A fitting follow-up to the excellent How To Train Your Dragon (2010), this sequel is visually intoxicating and emotionally interesting.
Even if it attempts to squeeze two feature-worthy storylines into a single film.
The first involves Valga (CateBlanchett) and could have, maybe even should have, been rife with multifaceted internal conflict, the likes of which we see in the franchise’s original.
The second story arc, focusing on Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), is far more explosive. Which is one reason it is tonally shifted from the first movie. Another reason? Drago is incomplex, villainous without provocation, senselessly evil, and thereby a Bad Guy.
He makes the sequel much darker than the original.
And also than itself. Therein is How To Train Your Dragon 2’s biggest flaw; the Valga and Drago stories are mismatched. The first could have been pulled directly from the original film, while the second, a battle between Good and Evil, is previously foreign to the franchise. To do either as well as he handled the first film, writer/director Dean Debois would have needed to delve deeply into both, showing their effects on his central characters and developing slow change within them.
Instead, the filmmaker saddles himself with two complex, and mostly disconnected, plot lines, and therefore has little choice but to rush through both.
When Stoick (Gerard Butler) first sees Valga, he all but instantly begins a musical interlude that rapidly resolves potential conflict.
When Drago forces Toothless into undesired action, Valga makes a speech or two and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, still perfect) is ready to continue.
The trend persists. In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Debois speeds through character-developing sequences, a fact that renders the film rushed.
Yet, impressively, this sequel remains good.
The animation is jaw-dropping.
The voice actors rival Toy Story’s.
Debois ensures appeal to all audiences.
Many sequences, especially those involving Ruffnut (Kristin Wiig), are laugh-out-loud funny.
The franchise’s themes are still universally applicable.
And so forth. Despite too much story and too little character, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is exciting and interesting, making it a welcome, if not perfect, compliment to its predecessor.