I loved the first How to Train Your Dragon (2010). It was also a financial and critical success. The former kind of success usually guarantees one thing in Hollywood. A sequel. Just released is How to Train Your Dragon 2. The question then becomes is the sequel as good as its predecessor?
How to Train Your Dragon 2 starts out where the last movie left off. The Viking village of Berk is now integrated with dragons. The Vikings ride the dragons for sport and take care of them. Stoick, (Gerard Butler), Berk's chief, wants Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) to take over as leader the village. He also wants Hiccup to marry Astrid. (America Ferrera) Hiccup would rather explore he world with his Night Fury Dragon, Toothless. While riding their dragons, Astrid and Hiccup are captured by Eret (Kit Harrington) He's under the employment of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a ruthless dragon hunter. Astrid and Hiccup escape to warn Stoick who puts the town on war footing. Hiccup leaves to find Drago in order to negotiate a peace. During his journey, he's captured by the mysterious Valka (Cate Blanchett), another dragon rider.
One of the the good things about this film are the performances of the actors. All the voice acting is delivered with sincerity and warmth. Jay Baruchel is able to subdue his annoying nasal voice to portray a more mature young man. Gerard Butler is now a man whose heart has changed in his relations with his son and dragons. America Ferrera's Astrid is charming. She's a strong woman who in her own right is a leader. Djimon Hounsou is unrecognizable as Drago. He's power hungry villain. And Cate Blanchett is again marvelous as the dragon rider Valka whose life is full of secrets.
Dean DeBlois returns to write the screenplay and direct. He wisely uses flashbacks to explain plot points. And under his direction, the movie is able to make exaggerated characters feel real. The animation is spectacular whether it's capturing flying a dragon or Valka's graceful, yet mysterious moves. The movie is a little cold until we meet Valka. Then once her secrets are revealed, How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes flight. However, with most sequels, there's a the tendency to go bigger. That's not always better. This film is a little on the bloated side in the third act. This fat tends to obscure the wonderment of flying dragons. Thankfully, composer John Powell returns with his soaring themes from first film.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 was filmed in 3D with good results. Like its predecessor, the 3D process was well thought out. DeBlois uses the effect to emphasize landscapes and distance shots. The result is a film with real depth. My only problem is that he seems to shy away from shots that pop or push out. Those shots can often make the audience feel as if there's an object in the theater. Still, the movie is worth the extra money you pay to see it in 3D.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a worthy follow up to the first movie. It might get a little too busy at times, but the return of Hiccup and Toothless is more than welcome. The grade is B Plus.