This second outing for Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless might take some audience members by surprise. I was a huge fan of the original, which expertly combined smart humour with fantastic visuals and a delightful story about friendship and acceptance. The second film is much darker in tone, set a considerable while after the first film, when dragons and the residents of Berk have formed a co-dependent relationship, while Hiccup and his friends have conquered adolescence and now face young adulthood.

Narratively the film sees our heroes encounter a marauding band of dragon poachers led by the nefarious Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). Hiccup also makes the shocking discovery that his mother isn’t dead after all, but rather raises a menagerie of dragon outcasts under the watchful eye of a monstrous but benevolent ice-breathing behemoth. Voiced by Cate Blanchett, Valka is an inspiring new force in Hiccup’s life, as she shares many of the same passions and idiosyncrasies he does, unlike his marauding father, Chief Stoick (Gerard Butler).

While the animation is as gorgeous as ever, the tone of this second film is far more serious and less inclined towards humour as it is towards poignant emotional catharsis and the harsh realities of growing up, dealing with loss and embracing responsibility. As a result, some younger viewers may struggle with the film, but older audiences should prepare accordingly for a rip-roaring adventure that might also having you shedding the occasional tear.

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