Higher and Higher | How to Train Your Dragon 2 10 years On

When the first How to Train your Dragon film was released, audiences didn’t really have high hopes or expectations for it. DreamWorks weren’t as mighty in the animation game as they once were and, despite a strong voice cast, the trailers and title were enough to make people question whether animated flying dragons could breathe life, not just fire, on our screens. After the shock that proved us all wrong, we are now here, looking at the first sequel, in the year of its 10-year anniversary. So, let’s look at How to Train Your Dragon 2, and what makes it so special – I think we can go so far as to say it’s better than the original.

The first thing of note is the clear story progression. The film does its best to keep its viewers interested throughout, capturing the charm and beauty of the original but giving us extra fleshing out of the world: more creatures and characters that create conflict which enables our protagonists to grow. Exactly how a sequel should be. Animation is often tarnished with the concept of the ‘reset button’, where everything goes back to how it was. It’s pervasive aspect of Western cartoons: we often just want more from our heroes. How to Train Your Dragon 2 breaks this cycle, as it’s a more mature version of the first outing. This time around, Hiccup is ready to be the leader, and that’s just the beginning of his new challenges. Hiccup is voiced perfectly once more by Jay Baruchel, who brings just the right level of energy, wrapping drama and comedy seamlessly into his performance.

The voice cast that supports Baruchel is just as strong. Gerard Butler as Stoick the Vast, Cate Blanchett as Valla Haddock and Djimon Hounsou as Drago, to name but a few. It really is a talented group that helps populate the world. The musical score is fantastical, continuing the gorgeous epic nature of the original and allowing it to soar to new heights. We get to see some beautiful animation, clean arcs of movement throughout and a charm to the dragons that is a testament to the animators. Just like the original, characters such as Toothless are given life and thoughts with just the actions of their bodies and there is a clear talent in that. 

Around the time of this release, the How to Train Your Dragon universe was really starting to expand and kick off, spawning a television series and other merchandise. It would go on to become even bigger by the time that the third film rounded out the trilogy. How to Train Your Dragon 2 premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, directed by Dean DeBlois, known for his writing and directing on Lilo & Stitch. The film was praised for its emotional depth and, having rewatched it for this review, it is clear why. The original, which has become a point of discussion and comparison, has a lot of heart, it builds a bond between Hiccup and Toothless and the world around them. This movie strengthens that bond. 


It’s worth noting as a final side element, that this film was part of a new production workflow at DreamWorks and was the first of its studio to use ‘scalable multicore processing’, a visual support for its artists to see faster results. It’s clear that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a well-rounded film, both in narrative and technique and on this ten-year anniversary, there’s no better time to check those reasons out for yourselves.

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