It feels a bit unseemly to trumpet such a mainstream movie during this Festival of the Wonderfully Obscure, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is absolutely wonderful and deserves trumpets. It opens 5 years after the events of the first film. Berk is now an idyllic, gravitationally precarious but architecturally impressive hamlet with a thriving population of dragons. The biggest issue is that Stoic wants Hiccup to be the next Chief, and Hiccup is ambivalent at best. This very quickly becomes not the biggest issue when a Very Bad Guy enters the picture, bent on enslaving all dragons.
All of the battles are exciting and suspenseful, and the dialog is snappy and funny, but this film is special because of the strength of the story. The plot isn’t merely a series of set-ups for set-piece battle scenes. It wrestles, sincerely and unironically, with issues including family, loyalty, duty, free will, and the pursuit of peace. Peace! Punchline of hippie skits and Miss America parodies. The movie declares peace an achievable concept, worth striving for. By the end, I wanted to stand and salute.