You’d think after the first film they’d know how to train their dragons. How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up the reigns of the first feature, leading where we last left off. For a time, How to Train Your Dragon as a series of merchandise and movies was inescapable. How we removed ourselves from that void is a mystery time has already forgotten, as audiences have forgotten this Jay Baruchel-led series already. They have also forgotten Baruchel. Who can blame them? His definitive role is as a floppy-haired teenager who rides around on dragons, convinced he is cooler than his father, played by Gerard Butler.
Still, it is a change of pace for Butler to be in something with relative quality. Dreamworks’ animation is never poor, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 makes use of that. To enjoy it, though, we must make our peace with how the dragons and humans have evolved since the first feature. Now, they live in harmony, rather than fear. Within five years, dragons have been domesticated to live in barns beneath the city. No surprise there, is there? Instead of battling humans, they now face one another in odd games of Quidditch-like creativity, more sheep being dropped into holes than wizards on broomsticks though. Its humour is ineffective, and it is moments like this that make it obvious as to why. So many of these animated features rely, rather heavily, on the premise that these characters’ one defining quality is worthy of our interest.
Supporting characters who fawn for the affection of one another as Hiccup (Baruchel) is swanning about the skies do not make for decent replacements for the story or the humour. Hiccup’s big reveal as an aged hero does little to satiate the desire for real change. How to Train Your Dragon 2 can offer little of that, but at the very least it does feel close to the quality of the first. It is hard to dislike it, for it is at least bigger in scope, just not in style. There is a strong desire to build the world around these characters, and director Dean DeBlois does it with literal scenes of exploration and navigation. Hiccup in these early moments makes for a thoroughly enjoyable protagonist. His search for whatever takes him wherever. The details aren’t necessary, the film is interesting enough without it.
Trouble in the dragon-infested lands should be no surprise to anyone, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 shows a series of adventurers that are not yet at peace with dragons. Bandits and beasts that are not quite comfortable living side by side with superior, scaled beasts. They’ll have to be destroyed. Apparently, the best way to do that is with nets. Catch them like fish. Eat them like fish. Who knows what these people will do with the many variants of dragon, it is best we do not find out. How to Train Your Dragon 2 never takes us to the dragon-eating people, so we must assume they do exist. If not, then who is the real villain here? T.J. Miller, probably. His character may be the hero, but he is most certainly, at best, the villain.