Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois created a wonderful universe in the first film. Now flying solo, DeBlois proves to be a stellar storyteller and director, someone who completely understands this world and treats the story and characters with respect. HTTYD2 takes place five years after the first film and this passing of time allows the characters to grow and the audience to grow with them. Hiccup and the gang are now young adults and, while they still have fun, their actions now have consequences and they must face the real world. This is especially true for Hiccup, who has to think about whether to join his father and take his place at Berk, or continue cruising the skies with his best pal, Toothless, discovering uncharted territory. One of these such voyages leads him to a discovery (a discovery that, if you've seen the trailers, you already know the twist of) that will change his life, and help him understand who he is. But this film is not only about self-discovery, but also about a looming danger from a very dangerous man, called Drago. Drago is assembling an army of dragons and plans to conquer the world, and only Hiccup and his friends can stop him. This is all you need to know before entering the film because it is so much more than what this brief synopsis describes.
The relationships between the characters are very well handled. Hiccup and Astrid, Hiccup and Stoick, Hiccup and Valka, Stoick and Valka; they're all great relationships where you see different facets and layers of each characters. Obviously, the main relationship, and the heart of the film, is the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. Their friendship is what drives the story forward and the animators find new and fun ways to make their relationship grow emotionally.
What really elevates the film though are the heartfelt and tender moments in it. Whether big or small, these moments help the audience connect with the characters and feel what they are feeling. The film manages these moments without ever becoming sappy and allows the characters to breathe instead of showing us non-stop action.
This film is also darker than the first and there are moments that may prove too intense for children. One particular scene will break your heart and shows that the animators are not afraid to do bold things if it helps the story.
It wouldn't be a Dragon film without an epic score, and John Powell returns with an all new soundtrack that will make your spirit soar. While employing many of the wonderful themes from the first film's score, he also adds many new ones that help the film achieve its epic tone and scale. Powell clearly knows what he's doing and you will want to download the score immediately after the film ends. Just superb.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 is the definition of a sequel done right. It treats its characters with respect and allows them to grow in meaningful ways. The animation is impressive and beautiful, the music is amazing and the relationships between the characters are fully formed and well rounded.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not only the best animated film of the year so far, it is the best film of the year. Period. A must-watch for everyone and an instant classic destined to be loved by everyone, just like its predecessor. DreamWorks has created a masterpiece. Highly recommended!