something to everyone including humour, action, and emotion.
Worth watching in 3D?
Much like "How to Train your Dragon," the flying scenes in this one are a sky-high roller coaster ride. If you're feeling adventurous enough to see the clouds through the eyes of a dragon-rider, it's worth picking up a 3D ticket.
Worth watching again?
"How to Train Your Dragon 2" plays its cards very close to its chest with controlled pacing and deliberate foreshadowing. It would be easy to watch this movie again just to catch the things you missed the first time around. On top of that, gorgeous visuals and appealing design always make it worth a second go-around.
Expectations vs. Reality?
I was incredibly hyped coming into this one after being pleasantly surprised by its prequel four years ago. However, I worried that since the first movie had been so self-contained in its plot, this movie might feel a little contrived. I saw it going one of two ways - either really thriving off of its prequel's roots or phoning-in on a dead franchise.
Thankfully, not only was I delivered a sequel worthy of the "How to Train Your Dragon" name, but also the movie connected pretty seamlessly with its predecessor. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" expanded the world of the original without feeling confusing. Old threads believably picked up from where they left off and new threads weaved their way into the story without feeling misplaced. My expectations were really blown out of the water by what this movie managed to deliver.
Pros and Cons?
- Larger scope. The first movie essentially took place in two settings, which worked for the scope of the story it tells, but "How to Train your Dragon 2" calls for a much bigger world. Without feeling stretched thin, we're introduced to new islands, new dragons, new characters, and new goals without diminishing the worth of the prequel or feeling tacked on.
- High Risks, High Payoffs. Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that this movie takes even higher risks than the first, and the pay off is intense. The heavy and mature moments of this movie will remind you that animated flicks can appeal to adults as much as they appeal to children.
- Amazing Visuals. Did you notice some of the characters are looking a little different on the posters? The passage of time is subtle but very real - our hero Hiccup's baby face seems to have developed a bit of scruff, Stoick's once fiery beard is now greying with age, and most excitingly the town of Berk has a few new surprises of its sleeve to show for its new scaley residents. New characters are introduced but still feel like they fit in the world, seamlessly blending in with the returning cast of the prequel. New islands are explored, too but never do you feel like, "This doesn't feel like the 'Dragons' universe!" The bigger budget really shows in the surfacing and effects, though, showcasing what DreamWorks is really capable of four years after the first movie. In the close-shots of the dragons it almost feels like you can reach out and touch their leathery hide or iridescent scales - not to mention Astrid's hair looks a little less like noodles, now!
- Effective (Re)Introduction. Unlike some sequels, this movie doesn't force you to watch its prequel. The opening sequence does a great job of introducing newcomers to the cast without boring the return-customers. As far as the plot goes, while the first movie is referred to a few times, the new plot is self-contained enough to not need prior knowledge. Nonetheless, I highly recommend giving the first a watch before buying the ticket to this one, because it instills a sense of investment in the characters a quick introduction can't replicate.
- Beautiful Soundtrack. The first movie's soundtrack was always one of my go-tos for getting in the "fantasy" mood, and whether you're listening to the sequel's soundtrack with the movie or on its own, it's a very evocative experience. The soundtrack does a great job of complimenting the scenes of the movie and stands on its own as a unique and memorable score. Without forgetting reprises of the first movie's memorable music, this soundtrack introduces new melodies that are sure to stick with you after the credits.
- Believable Chemistry. One of my issues with the first movie was the chemistry between the characters - particularly Astrid and Hiccup. This movie continues their relationship and introduces new character interactions that feel real.
- Everything Has a Purpose. Watch closely! Every part of this film is important, and it means a lot to me when movies don't waste your time with irrelevant information. Even though you're not aware of it at first, every little detail holds significance later in the movie, not misguiding or confusing the viewer with superfluity. No wonder this movie manages so much in it's fairly short 1:45 run time!
- Appropriately-Timed Humour. Anyone who watches the first movie should know that this franchise has its wealthy share of laughs, but with the more mature scenes included, this movie still times its humour appropriately. Scenes effectively evoke the emotions they set out to, and when the movie wants you to laugh, you'll be laughing for sure!
- Under-Developed Antagonist. This happens often when an antagonist is not present from the get-go, and while this movie's antagonist is given a backstory and motivation, something about him still felt hollow. At many points he just felt "evil for evil's sake," which made the conflict feel more contrived to me.
- Short "Mourning Periods." For the most part, this movie has great pacing, but when it comes to the heavy scenes, things sometimes get a little wonky. Typically when a tragic scene occurs, a movie will allow its viewers an appropriate duration to "mourn" what has happened. Of course this movie has its share of sad scenes and some feel eager to jump right back into the action. Many "mourning periods" felt too short, again begging for a longer run time.
- Leaves You Wanting More. At only an hour and 45 minutes, this movie manages to tell an impressively complex and engaging story without feeling rushed. However, much like "Rise of the Guardians" you might be left wanting to know more about certain characters or lore. I don't think this movie would have suffered from an extra 15 to 30 minutes devoted to giving us more of a look into certain elements of the universe. Most notably, I felt Astrid's role got a little compromised by the sheer number of lead characters. At certain points, she seemed like little more than someone for Hiccup to bid farewell to and kiss on the cheek, but I will give her credit for always be active and strong.