Bigger and even richer than the terrific 2010 hit animation, this sequel is also quite possibly the best action-adventure movie of the year. Not only are its big set-pieces thrillingly rendered with first-rate special effects, but the characters are complex and involving. And the script effortlessly combines jagged wit, youthful exuberance, heart-stopping romance and even some rather bleak emotions.
Five years have passed since Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) discovered his ability to interact with dragons, specifically his inseparable pal Toothless, bringing a new era of dragon-related fun to the small Viking island of Berk. But now his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) is talking about passing on the mantel of chief to Hiccup, and he's not sure he's ready for that. He'd much rather be out zooming over the ocean exploring uncharted lands. Then on one of his trips he encounters a group of dragon hunters led by Eret (Kit Harington), who is helping the notorious villain Drago (Djimon Hounsou) build an army. But this leads Hiccup to an even more startling discovery: his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) turns out to be alive and running a secret sanctuary for dragons. Can they team up to stop Drago?
It's a rare film that manages to work equally well in the quiet moments as in the massive spectacle, but writer-director Dean DeBlois never wobbles at all. Without ever manipulating the audience, he seamlessly shifts from tear-inducing happiness to soaringly thrilling battle action to agonising emotional pain. The coming-of-age plot may feel familiar, but it's packed with fresh touches, hilarious observations and some surprising twists and turns along the way.
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