There are a lot of movies in the world. Determining which ones are your favorites can be a herculean task. Luckily, there are websites like, which displays two random movies and tracks user's selections between them. If you complete enough of these rankings, a list will eventually take shape. After completing over 2,600 rankings, the 2010 film "How to Train Your Dragon" is holding steading at number 11 on my all-time favorite list (My full, albeit perpetually incomplete, list can be seen at For context's sake, "The Lion King" is number 13.

How then, does "How to Train Your Dragon 2" even begin to compare to its predecessor? In short, it performs very admirably, even in such mighty company. There are moments of pure joy in this latest installment; however, it falls just short of the blissful triumph of the first film. Don't misunderstand, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is by far one of the best movies of the year and is a worthy successor to the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise.

The character design and animation are breathtaking. A significant part of what made the first "How to Train Your Dragon" movie to resonate, was the approach to the dragons themselves. I dare anyone who watches these movies, to not to be reminded of a beloved pet or, at very least, an amusing internet cat video. The animators not only nail the small mannerisms that make us fall in love with our pets; but, more importantly, the storytelling evokes everything about those friendships that we hold most dear. An animal will give everything it has for you in return for simple kindness. I don't believe there has ever been a better cinematic representation of the bond between animal and human than there is in "How to Train Your Dragon."

Everything else this sequel offers is exactly what sequels worth their salt should offer. There's bigger action, there's character development, there are callbacks, and there is foreshadowing. Most importantly, this isn't a simply retelling of the first film. The world has gotten bigger, the characters have aged, and there are new problems to deal with.

The "How to Train Your Dragon" movies are what animated films can, and should, be. I urge you to watch these films. Watch them with your friends, watch them with your loved ones. Films like these are far too rare to be missed because of busy schedules or adult cynicism.

Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for pet adoptions that occur as a result of watching these films.

5 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University.