How To Train Your Dragon Three released on Thursday, February 22, and is already making quite the splash—a $56 million opening weekend splash– to be exact. Being the third and final installment of this beloved Dreamworks franchise, the film’s immense success comes as no surprise.
Once again we follow Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon companion Toothless on their quest towards peacefully uniting dragon and humankind. As always, the dynamic duo’s entire entourage of friends/allies are along for the ride—typically providing assistance in the form of one liners and witty banter. Facing the pressure of protecting his people, preventing further bloodshed between dragons and humans, and living up his father’s hefty reputation; Hiccup is pushed to the brink in his epic struggle for salvation and peace.
I will preface this review by stating that, on its own, this film is an exciting family film with few flaws. But, when viewed/analyzed together with its two predecessors, this film is a heart wrenching masterclass of animated cinematography. The overarching narrative remains consistent throughout the three films: Hiccup seeks a means to creating a human-dragon utopia alongside his partner toothless. Despite this consistency, each movie spends a significant amount of time developing its own moral point. The first film took the “through acceptance of everyone, we can change the world” cliche and used it to display the shift from the previous generations misguided notions to the progressive ideals of the new generation. The second film magnified their message a bit, losing the broad world changing scope to explore something much simpler: family. What a family is, the way its members always seem to find each other, and the lengths they’ll go through to protect one another.
These films took relatively broad ideas and used them as focal points to drive their respective narratives; to give each an emotional backbone, and to give the audience something they could all relate to.
While powerful—and still primary parts of the film—How To Train Your Dragon Three took the narrowest scope yet and used an incredibly simple idea to create the most emotionally stirring film in the series: Change. The self understanding/assurance it takes to go through with it, the sacrifices it requires, and the unfathomable pain it can bring. In this film, we witness Hiccup, a boy who’ve we watched grow up since 2010, achieve his ultimate goal, watch the life he built come crumbling down upon him, and finally witness him emerge from the wreckage as a man.
Despite the fact that these movies are animated, they possess astonishingly adult messages/undertones. Each film’s message is powerful and relatable on its own—these are common mental and emotional struggles set to a Norse-mythology backdrop. But, having the final film in the series focus on change was a stroke of genius.
As previously mentioned, the first How To Train Your Dragon film came out in 2010, roughly nine years before the final installment. Nine years.
Nine years ago, I was the same starry eyed loser child as Hiccup, struggling to find my way in the world. He was an instantly relatable character that I was drawn to, and, narcissistically, compared myself to. The second film came out in 2014, and Hiccup aged in real time. He’d grown from an unsure kid to and overconfident teenager fighting to make his dreams come true and his family proud—just as I was. In this final 2019 film, Hiccup is on the cusp of manhood and struggling with so much mentally and physically that it seems almost too much to bear. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, he sacrifices and grows and changes; and ultimately flourishes. Hiccup becomes not only a man, but a leader, a husband, a father, and the best friend he could’ve been. For nine years I—and so many others—have grown up with Hiccup. Watching him become a man was the ultimate call to action for every kid who’s grown up with Hiccup, and I applaud Dreamworks for having the decency to end things so poetically.
Aside from story and subjective opinion, the animation for this film was simply stunning. The landscapes were gorgeous, the the characters were beyond detailed, and the the visual effects were positively breathtaking. With each iteration of this series comes crisper animation, and this film was the cherry on top. On top of that, every voice actor absolutely killed their respective roles—they really gave everything they had to their final go at each character.
The only real complaint that can be made about this film is the villain who wasn’t very memorable. This sort of issue plagues protagonist centric movies—you simply can’t create a villain that can outshine the hero.
How To Train Your Dragon Three was a masterclass in animated film making. The film does an excellent job of wrapping up Dreamworks’ best movie series in a decade. This film is a wild fantasy adventure, the finale of an epic and heartfelt trilogy, and an absolute emotional whirlwind. If you watch this series start to finish, there is no chance you’ll be disappointed—anyone with a heart will leave the theater with tears in their eyes and a smile on their face.