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How to Train Your Dragon 2
Genre Animation
 
Review:

How to Train Your Dragon had a strange title, but managed to be a funny, moving and wonderfully entertaining animated adventure about a boy, his pet dragon and his father. Several years on... the sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, has swooped in to bring us more of the same thrilling entertainment with a slightly darker, more mature edge.

The sequel is also much more Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch), who is credited as writer-director, taking a stronger controlling influence over the story. He worked on How to Train Your Dragon and adapts Cressida Cowell's book series without the team from the first one. This makes the film slightly edgier and turns it into an emotional roller-coaster as Hiccup discovers a mysterious dragon lair and encounters the Dragon Rider.

Now that Hiccup and Toothless have grown older, the buddy movie no longer has the novelty of them discovering their friendship and abilities. The warriors and dragons are living in harmony, tossing sheep in dragon races, instead of all the fear-mongering destruction. However, not everyone understands dragons the way Hiccup and his tribe do, which is where the sequel finds itself.

In a similar structure to Ice Age 4, the film combines the same group of lovable characters and sends them on an icy deep sea adventure, which sees them outwitting pirates and confronting the legendary Drago. The filmic influences don't stop there, taking aspects from Avatar, Braveheart, Game of Thrones and even Godzilla to deliver big action, vivid storytelling and emotionally resonant entertainment.

Avatar is echoed in the flying animal riders, the mystical lair and the tribal instincts of the characters in their once idyllic existence. Braveheart chimes in with the Scottish culture, the spirited banter, the chest-thumping determinism and the acts of bravery. There's more in the way of medieval politics, kingdoms, warring and dragons, playing into pop culture's current fascination with Game of Thrones. While Godzilla has its claws in the scale of the battle sequences and the epic dragon action.

DeBlois knows how to charm audiences and has a great balance of cheerful comedy, heartwarming drama and some beautiful tear-jerking moments too. We're enchanted by the quirky animation, the fairy tale ambition, the lofty aerial action and the fun-loving characters, who could have been inspired by Asterix.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 features the same voice cast from the original. Jay Baruchel returns to bring life to the unassuming Hiccup. Gerard Butler brings his sonic boom and clout to his father, Stoick. Comedy actors Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig reprise their roles as the ragtag team of young warriors. Then, Djimon Hounsou and Cate Blanchett lend their hefty vocal performances to the characters, Drago and Valka.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is all-round entertainment. There is a point at which it felt like the film was gearing up to a "To be continued..." title screen, before unleashing yet another climax to draw the adventure to a close. While it lingers at this point, it's back to business in no time. While it appeals to all ages, you get the impression, the franchise is trying to grow with its original audience - delivering some heavier themes in the process.

If you enjoyed Brave or the original How to Train Your Dragon, you'll find this new adventure to be exhilarating, entertaining and wholeheartedly enjoyable. While you may feel sorry for the sheep, the film's pacing, well-balanced tone, emotional resonance and great sense of humour will more than make up for any hesitations going in.

The bottom line: Thrilling

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