It's been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout, and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island's new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe, while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. Based upon the book series by Cressida Cowell.
Theatrically released in Digital 3D and IMAX 70 mm horizontal DMR blowup dual-strip 3D, the 2.35:1 1080p MVC 3D picture is terrific, with an impeccable computer-animated rendering. The detail is sensational, down to the finest textures exhibited in Viking armor, wooden structures and ships, dragon scales, and earthy landscape and sky nuances. The color palette is vivid and richly hued, with impressively saturated imagery. Contrast is impressive as well, with deep, solid blacks, as seen in Toothless' black body. Shadow detail is as impressive and reveals extraordinary textural resolution. Fleshtone hues are believable and are as natural as animation will permit. The picture is colorfully exciting, as are the adrenaline-charged action sequences. This is a phenomenal visual experience that is absolutely reference quality. Originally rendered in 3D, the dimensionality in the 2D version is nicely layered, but the 3D version takes the experience to a completely different level of dimensionalism. The 3D version is even more satisfying, as it was in its theatrical presentations, and draws a much larger imaginative world. The Vikings' training arena appears expansive, with impressive perceptible spacial scale and depth. The forest area where Hiccup and Toothless bond is spatially rendered by the presence of large rock formations surrounded by wooded areas with natural spacing between trees and depictions of protruding tree branches, which enhances the sense of depth and perspective. The 3D effect adds tremendously to the flying dragon and action sequences, making them incredibly exciting and thrilling to watch. At one point, Toothless zooms in and around seaside cliffs in a dazzling display of computer-generated effects that captures all the excitement of a soaring roller-coaster ride. The subtle dimensionality and sense of realistic and immersive depth is wonderfully stimulating. Even close-up shots of Toothless and the Vikings show off subtle shaping and depth clues that engage the visual senses in satisfying ways, thanks to 3D technology. This is one of the most perfect animated presentations to be released on Blu-ray Disc and a fantastic visual experience. The 3D is done perfectly, with spectacular 3D sequences. The overall look is pristine, with no visibly distracting double images or ghosting. And the computer animation is absolute state of the art!GR
The animation here is almost palpably tactile at times, even in its 2D version, with beautifully rendered textures on the various classes of dragons and exceptional detail in elements, as varied as costumes or even some of the Vikings' hair. As superb as How to Train Your Dragon was from a visual perspective, this sequel is at the very least its equal and arguably superior with regard to the often-astounding levels of fine detail and especially its ravishing palette, something that really pops incredibly in some of the sequences at Valka's dragon haven (teals and turquoises are especially notable). Depth is often extraordinary (again the Valka haven segments provide a lot of background information and detail), and contrast is similarly consistent. Black levels are impressively deep but never overwhelm some of the darker scenes. There were no issues with banding, macroblocking, or other concerns.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 3D's 3D presentation is similarly outstanding, with an emphasis on that “out” part. While there's nothing truly extraordinarily gimmicky in the presentation here (other than a few scattered “in your face” moments), there is a glut of “popout” material, from the very first sequence where the marauding dragons seem to emerge from the screen directly at the audience. DeBlois and his rendering team regularly place stationary objects in the foreground to immediately establish planes of depth, with further depth inside the frame courtesy of background elements consistently exploited to excellent effect. Some scenes, including some of the flying scenes with Hiccup and Toothless, are at least relatively more flat looking, but in group scenes with several pairs of riders and dragons in the sky there's amazing dimensionality. Overall, the bulk of the film offers superb visual immersion and my display and setup showed no signs of problematic crosstalk.
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is as aurally immersive as the film's 3D presentation is from a visual standpoint. The opening sequence sets a very high bar, with a whirlwind of surround activity as Hiccup and his friends battle during the Dragon Races, a bar which is then regularly met and arguably exceeded. John Powell's score, which briefly recaps themes from the first film before moving on to newer material, is also beautifully displayed throughout the side and rear channels. Dialogue is very cleanly presented, and the often-engaging sound effects offer excellent LFE, as well as smartly placed directionality. Some of the nicest done effects are the various sounds emitted by the dragons, and in the showdown battle, there are some very cool foley effects that offer short bursts of LFE and then a kind of zinging, panning whoosh as fire and the like is spewed toward an enemy. Fidelity is top notch and there are no issues of any kind to report.
The Dolby® TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack is wonderful! Every element works well, and fidelity is richly layered. The added two channels are positioned as 90-degree side channels, relative to the traditional 5.1-channel layout, with the surrounds located approximately between 120 and 135 degrees. The added channels provide a more focused and larger frontal hemisphere of sound, providing enhanced support for panning around the soundfield. The soundfield is exceptionally spacious and dimensional, with an aggressive directionalized surround presence contributed by atmospheric effects and other sound effects and a lush orchestral music score. During battle scenes, in particular, the surrounds are fiery aggressive, with fireballs shooting off in various directions, and the sense of holosonic® envelopment is impressive. Even during quieter scenes, low-level ambiance and atmospheric sounds are rendered with artful dimensionality. Dialogue, while ADR, sounds nicely integrated spatially. The spectacular, soaring music score is sweeping, with a wide and deep soundfield presence that extends effectively into the surrounds. The imaginative world of Vikings and Dragons is excitingly portrayed in engaging soundscapes. Explosions are dramatic and fully energized with .1 LFE extension to sub-25 Hz frequencies. The climactic scene engages all the channels in an intense SPL display of energy that is very exciting! This is a reference-quality soundtrack throughout!