The third entry in DreamWorks series about a flying corps of dragon riders might not do a lot differently to its predecessors but still offers more than enough to draw this trilogy to a satisfying close, says Liam Maguren.
It’s great to see Hiccup again, one of mainstream cinema’s only disabled heroes. The first How to Train Your Dragon is top-shelf DreamWorks, a lovely boy-and-his-dog tale where the boy’s a meek Viking and the dog’s a dragon. The second film took a bold leap by ageing its characters significantly, showing their growth, expanding the world, and introducing a villain that doubled as a painful reminder—sometimes, a battle is unavoidable. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot this new film does differently, but it does more than enough to draw this trilogy to a satisfying close.
Fans will recognise the familiarities instantly. There’s another love story ready to bloom. There’s another hidden world for the crew to find. There’s another bad guy who’s super-cruel to dragons. Snotlout’s still a jerk. Tuffnut and Ruffnut are still annoying. And for some reason, the film gives these three more to do without trying to improve them. Meanwhile, Astrid and Valka wait for something meaningful to happen to them on the script’s sideline.
The key story difference? Their home can no longer sustain all the dragons they’ve saved. With heartless hunter Grimmel looking to burn down everything they’ve built, they start their search for this rumoured dragon utopia in the hope of finding peace and salvation.
There’s some interesting restraint within the art department. The majority of the film takes place either at sea or on drab land. Sounds bland, and it kind-of is, but this allows the few startling vistas to really make a lasting impression. It’s similar to why the scenes with Toothless and a fellow Nightfury—sorry, Light Fury—shine. In a film full of talking, their dialogue-free interactions are just so darn lovely and allow the fantastic animators to take centre stage.
It’s a damn shame most of this third film feels so recycled because the conclusion really does the series proud. The ending truly aches the heart, managing to find the sweetest, sincerest way of saying: “Humans are awful to nature and we need to do better.”