I won't spoil any further just who this figure is (though the advertising may have already done that for you), but it perfectly encapsulates the many great aspects of this movie and how focused on theme it is throughout. This is a movie mining in so many ways of how we all have our own ideas of what we want, and yet, there is always something completely unexpected, like the mysterious figure that emerges into our vision, forcing us to make decisions we're not yet ready for.
From the opening narration, Hiccup describes his homeland of Berk as thriving in an Age of Dragons. The population has found a way to not only co-exist with them, but make them part of their everyday lives. There is peace at hand. But when Hiccup's father Stoic suggests that his time will soon be over and offers the future role of Village Chief to his only son, everything is thrown into flux.
Hiccup knows who he is. He knows he's unlike his father. And he loves the dragons and wants to them to coexist with humans peacefully. Yet these are all motives that become increasingly at war with each other.
What director Dean Dubois has done so skillfully with this film is express the films themes of conflict in ways both internal and physical. We feel them through our protagonists, Hiccup and Toothless, and through our periphery characters, and we see it played out in astonishingly epic ways through the creative battles that wage on.
And yes, this might be the first movie in a long time in which a dragon has a character arc.
More than that, How to Train Your Dragon 2 greatly resembles another fantasy epic in "Empire Strikes Back" with how it so expertly expands the story physically (through planets, locales, new monsters, new characters) and internally (a wide spectrum of emotions brought on by conflict, betrayal, and even reunion). Where Empire Strikes Back had the Battle of Hoth, HTTYD2 shows us large ice islands created by none other than a massive Alpha dragon (as seen to the left).
One thing I want to point out is just how creative this series is. It is not spoiler to say there is a massive dragon world discovered in this film, and every dragon is just as different and creatively designed as the next. The lighting and framing of all the shots - with an assist from cinematography wunderkind and visual consultant Roger Deakins - has only become bolder, with shadows and colors and all kinds of lush images that show no rush in letting go. One of my favorite things about this franchise is the character design - everyone looks like a walking Viking caricature, which only makes them that much more memorable and captivating to watch. Their design of the film's main villain, Drago Bludvist, is another masterclass in how to create a memorable character design.
And so the mythology has been expanded, the characters have arrived in new places, and the visuals continue to astonish in their use of light and complete, unfettered creativity. This is a middle chapter that actually tells a complete, satisfying story and yet leaves room for the audience to grow along with it. What more could you ask for?