I was a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon when it was released into cinemas in 2010. Out the same year as some kids’ film heavyweights (Toy Story 3 and Shrek 4 to name just two) it slipped under the radar for many. Of course there is no such competition for the sequel this year, but could it live up to the original?
Set five years after the original, the residents of Berk are enjoying coexisting with the dragons that were once the scourge of their village. Now they are welcomed into the homes as pets, racing buddies and companions. With Toothless, Hiccup goes exploring, aiming to create a map of the world previously shut off to the Berk islanders. When they stumble across ship destroyed by ice they inadvertently bring a war between a mysterious dragon rider and aggressive dragon trappers to Berk.
Meanwhile, Hiccup is facing pressure from his father, Stoic, to take over as chief of the village. He still feels very much in his father’s imposing shadow, unable to believe that he would ever be able to lead as well as him. This narrative follows on nicely from the first. It would be unrealistic (because that’s important in a film about dragons!) to assume that one victory would give Hiccup all the confidence in the world. Stoic is a changed character, although again in an organic way – his new-found respect for his son’s abilities doesn’t mean that his listening skills have improved any. The introduction of the dragon-rider-viking-lady and the change in the family dynamic this brings is a real point of interest in the film and is wonderfully handled.
It’s a bit of a cliché to describe a film as an emotional roller-coaster, but that is what this is. Funny, entertaining moments give way to thrilling action sequences which then plunge you into real heart-breakers. It’s a film of real heart, not least because the two central characters are carrying disabilities from the previous film. The strength of the bond between Hiccup and Toothless is the soul of the film. And you will definitely want a pet dragon. Fact.