The Viking village of Berk is united with dragons, thanks to the friendship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless. With everything going so well, Hiccup’s father and chief of Berk, Stoick (Gerard Butler), has decided to step down and let his son rule. Hiccup, however, isn’t ready to be chief. In fact, he’d rather spend his time exploring new worlds with Toothless. But after an encounter with dragon catcher Eret (Kit Harington), Hiccup learns that a Viking warlord named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) is building a dragon army. With the help of his father, his friends, and his long-lost mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett), who’s spent the last 20 years living with dragons and protecting them from Drago, Hiccup rides to challenge Drago and rescue the dragons from the warlord’s control.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is very different from the first film in style and overall tone. Where the first film (which I absolutely love) had a more childlike feel with its adorable animation and “boy and his dog against prejudice” plot, this film ups the ante with fast-paced action sequences, occasionally frightening imagery, and mature storylines.
In other words, the movie grew up just as much as Hiccup did, which is exactly what you want to have happen with a sequel.
Speaking of Hiccup, he’s kind of a badass now. He’s still scrawny and young, mind you, but his face is starting to look more like that of a man. Hiccup has become an adult, too, and you can see this in his actions. He’s challenging his father and becoming a leader for friends Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), and Tuffnut (T.J. Miller). Of course, he also has Astrid (America Ferrera), who’s not only the best dragon racer in all of Berk, but also his confidante, number two in command, and future wife.
What was interesting, though, was watching Hiccup grow from boy to man in this movie, especially with the relation to the influences of his parents. In the first film, the Vikings (including Hiccup) poked fun at how little he was like his father, Stoick, the stubborn, quick-to-anger, warrior chief of the Vikings. This made me wonder what his mother was like. Fortunately, we got to meet Valka in this film. She, naturally, is Stoick’s opposite—kind, nurturing, and soft-spoken. If we’re looking at the first movie, Hiccup is more like his mother.
But that changes in this movie. About the time Stoick dies (I’ll explain how it happens in a moment), Hiccup becomes a new version of his adult self through the unconscious combination of his parents’s traits. With Stoick’s stubbornness and knack for command, as well as Valka’s compassion and caring, Hiccup becomes a man by embracing both the masculine and feminine traits that make his parents so different (Dear Hollywood: Apply this to your “strong” female characters). Tell me that’s not some intriguing food for thought.
Nevertheless, it’s Hiccup’s relationship with Toothless that’s the big point. In How to Train Your Dragon, they went from being enemies to friends. But in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup and Toothless go from being friends to loyal companions of the same mind. We see this in particular as they work to master their flights together, both of them using their strengths to make up for the other’s weakness.
Yet it’s even more apparent that Hiccup and Toothless are becoming one when they both rise up as the alphas of their respective species. This, of course, happens after Drago uses the alpha dragon in his army to control Toothless, who unknowingly kills Hiccup’s father. While this does drive a wedge between the two companions at first, it motivates Hiccup into helping Toothless overcome the alpha’s power and, therefore, challenge the alpha for dominance. Then, Hiccup defeats Drago and becomes chief, and Toothless becomes alpha.
So, even though Hiccup is a human and Toothless is a dragon, they mutually experience the growth that comes with leadership. And, personally, I find the parallelism of their stories fascinating.
Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, this franchise totally capitalizes on our love for pets, specifically dogs. I know some of you will argue that the dragons display traits similar to cats as well, but they’ve very obviously designed to act like dogs (As I said, the plot of the first film was cut straight from the “boy and his dog” cloth). Toothless jumps on Hiccup and licks him frequently. The other dragons pant, play fetch, roll around in grass, and love to be scratched under their chins and behind their ears. If that isn’t a dog correlation, I’ll be damned.
It’s because of this “dragon-as-dog” concept that How to Train Your Dragon is one of my favorite animated films. It appeals to my love for my own dogs (who I honestly care about more than any human in my life). When I see the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, I can’t help but picture my own pets, as many of you probably do as well. And it’s awesome that an animated film with fantasy creatures can relate to us on this level. I mean, seriously, I almost cried three times during this sequel because it reminded me of the unconditional love and loyalty my dogs show me everyday (and I them).
Everything about How to Train Your Dragon 2 appeals to animal-lovers. In fact, I’m pretty sure that was the intention behind the scene where Valka introduces Hiccup to the dragons she’s “rescued.” There’s one with a missing leg, one with a bad wing, and one that’s blind. Sounds an awful lot like some of the dogs (and cats) we adopt from animal shelters, right? Not to mention, there’s constant talk of dominance, companionship, and how dragons are misunderstood as violent beasts when they’re actually very loyal (Ahem, pit bull haters). Not saying you won’t still love the movie if you don’t have pets. But, yeah, if you have pets, you’re going to be a puddle of mush.
Overall, How to Train Your Dragon 2 was a wonderful sequel. It improved upon the story of the Vikings of Berk and their dragons by adding new layers to the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. But it also gave us a new version of Hiccup—one that’s not afraid to step up and be a leader while still valuing kindness. If you loved the first film, you will definitely love the sequel. The action is taken to the next level, the animation is gorgeous, and, well, it’s just fun.