How to Train Your Dragon 2: Movie Review
Voice cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington
Director: Dean DeBlois
Four years ago, CGI tale How To Train Your Dragon impressed with its tale of Jay Baruchel's Viking Hiccup growing up and becoming friends with Toothless the dragon.
So, with the massive global box office success of the piece, an inevitable sequel is soaring into the cinemas, in time for holidays.
Five years on, Hiccup returns once more and is now living in a world where the Vikings are friends with the dragons and harmony is restored in the world of Berk. But when the duo discover another land which has a swarm of dragons around, they inadvertently unleash a new threat that could de-stabilise the established peace.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, what Hiccup discovers will change his own world forever.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 is apparently based on The Empire Strikes Back, with director DeBlois opting for more darkness this time around as Hiccup grows up and faces the responsibilities of life within the tribe.
There's certainly a slightly darker edge to it all with this latest outing but there's also a feeling of a lot more which sadly diminishes the charm of the first film.
There are plenty more dragons on show, plenty more characters - including one voiced by Kit Harrington from Game Of Thrones and a one-dimensional baddie voiced by Djimon Hounsou - and a lot more flying sequences (which manage to soar).
But the end effect is that it all feels a bit much as it leads up to a crescendo where sabre-tooth dragons battle and the screen's littered with action. Part of the charm of the first was the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup and their bonding - and while you wouldn't necessarily want a repeat of that second time around, that side definitely - and sadly - feels more sidelined.
The animation is lush, and the menagerie of dragons certainly impress, particularly thanks to copious sequences of flying, but the smaller moments are less to come by and are sorely missed. The sense of wonderment is lacking, and while you could argue that comes hand in hand with Hiccup's growing up on screen, it certainly means this sequel doesn't soar as much as it could.
The final section feels like a movie too far and despite everything whizzing on by and looking wondrous in 3D, the emotional moment that's supposed to resonate fails to hit the defining high it needs.
Overall, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a fine treat, but it stops from resonating as much as it could and soaring as high as it should.