Historically animated film sequels have been little more than cash-grabs. Doing what they can to squeeze out that little bit more dough at the box office than the original. The people at Dreamworks Animation while started slowly with films like “Antz”, and “Chicken Run” exploded with “Shrek” in 2001. And while they still stumble from time to time, I think they have put some great underrated films out there, most recently “Rise of the Guardians”, and “Turbo”. Where they have excelled at least financially and for the most part critically is in their sequels, with the Madagascar films, the two Kung Fu Panda films as well as the afore mentioned Shrek series, and brilliant spin-off (and a frequent favorite in my house) “Puss in Boots”. Their record for excellent world-expanding and fantastic storytelling is completely intact for their latest sequel to fly onto the summer screens in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”.
Taking place five years after the events of the first film where Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) brought his home of Berk and a slew of dragons together to live in peace. Here we find a mostly grown-up Hiccup still avoiding home-town responsibility while discovering the ever growing world of dragons. When an old figure from Hiccup’s past comes back along with a new threat to him and his friends, Viking and dragon alike, he and his buddy Toothless must find a way to save the day once again.
Writer/Director Dean DeBlois taking with reins without his partner Chris Sanders who co-wrote and co-directed the first film does a magnificent job at expanding the already established world, with new and interesting characters, a more mature and emotionally engaging narrative and of course, more fun with cool-looking dragons. The action and flying sequences are as fantastic as the original plus one little thing that really blew me away was the animation of facial expressions on Hiccup. The amount of emotion, ticks, to the natural look of his face was of Gollum-like proportions. This is one of those films that truly is for the entire family, as it plays the humor and adventure for the kids it also has family drama, and the power of friendship for the grown-ups.
This is a phenomenal follow-up to a great film and I believe the filmmakers are on their way to completing a trilogy worthy to be in the pantheon of classics like “Toy Story”, “The Lord of the Rings” and “Back to the Future”. I wish them the best of luck.
–Robert L. Castillo