With character names like Hiccup and Toothless, it can be hard to believe that How to Train Your Dragon 2 (HTTYD2) is a children's movie at its best. But anyone who's seen the first movie can tell you just how wrong you are. The wild success of the first How to Train Your Dragon meant that a sequel was imminent, but rarely are sequels so well done.
Much of the first film was known for its excitement, emotion, humor, and beautiful animation, and the sequel continues in the same vein. When we last left the island of Berk, Hiccup, son and heir to Stoick, King of Vikings, had taught his people that dragons should not be feared but befriended. Now, the entire island has dragons for pets, and Hiccup has gone from scrawny preteen to gawky teenager, along with his best dragon pal Toothless. Everything's going swimmingly until Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that's home to mysterious strangers and hundreds of wild dragons as well as a dark figure looking to enslave all the dragons for his dragon army.
Many of the lighter moments in the film come from the dragons themselves, basically acting as oversized, scaly dogs. They play fetch, lick their owners and are fiercely loyal. Pay attention to whenever the dragons are in the background. While the humans talk, oftentimes the dragons stand behind and make adorable faces, reacting to the situation in their own childlike ways.
On a more serious note, it's incredibly refreshing to see the two main characters with disabilities. Toothless, with a missing tail fin, can't fly without the help of Hiccup. Hiccup, in a heart-stopping action sequence from the first film, lost his foot and now makes do with a peg leg. I loved seeing Hiccup take his disability in stride, acknowledging the weakness without letting it hinder the film. Family and loyalty is a big theme, and heartstrings are successfully pulled when Hiccup and his father Stoick examine not only their relationship but their relationship to Hiccup's mother, supposedly killed by a dragon when he was a baby.
The action sequences and animation are top notch. It never gets old watching the dragons and their riders fly through the sky and perform acrobatic movements. Thankfully, the story and the action are woven so well together that it feels like a wild and intense ride without going overboard. Entertaining for kids, parents, and everyone in between, it's no surprise that plans for a third and fourth installment are already in the works. Let's hope that writer-director Dean DeBlois can keep the adventures of Hiccup and Toothless as exciting as this sequel.