You can never go wrong if you follow your heart, even if you aren’t sure where your heart will take you. I think that this is the important lesson that you get from How to Train Your Dragon 2. I was a little concerned when I heard that there was going to be a sequel to Dragon; you see, the first is what I consider to be the best animated feature in recent memory (apologies to all of the Frozen fans). My fears were unfounded, however, since this movie is in a lot of ways better than the first. There is a much deeper, somewhat darker, story line, and the animation and color palette is exquisite. This is not a simple movie by any stretch of the imagination: as a matter of fact, there is a lot going on in this movie. Stripped to its barest foundations, this is a movie about discovering who you are and trusting in who you are meant to be.
We catch up with Hiccup soon after his father, Stoic, has announced that he expects Hiccup to be chief after he steps down. This sits a little uneasily with Hiccup, and he and Toothless take off for a little flying practice. He is afraid to face the person he is meant to be, he is afraid that he might have to grow up and that when he does, he might not be able to be the person his father expects him to be (or suspects that he already is). Most of us can relate to this fear, and maybe even to Hiccup’s initial reaction: he refuses to face it. While out with Toothless, he learns that there is a group of men who are corralling dragons for a mysterious man named “Drago.” Stoic has a history with this man and battens down the hatches while Hiccup decides to try to find him and convince him that dragons are not the creatures most fear them to be. What Hiccup doesn’t realize is that while he thinks he is running away from his destiny, he is actually running right into it (obviously he has not read any of the Harry Potter books). It is at this point that Astrid tells him that he has to follow his heart. The more he embraces this idea, the more his destiny becomes clear to him…but at a cost.
The other part of the story that I really loved focused on Hiccup’s long lost mother, who had been thought dead, but who had spent the last two decades living with dragons…sort of a Jane Goodall of the Vikings. In a very touching scene, Stoic sees his lost wife for the first time in almost twenty years. While we – and she – expect him to be furious when he sees her, he tenderly strokes her cheek. His love for her has not diminished even though he, too, has undergone a substantial transformation. Whereas the old Stoic would have been furious with the fact that she left him to care for dragons, there is no anger and he now just sees a person he loves and has missed. They pick up where they left off and make plans to retire together in Berk. As Stoic would attest, you are never too old to change.
This movie is the second in a planned trilogy and is built well on the characters and relationships established in the first. It is a film about growth and change: You can either fight it or accept it, but in the end change will happen. Dragon 2 illustrates that if you follow your heart and do what is right, then change (some of which is inevitable) is not bad. Hiccup and his friends still have a ways to go, but they are learning to trust each other and to trust their own hearts. Each of them is growing into who they are meant to be in their world. If only we could all realize the same, we would all be a lot better off.