It’s not an easy job for a sequel to repeat the magic & success of its predecessor. The one major problem it faces is obviously the hype & expectations from the fans of the original which it is expected to overcome but even more than that it’s about how one can take forward the story, themes & universe introduced in the previous film and explore it further. Sure the cinema of today is overpopulated with unnecessary sequels, prequels, reboots & remakes, but every once in a while there comes a second chapter that truly ends up justifying its existence and pushes its familiar story to unfamiliar domains. In the summer of 2010, DreamWorks Animation released their finest feature in the form of How To Train Your Dragon, which surprised everyone with its remarkable balance between story & animation elements and remains a rollicking adventure for all ages. Surfacing four years later amidst enormous hype is How To Train Your Dragon 2 and how does it fare in comparison to its predecessor? Let’s find out.
Set five years after the events of the first film, How To Train Your Dragon 2 continues the expedition of Hiccup & his pet dragon, Toothless, as they embark on a new journey to discover and map unexplored lands & territories. The Viking village of Berk has made peace with dragons and now both co-exist together in harmony. Having come of age, Hiccup is pressed by his father to succeed him as the village’s chieftain but he doesn’t feel ready for this responsibility yet. While on their daily routine of charting unmapped places and exploring new cultures, they come across a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and meet the mysterious Dragon Rider but very soon the two find themselves at the centre of a larger conflict brewing between humans & dragons. With less time in their hands and an impending battle closing in, Hiccup & Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe in but soon realise that only together do they have the strength to change the future of both men & dragons.
Although there is no denying that unlike most sequels, How To Train Your Dragon 2 never tries to play it safe by cashing in on the success of the original and even makes an effort to further expand its mythical universe but in the end, it just wasn’t enough as this second venture falls little short of living up to the dizzying heights of its predecessor. It does take the road-less-travelled, tries many new things in the process, pushes its story to uncharted areas and I really admire what the filmmakers were trying to do but then what could’ve been another smooth cinematic ride is somewhat marred by its unpolished script which, as it turns out, could’ve really benefitted from little more refinement in fleshing out its story & characters. All the ingredients that made the previous chapter an instant classic are still in here, the only problem is that this time, it doesn’t blend together as seamlessly as it did four years ago and comes out slightly undercooked.
With Chris Sanders not returning, Dean DeBlois takes the director’s helm alone this time and even though the film isn’t as impressive as the duo’s last effort, it still makes up for a pretty fun & enjoyable summer movie that has enough fuel to entertain and satisfy majority of its viewers. Like the last film, the animation is absolutely dazzling & meticulously detailed, the dragons are vividly imagined, designed & rendered, the camerawork is expertly handled and John Powell’s score wonderfully supports & carries the entire narrative throughout its runtime. But unlike the last film, the humour isn’t that well-timed & sometimes feels unnecessarily forced, the new characters aren’t developed at all while only a handful of recurring ones get to do something in their limited screen time. The character arcs of Hiccup & Toothless is nicely carried out and had my attention for the most part but apart from these two, I didn’t care for anyone else, especially the antagonist who looked intimidating only in the flashbacks.
To be very honest, I’m gonna need another viewing of this chapter to be entirely sure of what I really think of it. Thanks to the jackasses in the cinema hall who either wouldn’t shut up or turn up late, I have no recollection whatsoever of this film’s opening moments and was never able to emotionally invest myself in its story from start to finish. Still… for what I was able to gather, How To Train Your Dragon 2 has many interesting things going on in its tale but it certainly isn’t without its flaws. And that really is a shame because the scope & ambition here is higher than the first film but the heart & energy that elevated its predecessor to a level of greatness seems to be missing. On an overall scale, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is an exciting follow-up to DreamWorks Animation’s finest feature that has a certain amount of freshness & originality of its own, is finely directed & lively scored and despite its shortcomings, most of which arose due to my really high expectations from it, this fun-filled adventure somehow manages to deliver an entertainment that’s worth your time & money.