Five years ago, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) met his best friend, the Night Fury dragon named Toothless. Together, they successfully united dragons and Vikings on the island of Berk. Hiccup and Toothless now fly through the sky together, creating a map of the uncharted worlds around them, while also running away from the prospect of becoming chief as Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), decides to step down.

There is more time spent soaring through the sky than on the ground. The animation is so incredible that you are riding on your own personal dragon, and experiencing the cool wind across your face as you fly through it. Dreamworks developed new animation and lighting software for this film, collectively called Apollo. The new advances allowed the animators to manipulate characters with a stylus and touch-sensitive monitors, while rendering in real time. Watch the faces especially for the slight facial expressions, the jiggle of skin by the wind, or muscle sliding beneath skin in Eret’s (Kit Harington) bicep.

On one of his journeys, Hiccup and his friends happen upon some dragon trappers who have been stealing dragons for the evil Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a man amassing a giant dragon army. Not exactly sure what he wanted to do with the army, but I’m guessing that it would be world domination.

As Hiccup rides toward Drago, hoping to deter him from starting a war, he is sidetracked by another dragon rider. This mysterious being who can make Toothless roll on his back like a puppy with the flick of the wrist turns out to be Hiccup’s mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett). She had disappeared when he was a baby, when she was carried away to a secret ice cave, home to hundreds of dragons.

With his family, friends, and dragons united, Hiccup must lead them all against Drago and restore peace to their land. This was just one of the life lessons HTTYD2 tries to convey to its young audience – that even small beings can make a huge impact on the world.

HTTYD2 approaches many adult themes and lessons with all the humor and sentimentality that Dreamworks and Pixar is known for: characters with prosthetic limbs aren’t slowed down, forgiveness creates stronger bonds, and whatever is broken can be rebuilt.

However, there was a big deal made online about the character of Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson) being gay. If I hadn’t known that there was going to be a “reveal,” I might have missed it. The dialogue is SO subtle, it’s barely there. I agree that it was pleasantly progressive of writer Dean DuBlois to “out” a character, but if you are going to start a conversation, at least turn up the volume to an audible level.

Dublois insisted on making HTTYD2 the second chapter of a three-part series instead of a sequel. The movie stands on its own and might even be better than the original. The final chapter is set for 2016, and I can’t wait.