If you like dragons, do a happy dance now, because “How to Train Your Dragon 2” has probably a thousand of them.
I actually just threw that number out, but now that I think about it, it’s probably pretty close.
Picking up five years after the 2010 original left off, the island of Berk has not only accepted dragons as something other than vicious killers to be hunted down, but incorporated them into all aspects of life — in work, as pets, for sports.
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his faithful dragon, Toothless, have made it their quest to map out the world. On one of their treks to the borders of the known world, they, along with Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) and her dragon, stumble across a ship of dragon hunters, bent on capturing all the dragons they can to help the evil Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) build a dragon army.
Although the island’s chief and Hiccup’s father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), battens down the hatches and prepare for war, Hiccup is convinced he can talk some sense into Drago. He flies off to make peace, inadvertently dragging Stoick, Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson), Astrid, Snotlout (voiced by Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Tuffnut (voiced by T.J. Miller) and Ruffnut (voiced by Kristen Wiig) into the belly of the beast.
Hiccup ends up instead meeting his supposedly dead mother, Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), who has spent the last 20 years living with hundreds of dragons in a ginormous ice cave, while the gang tries to take on Drago. Drago’s plan is revealed to be more sinister than simply capturing dragons, putting all dragons — including Toothless — in danger.
The story has grown up some from the original, along with its characters. In some respects, this is successful. Hiccup, now 20, questions who he really is, what he’s supposed to be doing and what he wants out of life. Show me someone who has never asked those questions, and I will sculpt you a trophy out of a hunk of cheddar cheese.
As Stoick pressures Hiccup to follow in his footsteps, too, we see the struggle of just about every young adult, fighting against becoming carbon copies of their parents while also seeking to live up to parental expectations. The rest of the characters, including Toothless, also have to grow up some, which the story manages to do without going overboard on their maturity levels.
Unfortunately, becoming a little more grown-up, as in real life, tends to mean things are a little less magical.
The subplot with Valka and her reunion with Hiccup and Stoick was a nice addition to the story in some ways, but might have taken away from the dragon-centered story a bit. I mean, there’s more to the plot than dragons, dragons, dragons, but if you do go looking for dragons, dragons, dragons, be warned that you might have to sit through a non-dragon-themed subplot.
The animation is incredible. This is apparently the first DreamWorks film to use new animation software, and it is amazing. Actually, it’s a little eerie — characters in animated movies are not supposed to have subtle crows feet when they smile, and their fat is not supposed to jiggle convincingly. Given the amount of makeup used in live-action movies, it’s possible there are more wrinkles here than in most films. It’s kind of trippy.
I’d be hard-pressed to say “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is better than it’s original. However, it’s still better quality and more substantial than a lot of the fare out there. And rumor is they’re making a third. Maybe they’ll have even more dragons in that one.