My sons and I missed How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dreamworks) when it was out in theaters. Therefore, we caught it on Netflix streaming for our family movie night. Let me start off by saying, if you haven't seen the first film, watch it! Otherwise, you'll be completely lost in the sequel. (AND, honestly, the first one is SO much better, but that's not the point of this review, so I'll continue.)
It's been five years since we were first introduced to our likable array of characters, both Viking and dragon. The stars of the film are Hiccup, played by Jay Baruchel, who is in line to become the next Chief of Berk, and his dragon, Toothless, who is more adorable than ever!
The film starts off with Hiccup still searching for his purpose, but by the end, Hiccup proves that he has the "heart of a chief and the soul of a dragon."
"Once you've earned his loyalty, there is nothing a dragon won't do for you."
In the first film, Hiccup taught us that love, compassion, and trust is how one trains a dragon, not brute force! He taught the village people that dragons are gentle and intelligent creatures, forever altering the way dragons were perceived and treated in Berk.
In How to Train Your Dragon 2, the village once again relies on Hiccup's peacekeeping skills to prevent a takeover by a war-hungry Viking, Drago, played by Djimon Hounsou, who is kidnapping dragons for his dragon army.
"Good dragons under the control of bad people, do bad things."
In the search for Drago, Hiccup stumbles upon a secret safe-haven for dragons led by a mysterious figure who seems to have a knack for relating to these misunderstood creatures just like he does. Turns out this "dragon whisperer" is Hiccup's estranged mother, Valka, played by the very talented Cate Blanchett. Together with Hiccup's team of dragon riders, they will try to defeat Drago and free his enslaved dragons.
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The biggest theme in both films, and one that alone makes the films worth watching, is the idea that mutual respect, not domination, is the key to human-animal relationships. Once that bond is established, it can never be broken.
Overall, I thought the film was cute and suitable for the entire family, although my older son slipped out partly through it. It is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. There are some amazingly beautiful flight sequences that must have been spectacular on the big screen. It is important to note that there are several strong female characters. After all, they are Vikings! While I didn't feel this sequel had all the magic of the first, it did have its sentimental moments and, whether it was hormones or not, I did find myself sucking back a few tears toward the end.