Seeing the original 'How to Train Your Dragon' for the first time made me feel like a kid again and it has since become one of my all-time favorite films, so when I got a chance to see this, I was as much worried as I was excited. In the past, some of the films I have anticipated the most turned out to be the biggest disappointments, so I took a deep breath and tried to lower my expectations going in. I needn't have feared: I'm glad to report that Dean DeBlois has crafted a beautifully animated tale that loses nothing of its predecessor's sense of fun and adventure, while it enhances Hiccup's and Toothless' journey into an almost classic - and unexpectedly touching - "coming-of-age" story.
While still colourful, playful and visually all over the place (I mean that in a good way*), the tone of the sequel is noticeably darker and the predominant themes are more mature. The writers made some (for Hollywood movies) unusually daring decisions in having Hiccup face very tough realities in life; especially one about the danger of over-humanizing pets and forgetting about their animal nature. Small children had perhaps better stay away, since the film is also quite a bit scarier than the original. That's not saying that there isn't a lot of humour – but the wisecracks of Jonah Hill & Co. will most certainly be lost on the very young and are clearly targeted towards older children and teenagers.
*A word about the animation: This is among the most visually stunning animated films I have ever seen; at times, there is so much eye-popping spectacle on screen that you don't know where to focus anymore - this one definitely needs a second viewing.
My overall verdict: While the storyline may not be quite as straightforward as the original's, the well written, credible character development and the gorgeous visuals are more than satisfying. 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' could have played it safe by merely repeating the original's formula – it opted instead for the introduction of fascinating new characters while giving the ones we know more back-story and a chance to grow up and explore new territory. I would say that next to 'Days of Future Past', this is one of the best sequels Hollywood has produced in a very long time. 9 stars out of 10 (with the option of a straight 10 once I've seen it again).
Favorite Films: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054200841/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/