Voices of Jay Baruchel   Gerard Butler   Cate Blanchett   America Ferrera   Kit Harrington   Djimon Hounsu


 An enchanting extravaganza of sharply drawn colorful dragons and the characters who ride them.  This story follows nicely five years after the first Dragon.  Hiccup (Baruchel) is now a teenager having heated disagreements with his father Stoick (Butler) and a passion for Astrid (Ferrera), a plucky young woman with a clear head and zest for competition.  He has a taste for adventure, but a mission to make things right in the world as well.  He is brave, but not “war hungry”; his primary aim is to negotiate peace with a warring neighbor.  It will not be easy, however, because he will face the world set up by his elders, the most frightful being Drago (Hounsu), who has an army of dragons and seeks to capture all dragons and place them at his command.  He has a ruthless henchman, Eret (Harrington), who throws out a net to capture every dragon that passes by.

 When Hiccup rides out to find Drago, he has a chance encounter with the mother (Blanchett) he has never known.  There is a tender reconciliation, and they join forces to counteract Drago’s grandiose ambitions.  When Stoick comes looking for Hiccup after he is missed at home, there is a second reunion between Hiccup’s parents.  Now they are ready to do battle royal, which will have unintended consequences for all of them.

 DreamWorks animation is stunning for its clarity and advances in facial animation and lighting.  For instance, skin looks much more real in this production.  The music of this second film in a series is outstanding again, following on an Academy Award nomination in the first Dragon for composer John Powell.  The lead vocalist Jonsi of Sigur Ros collaborated with Powell in composing most of the songs, and some music was performed by a Scottish group, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

 Dean DeBlois, the screenwriter/director has created another wonderful experience for children to have at the movies.  Not only is it visually exciting and engaging, but he takes care in loading the story with positive messages for children, such as the power in numbers and loyalty to a team, the voice of peace, finding one’s self which involves looking inward as well as outward, the value in uniting differing worlds, and a father who finally listens to his son and gives him credit for his accomplishments.  Of course, credit is also due to Cressida Cowell, the author of the 12-book series.  I have not read these books, so I don’t know which author is more responsible for the psychological depth, perhaps both.

 How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a complex story with many scenarios and subplots, so seeing it more than once would most likely be productive.

Grade:  A

By Donna R. Copeland