This weekend, I went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. I loved the first one, and I was cautiously optimistic about the sequel. Well, more cautious than optimistic, really; it’s pretty rare that movies with a “2” attached wind up being very good. Usually they’re an attempt to cash in on a successful franchise with little effort. After all, you’ve already got the audience invested in a good story, so why waste time being creative all over again?
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a clear attempt to cash in on an existing audience . . . with an actual good story. Be still, my heart. If you’re expecting “more of the same,” you’ll be both pleased and disappointed; the world of the Viking dragon-riders has moved on, but in a natural way as the characters age. (Though honestly, I’m subtracting a few numbers from Hiccup’s age, stated in the film as 20, because the youths all still act younger than that. The first film seems like it stars 12-year-olds; this film feels like 16-year-olds.)
That aging is key to the story, because while the movie isn’t quite as cheerful and cute as the first one, it’s also able to take the story forward. We’re not stuck in a rut; the audience gets not only a few changes since the first film, but some bigger changes by the end of this one. The stakes are even higher, and so are the costs.
Those stakes and costs are balanced well, though, which means that your younger kids will still find it fun while your older kids (*cough* and adults) will find more there. The first film was about a boy and his beloved pet; that’s a story we’re used to, even if the pet here is actually a plasma-spitting dragon. This one is about a boy becoming an adult, with adult responsibilities and the need to weigh costs before acting.
Overall, my favorite movie this year is The LEGO Movie, followed by Captain America 2, followed by Maleficent, and then Dragon 2. (My review of Maleficent is coming; I saw a double-feature this weekend, but figured I should review Dragon 2 first.) They’re all films that can be enjoyed by both adults and children, albeit on slightly-different levels. If you’re looking to take your kids to the theater, I highly recommend How to Train Your Dragon 2.