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Hiccup meets the very large alpha dragon in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Hiccup meets the very large alpha dragon in How to Train Your Dragon 2.

I haven’t seen How to Train Your Dragon since I reviewed it four years ago, but I remember being impressed by the visuals and underwhelmed by the story. Those impressions were reinforced mightily by How to Train Your Dragon 2, a sequel that might well have been the year’s best animated movie if the filmmakers had just paid a little more attention to the writing.

Picking up some years after the events of the first movie, the Vikings who live on the island of Berk have now made peace with the dragons, thanks in no small part to Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel). The chief’s son now rides his trusty mount Toothless through the skies, mapping out the islands and waters around his home. That brings him into contact with some poachers and tips him off to a warlord named Drago Bloodfist (voiced by Djimon Hounsou), who seeks to conquer Berk with the army of obedient dragons under his command.

Dean DeBlois co-directed the first movie, but the sequel is his alone. From a visual standpoint, it’s even more spectacular than the original, with the dragons’ flights rendered in glorious 3D. When Hiccup discovers an island populated by dragons, the animators at DreamWorks let their imaginations run riot, giving us reptiles of every conceivable shape, size, color, and number of wings and heads. The movie’s most awe-inspiring moment is when Hiccup comes face to face with the colony’s “alpha” dragon, an aircraft-carrier sized white creature with walrus-like tusks that breathes ice instead of fire.

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