Written by: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill
With the harmony found between the humans of Berka and dragons being so rare, it had to be assumed it would be a work in progress across the board for all humans. An issue the Vikings of Berk must encounter when their newfound peace gets threatened along with deepening lore of how these dragons operate as a whole. Packed with much more action, How to Train Your Dragon 2 brings other humans into the fold and raises the stakes immensely.
After five years of harmony with the dragons, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) hears about a marauding gang of Vikings known for enslaving dragons and using them as part of an army. Vehemently opposed to this, he tries to work things out through peaceful terms, but the leader of the group, Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), has different plans.
From the scrawny and unconfident kid from the first feature, Hiccup’s development in this sequel really puts the pedal to the metal where he begins to have discussions about leading the citizens of Berk in the future. His father Stoick (Gerard Butler) sees the potential in his son and wants to see it fulfilled. A big moment for Hiccup because not that long ago, the lad barely had any respect from his own peers, nonetheless the same from the elders. Since the incident of showing everyone the friendship possible with dragons and the five years, he has grown, but even then, this comes with so much responsibility. Grappling with whether he fully has what it takes to step up as a leader becomes the internal struggle while externally a physical threat is on its way.
Dragons served as the antagonists of the first feature, even if for the span before Hiccup showed the humans the truth, but this time it becomes about humans versus humans. A different dynamic and it all centers on how to treat dragons. Hiccup and the rest of Berk see them as allies and have lived with them for the last few years but Drago very much sees them as tools for massive destruction. Two polar opposite philosophical perspectives and they clash in this feature as training a dragon can also be in utilizing them for violence.
Ever since the first feature, Hiccup has maintained this belief in peaceful resolutions, which led to him learning about the connection humans can have to dragons, but now it must occur with other humans. It further builds out Hiccup to be such a different type of hero as compared to what gets typically portrayed in these sorts of stories. As Drago sets his sights for Berk to attack and take all of the dragons, Stoick readies the defense while Hiccup hopes to meet Drago and broker some sort of peace. Yet another dueling perspective. This feature, as a whole, relies more on the struggles between humans, but it surely does not mean the dragons do not get the chance to shine.
In regard to action, How to Train Your Dragon 2 definitely steps it up as massive battles with dragons and their riders versus these large enemy ships bring combat to the forefront when peaceful talks do not align with reality. Stakes raised and dragons being utilized in the art of combat, these fight sequences push Hiccup and his contemporaries to think outside of the box, especially with the idea of an Alpha dragon getting introduced, which seemingly can control all adult dragons. The deepening of the lore allows for more to be understood as to how these dragons operate with each other, which only increases the likelihood that they will be used in negative ways that Hiccup and Toothless must account for. With plenty still happening on a thematic level in this feature, it changes to focus more on the action and serves as a good deviation that pays dividends.
Consistently developing magic outside of the dragons in this feature is the extravagant score done by John Powell. In both this sequel and the previous film, the score runs synonymous with this movie as it becomes impossible for anyone to walk out of watching these films and not have this stuck in their head. It captures both a sense of wonder and fear in what’s to come, as these dragons can be a double-edged sword. It continues to play in my head as I write this review because of its impact.
A strong and appropriately calibrated sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2 rightfully raises the stakes of what can be done with these dragons while introducing the conflict of other groups viewing the utilization of dragons to mean something else than treating them as friends. Filled with philosophical and physical battles, this feature simply comes out splendidly in advancing Hiccup as a character and providing more insight as to how these dragons operate and can co-exist through their own way, just as humans have for all of our existence.