The original film was a worldwide unexpected smash, carefully mixing dizzying visuals with a captivating and in parts, incredibly touching story.
Living up to the early promise with the difficult second or middle movie presented a challenge, however Dreamworks animation have not faltered, this is a sequel to be proud of.
Our hero “Hiccup” (Jay Baruchel – Voice) is now older and mostly wiser than before, he has mild designer stubble and enjoys a tentative nascent romance with Astrid (America Ferrara – Voice). The pair along with their friends still live in the Viking village of Berk and enjoy racing their dragons including the famous Night Fury “Toothless”. The game resembles “Quidditch”, replacing the golden snitch with rather bemused live sheep.
Hiccups father, “Stoick the Vast” (Gerard Butler – Voice) is keen for Hiccup to take over as chief of the village, although Hiccup has doubts, is he really ready for the responsibility?
In their travels Hiccup and his inseparable friend Toothless encounter a dragon trapper “Eret” (Kit Harington of “GOT fame”) who works for the ruthless Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou – Voice). Escaping they warn the village and they start preparing for the inevitable assault.
Here the story deviates from the norm, as Hiccup believes that he can forge a peace and avoid conflict. He is eventually led to an Ice Cave complete with many wild dragons ruled by a mysterious “Dragon Rider”, whose true identify remains a secret.
To reveal more would spoil the story but it shows how audiences are used to films gleefully leading to battles. So when characters try to actually avoid conflict, it is almost a jar to the senses.
The film is quite beautifully animated and voiced. Far and away better than required, if this were just an opportunity to “cash in” on the previous films success. There is real love and care shown for the characters, the interaction with “Ruffnut” and “Eret” is particular entertaining and unexpected.
Bearing in mind there are more flying scenes and ultimately action, some of the quieter beats are lost, we get no similar repeat of the Dragon/Hiccup moment from the first film. The film does skew younger with many superfluous albeit exciting flying sequences, surely hugely entertaining in 3D and providing solid framework for an inevitable amusement park ride.
However the themes explored are universal and the team do not shy away from making tough choices in the closing scenes, something parents of very young children should be prepared for.
Hugely entertaining and clearly painstakingly made with care and attention to detail, way beyond what was required to fulfil the “HTTYD 2” moniker.
If the same team can serve up the same mixture of comedy, animation and adult themes whilst pleasing the ankle biters with thrilling action sequences, the third outing should be splendid indeed.