Oh, man. I fear this isn’t really going to be a review at all. More a vomit of love, giddy excitement and my brain turning back the clock some 30 years to a time where I believed in magic and a world where people with passion entertained. How to Train Your Dragon first came out in 2010 and was loosely based on one of the series of novels by Cressida Cowell. Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois the film was a critical and commercial success.

Uh oh. We have all heard of the curse of the sequel. A movie made to either ride on the waves of success of its predecessor, or one that will go the ‘add more explosions’ route in an attempt to better its parent. Praise be to Odin that this was not the case here! The movie is simply brilliant. I mean come on, baby dragons. BABY DRAGONS!

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 is set some 5 years after the first movie, making Hiccup (Jay Baruchel in a role where I don’t want to kill him) and Toothless around twenty. Of course as the son of the Viking chief this means new responsibilities, ones our young hero doesn’t very much care for, instead preferring to remain free and airborne. We see this by his absence in the opening of the movie as the village is gathered together playing a game that kind of reminded me of Quidditch in Harry Potter, only with more sheep. Wanting to avoid his father and running from ‘the big talk’ Hiccup is instead out flying with Toothless, only this time Hiccup has his own wingsuit!

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After a bit of a crash landing the two find themselves in unknown territory where we discover that Hiccup is creating a map from all his travels; shortly after he is joined by his now-girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera). While confiding in her about his misgivings on becoming chief – she thinks it’s the ‘best honour ever’ – the two notice  a column of smoke (all this is done while her dragon and Toothless play fight in the background, forgive yourselves for not paying attention to the two boring humans here). The source of smoke turns out to be bandits who are capturing dragons for big bad Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) and his dream of a dragon army!

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 then sets out on a wild quest that will have you laughing almost as much as you will be crying. And that is what sets this movie apart from the first – it dares to try being bold, and bold it is. We watch both Hiccup and Toothless go through really hard trials of friendship and what it means while at the same time Hiccup faces the realities of his family situation, both in some very touching scenes (even a sing song!) and some rather sad (bring the tissues). How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a far more mature feel to it when compared to the first. Instead of adding more of the same which many sequels inevitably do, DeBlois shifts the focus of the movie.

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On one hand we focus on the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup (thankfully still as entertaining and hysterical as ever – the expressions of Toothless this time round will have you coughing up your popcorn from laughter) but we are also allowed to glimpse the lives and feelings of others (namely two, but I won’t ruin the surprise) and that is what makes this such a well-rounded movie. Of course the action is absolutely fantastic! From gigantic dragons that breathe ice to scenes of literally hundreds of dragons fighting – even those suffering from the most intense form of ADD will sit mesmerized. Also baby dragons! Simply put the animation, coupled with the epicness (is that a word?) of the sound score, make this akin to a visceral lobotomy.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a masterpiece. It isn’t often that the sequel manages to equal and in some cases supersede the original but in my opinion this is what DeBlois has done. It’s a big movie, with big themes, big action and big heart and to cram all of this into 1hr 45 minutes without bursting (like The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is a testament to the skills of DeBlois and his team. If you have only one movie to watch this year I would say make it about dragons. Toothless is the most lovable and arguably most emotional CGI character ever created and with Hiccup completing the team you are in for the ride of your life.

Last Updated: June 18, 2014

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Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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