Another Fantastic Film From DreamWorks
Sequels in a beloved franchise tend to take all the things that made the first film a hit and Make Them Bigger. We might label this phenomenon Sequelitis, or maybe Sequelization Syndrome. And that's definitely the case here. There are more dragons, more pyrotechnics, more characters, more intensity, more at stake. Parents wondering if the sequel is as suitable for young viewers as the original might want to take note of all those mores—while remembering that it's a swath of dragon fire that can burn both ways. There's also more heroism, for instance. And the story's poignant focus on the power of a father and mother's influence is deeply compelling—as is their marital reconciliation and rekindled love for each other. It's the kind of pro-family storytelling that inspires you to want to be a better, more helpful, more loving member of your own family. Hiccup isn't left to just follow his dreams, rather he learns about responsibility and leadership, as well as the work required to see things through. But it's the battle scenes that will feel more more than the rest of those mores. Dragons and humans die in intense skirmishes that I found myself mentally comparing to the likes of Godzilla and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Things never get that grim or gory, of course, but the combat is rarely merely cartoony. A few worship-minded references are made to the Norse gods, as well, and wickedness feels palpable in the dark Drago. All of that makes this a film several degrees more complex in its portrayal of human (and dragon) goodness … as well as in giving us a shadowy glimpse of the opposite. So while How to Train Your Dragon 2 is every bit as entertaining and engaging as its predecessor, it's traded some of the whimsical, childlike wonder for a more nuanced—and at times darker—examination of the clash between good and evil.