How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

When you’ve got a movie title like How to Train Your Dragon 2, you’ve automatically lowered everyone’s expectations. Not that I didn’t like the first one, but simple “add a number at the end of the title” sequels aren’t exactly known for their finesse and light touch. Typically, that number translates into “the first one made us a bunch of money, so here’s another. More please?” Real sequels get their own name. The Dark Knight. The Empire Strikes Back. The Godfather Part II. (Oh. Wait . . . ) So when I read the good reviews of the film, I kept my expectations squarely in the “review of a sequel” range. Still, I’d had a good time at the first one, and we had a day left of vacation, so why not try the second? ($27 for Denisa, me, and the two kids to go to the theater? That’s one reason right there. Sheesh!)

Anyway. I sat down, not sure of what to expect.

I was very surprised by what I got. No–I’ll go so far as to say “blown away.” This isn’t just a good animated movie–it’s a good movie.

The first hint that something’s different at work than a simple Shrek 57? Hiccup (the main character) is now in his late teens/early twenties. Something like 6 years have gone by since the first movie. So the characters aren’t just the same ones from the first–they’re older. They’ve changed some. (Not drastically in most cases, but still–a marked difference from a typical sequel approach.) Society has changed with them. Dragons are fully integrated into life in the village. So this isn’t just a riff on the first one. They’ve set up an entirely different conflict that draws on the setting and world building in the first, but goes somewhere else.

I don’t want to give away too much of the movie, since there were some actual surprises in store over the course of the movie, but I will say I was continually impressed with where the story was willing to go and how it treated the material. It wasn’t quite on a Pixar level, but it wasn’t trying to be, either. It was its own thing, and I respected that. Still plenty of humor and some silliness, but a solid outing across the board. (Realized after the fact that this director started with Lilo & Stitch, which makes this all start to make more sense. I get used to looking at animation houses for an imprint on a movie as opposed to directors. Maybe I need to stop that.)

So in the end, I’d give this one a 7 or 8 out of 10. Let’s call it a 7.5. A fun movie that’s more than I expected it to be. Solid story, great animation, nice soundtrack. Was it worth $27 in the theaters? No. But nothing is worth that much in the theaters. $10 a ticket for a movie? I have no idea how you all stand it. $4 matinees for me and mine, thank you very much. You all can keep your big city high fallutin’ ways.

Seen the movie? Let me know what you thought. Spoilers allowed in the comments, so be warned!

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