Those darned quotas. You'd almost think someone was trying to make a movie here! How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a film so swamped by the requirements of franchise formula that it's easy to overlook the fact that much of what made its predecessor so charming is still intact, though it's equally easy to find oneself so entertained in the instant that much of what is clearly starting to rot away at this series might itself go overlooked. The film, for its length, is over-ambitious, not overstuffed. It has little on its plate, truly, yet what little there is is of sturdy character, and needs a level of nurturing that a snappy family film like this can't naturally offer. Dean DeBlois' mercilessly fast pace deprives How to Train Your Dragon 2's more emotionally stimulating content of its impact, whether by reducing it to cliches or by skimming past it, ever aware of the supposed need to sprint to the finish line before any of the kids in the audience fall asleep. It's hard to fault DeBlois on the choices he makes in shaping that content, however. This is a mature film in its intentions, with surprising political undertones and a depth of empathy explored in a slightly subversive manner, at least in its constant earnestness. It's as DeBlois begins to develop these plot strands that he suddenly happens upon an urge to wrap it up and get to the action, to defy the film's emotional trajectory in favour of spectacular action sequences. The animation is exemplary in its vast detail, but somewhat soulless in its basic design, and there's little sense of wonder when the images on the screen are so obviously entirely computerised. This, and the very nature of the film's final act as an action epic, feels like meeting company quotas, ticking boxes. There's a more creative mind behind this series than DreamWorks would have you know.