Dragons still flying high in second outing

Dragons still flying high in second outing (Image 1)

The worry with sequels to movies I love is always the same: Is it just going to be an amusing retread of the original or is it going to have its own identity?

I get disappointed with slight variations of the originals that proceed to do nothing original (“Shrek 2”) and usually find it more rewarding when a sequel surprises me (“Toy Story 3”).

I loved “How to Train Your Dragon” and was quite excited for the second. This is as good a time as any to admit that I generally like dragons and will both enjoy and re-watch movies that aren’t good just because they’ve got dragons (“Reign of Fire”).

Now that we’ve established Joel Loves Dragons, and are hopefully done snickering about it, I can tell you with utmost certainty that “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a fast-pased, funny, wacky ride that improves on the high bar set by its predecessor.

It’s a great film regardless of your opinion on dragons.

Bizarre, ridiculous things start happening early in the film and the madness never stops. The plot moves at a rapid pace, constantly adding new elements and some really strange plot twists. There were two separate moments I stopped to think about the bizarre logic behind the events on the screen. Both times I reminded myself that I was watching a cartoon about Vikings flying on dragons and people watching a cartoon about Vikings flying on dragons probably won’t question ‘how’ things happen.

The twisting plot works wonders, however, providing a constant sense of urgency. There are no throw-away scenes in the film, impressive considering it also runs a little longer than most animated films (at 102 minutes).

The film also provides more dragon action with new dragons and some bizarre (even trippy) dragons. You know, if you also showed up for the dragons (because dragons rule!). Toothless again proves to be one of the best film dogs ever, just one that causes significantly more property damage when he misbehaves than most dogs.

There’s a wealth of amazing images in “Dragon 2.” The film takes place in a variety of landscapes as Hiccup, the awkward-but-likable hero, travels across the globe. Atttention was paid to every detail in every frame, creating what I found to be an odd juxtaposition: every element of this world looks very realistic, but the characters look like old cartoons.

Well, extremely well-animated cartoons.

You won’t hear me say this next line frequently, so enjoy it: it’s worth seeing in three-dimensions. I didn’t get a headache — always a win in and of itself — and it’s really good 3-D. The extra dimension added gravity to some already intense sequences and actually improved the experience.

Did I mention that it has a ton of kickass dragons that prove the artists were having a blast? I mean, if you like dragons it’s downright heavenly.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

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