How to Train Your Dragon 2 (4 stars)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The animated vikings 'n' dragons sequel arrives full of its predecessor’s invention, wit and flair

Cast your mind back to 2010, and Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ animated adventure How To Train Your Dragon. Inspired by the series of YA books by Cressida Cowell, this tale of a young Viking named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his impossibly cute fire-breathing friend Toothless took nearly $500 million at cinemas around the world, making a sequel inevitable.

Thankfully, despite the unimaginative title, How To Train Your Dragon 2 arrives full of its predecessor’s invention, wit and flair. Set five years on, we return to the village of Berk, still run by Hiccup’s father Stoick (Gerard Butler), where inhabitants are now on friendly terms with dragons. While he knows that one day all this will be his, Hiccup has his eye set on adventures further afield.

Together with Toothless and his companion Astrid (America Ferrera), he encounters an island-haven for dragons, an ice-sculpted sanctuary overseen by a mysterious Dragon Rider named Valka (a Celtic-sounding Cate Blanchett). While this discovery throws Hiccup a surprising emotional curveball, danger also lurks in the shape of a fearsome Dragon Hunter named Drago (a booming Djimon Hounsou).

Written and directed solely by DeBlois – Sanders got sidetracked with last year’s caveman cartoon The Croods – the director has cited Star Wars’ landmark 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back as his template. And while it might be pushing it to compare the two, DeBlois’ script has ambition – one that should resonate with viewers of any age.

Shot in 3D, as you’d expect the visuals are top-grade, even if the rather endless flying sequences get a little tiresome. Likewise, the comedy doesn’t always hit (a surprise, given Hollywood funny people Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all return). But minor gripes aside, there’s more than enough here to delight fans and maybe even snare some newcomers.

'How to Train Your Dragon 2' Teaser Trailer

How to Train Your Dragon 2

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Dean DeBlois
  • Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington
  • UK release: 10 July 2014

Sequel to the 2010 hit film with the original cast returning.