By Gary Murray

Starring the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler

Written and directed by Dean BeBlois

Running time 102 min

MPAA Rating PG

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE


The original film How to Train Your Dragon made my ‘best of’ list in 2010.  The magical mix of CGI and dragons made a tale that thrilled both young and old audiences.  It had everything that one wants in a film—action, adventure and emotions.  It was a miraculous experience that one seldom experiences on a cinema screen, a true classic from the moment of the first flickering frame.  Dreamworks Animation had to jump a very high hurdle with the sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The film takes up a few years after the events of the first film.  The kid dragon riders are now teenagers and very much in love with the idea of flying.  They have turned dragon-riding into a heavy contact sport, much to the chagrin of the sheep used to keep score.  The town has come to accept the dragons and the beasts have become a part of the society.  It is a changed world and they live in harmony…

But, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless his dragon are nowhere to be found around the races.   It seems that they are exploring the outer edges of their lands, trying to find out what is beyond their small world.   The two are discovering all that they can.  Hiccup knows that he will be the ruler but he is much more interested in what is ‘out there’ than affairs of state. 

Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) are a couple, with child-like on the cheek kisses.  They are attracted to one another but not in any overt sort of way.  Both are more interested in dragons than romance.  They depend on one another, supporting each other adventures.

The plot takes off when the two come across dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harington).  The man from a near-by land has a singular job.  He and his crew catch dragons for Drago Buldvist, a man who claims to be able to control dragons.  Eret wants Toothless, the rarest of dragons.

The other part of the plot involves the mysterious Dragon Rider Valka.  This rider has a special bond with the dragons and Hiccup wants to know the secrets.  The Big reveal on the Dragon Rider identity turns out to be is a lynchpin of the story.

Hiccup believes he can reason with Drago while his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) believes that Drago means war.  We find a difference in ruling styles.  Where Hiccup believes that diplomacy will lead to peace, Stoick believes that there will be no peace with Drago and that war with the man in inevitable.  We also get the back story of Drago and his abilities.

The story builds to a big confrontation between the forces of good and evil, with dragons fighting dragons.  It is a stunning third act and unlike most of the adventure films of today, it is not a cliffhanger adventure but a complete episode.  It has a resolution, coming circular and has a feeling of completeness.    

Director Dean BeBlois has crafted a brilliant film, one of the best computer animated features of all time and a true classic.  The story he crafted is a logical extension of the first film without rehashing the events of the first film.  He gives the audience exactly what it what it wants but still is able to throw in many surprises along the way.  He takes the simple story of a boy and his dragon and widens the world in terms of land and emotions. 

To be warned, there are some striking images that may shock the youngest of viewers.  The journey of Toothless takes a dark turn before everything comes around and it may upset the under-six set.   

The flying scenes are breathtaking to the point of wonderment.  There is not a moment where the audience does not believe that the dragons are real and are actually flying through the air.  The dragon races that bookend the film are thrilling, reminding one of the Quidditch games from the Harry Potter series.   

The 3-D effects just jump off the screen like a moving version of the old View Master toys.   This is one of the few films that truly needs to be seen in the format, it was designed to be experienced in state-of-the-art projection and to watch the film without those glasses is an injustice.  The extra money for seeing it in 3D is a worthy investment.

To sum up, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the best animated sequel of the year and one of the best films of 2014.  It is sure to make the top ten lists of critics and lauded with an Oscar nomination for Best Animated film.  It is one of the few must see films of the year.

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