If anything, the deeper, darker How to Train Your Dragon 2 is better than the first 

The Next-to-Last Dragon

The Next-to-Last Dragon
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A film-critic pal and I were discussing where else the How to Train Your Dragon franchise could go after the entertaining, successful first installment four years ago. (As much as my friend enjoyed the last movie, he assured me he hasn’t thought about any of those characters since.) Well, after seeing the sequel, I can say the animated series about dragons and the people who love them is willing to go to some deep, dark places.

For starters, reluctant teen Viking-turned-dragon rider Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who’s now in his 20s, meets up with his long-lost momma (Cate Blanchett). It turns out his mom, who was snatched up by dragons when he was a baby, has been getting her Dian Fossey on and living with dragons in a remote, safe haven. Their reunion comes just in time, as a vengeful conqueror (a screeching Djimon Hounsou) with a dragon army is intent on taking down dragons and those who side with them, which means that Hiccup’s village — now filled with pet dragons — is in danger.

This volume in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (the final chapter is slated for summer 2016) certainly amps up the emotional resonance, sliding in moments that are moving, terrifying, and devastating. Credit writer-director Dean DeBlois, who co-wrote and co-directed the 2010 original, for taking the series to a more serious, less frivolous level. There are still some fun times to be had — Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Mintz-Plasse return to keep things comical as Hiccup’s bratty fellow dragon riders.

But what I found most amusing is how it ends kind of like that ‘80s cult fave Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon. (Let’s just say somebody suddenly gets a shiny, glowing aura when someone challenges them.) Even if that isn’t a clever nod to another dragon-related movie, DeBlois oughta say it is — just so people will think this movie is more amazing than it already is.

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