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Not only was the original How to Train Your Dragon a huge financial success back in 2010, it was also one of the best films of that year. There was an incredible feeling of adventure and discovery to it and the flying sequences were particularly enthralling. Arriving four years after its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 isn’t quite the breath of fresh air that made the original a rousing success. There’s much more of a been-there done-that feeling to the proceedings this time around. But that’s not to say that this is a bad sequel; rather, it’s just a moderately successful one. It never does anything overtly wrong, but it also doesn’t bring much new or interesting material to the table like a sequel should.

It’s been five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) convinced his village to live peacefully with dragons. Now, everybody has their own pet dragon. Instead of building weapons to fight the dragons, the villagers build saddles to ride on them. Any problems with the dragons seem to have withered away, until Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) discover a group of dragon trappers led by Eret (Kit Harrington). These trappers attempt to take their dragons, in order to give them to their leader, Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou). Bludvist wants to build a dragon army and take over the surrounding lands.

This is a beautifully animated film; even when certain aspects of the plot feel fairly uninteresting, it’s always nice to look at, thanks in large part to the great cinematographer Roger Deakins who serves as a visual consultant on the film. Just like in the original, there are some great sequences of action throughout. Things may feel less exciting than the first time around, but that’s simply because we’ve already experienced what it’s like to fly on the backs of these dragons.

Children will definitely enjoy watching all of the different dragons frolic around the screen in their adorable ways. Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless, is still the cutest and most entertaining to watch. The filmmakers also attempt to add in more humor than was present in the first film, but most of it feels forced and a little bit awkward. Younger children may enjoy the occasional jokes that the script has to offer, but adults won’t find much cause to laugh. Instead, adults will appreciate the characters much more this time around. Hiccup, his father and even a new character who I won’t spoil here, are given a surprising amount of depth and sincerity.

Things begin to get much more exciting as the film enters its third act. Director Dean DeBlois stages the battle sequences so well that you’re likely to forget that what you’re watching is an animated film. There’s a welcome sense of danger present and it makes the finale far more exciting than everything that came prior. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a few surprises up its sleeves, but it’s a mostly unremarkable film, albeit one that is still well put together. For an animated sequel, it gets the job done.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 receives 2.5/4 

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