The first How to Train Your Dragon, in 2010, was a crazy-good time. The sequel is more. It's thrilling, a soaring blend of 3D animation and spectacular storytelling that swerves daringly to honor the healing chaos of family, human and dragon. Writer-director Dean DeBlois picks up with Hiccup (voiced with sly, whiny wit by Jay Baruchel), who has coaxed his village, led by his viking dad (Gerard Butler), to live in peace with mythical creatures. On his dragon steed, Toothless, Hiccup discovers that Eret (Kit Harington of Game of Thrones doing a fierce, fun switch-up on brooding Jon Snow) is helping to build a dragon army for evil Drago (Djimon Hounsou). Valka (Cate Blanchett), the keeper of a dragon sanctuary, aims to stop him. Valka's ice castle is a visual marvel. And Blanchett's vocal performance, grit tempered by grace, ranks with the best in animated-film history. That Valka is also the mother Hiccup thought dead powers the film to a climax that will knock you for a loop. Dragon 2, like The Empire Strikes Back, takes sequels to a new level of imagination and innovation. It truly is a high-flying, depth-charging wonder to behold.
From The Archives Issue 1212: July 3, 2014