by Tony Dayoub
Its poor box office returns are by no means an indication of the quality of How to Train Your Dragon 2, a worthy sequel to its high-flying predecessor. Like the first, this follow-up is the rare movie actually worth seeing in 3D because of its plenitude of dynamic point-of-view shots. You're continuously immersed in the action, often seeing things from the same vantage point as Dragon's underdog hero, one-legged Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). Hiccup is the resourceful dragon rider of Toothless, a rare Night Fury with his own handicap in the form of a mutilated tail.
Director Dean DeBlois maximizes the opportunities the flying dragons offer, taking us to wondrous landscapes beyond that of Berk, the Viking village introduced in the previous film. We visit chilly climes among the clouds, one where Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) run across a hunter named Eret (Kit Harrington), who hopes to catch Berk's dragons to appease the wretched Drago Bludvist (Djimon Honsou). More intriguing, though, is the formidable but kind woman Hiccup meets in another icy paradise, Valka (Cate Blanchett). She introduces us to an enormous Alpha dragon known as a Bewilderbeast.
Beyond also possessing a Bewilderbeast, Drago and Valka share something else in common, ties to Hiccup and his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). It's something that comes into play as the story takes Hiccup even further down the road of self-actualization. Not only does Hiccup come closer to learning of his origins. He comes face to face with Drago, another character with a disability but one that has fueled a cynicism and desire to conquer instead of the inventiveness it fostered in Hiccup. If this material sounds familiar and well-trodden, then yes, I agree. But Dragon 2 succeeds because of DeBlois's ability to use the fantastic landscapes and sights of Berk and its environs to spark the imagination. How to Train Your Dragon 2 may not win points for originality. But it will have you soaring out of the theater.