Watching the third and final instalment of Dean DeBlois’ Viking/dragon-themed trilogy, I was reminded of the final moments of Toy Story 3, a film that brought a sense of finality in how the toys that we were invested in throughout three films said farewell to their owner while we said goodbye to our childhood in tearful fashion. However, despite the upcoming release of Toy Story 4, which is both exciting and worrisome, it does seem to contradict the trilogy’s conclusion. If DreamWorks Animation is smart, which they are not always, they would leave this beloved franchise to rest.
One year following the events of the second film, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) along with his dragon best friend Toothless continues to rescue dragons with his fellow dragon riders and friends in order to bring them back to Berk, which has become the world’s first “Viking-dragon utopia”. Presumed to be the last of his breed, Toothless discovers a white female Fury, who is secretly used as bait to capture him by the dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham). This compels Hiccup as the young chief to journey to a mythic dragons’ safe haven known as the “Hidden World”.
From its opening sequence where a stealth mission ends up in swordplay, this is the most action-orientated of the trilogy. The action is compelling enough, but what has always worked on this series on a technical level is the spectacle of flight. This represents the sense of freedom from what was originally a forbidden friendship between a boy and his dragon.
For nearly a decade, Dean DeBlois has made the coming-of-age tale of Hiccup and Toothless the beating heart of this trilogy. Despite having the cutesy warmness of a human and his pet, it is a true friendship that has developed throughout each installment, showing how one defines the other. With the presence of a Light Fury, a romance blooms between her and Toothless. This causes Hiccup to rethink about the co-existence between humans and dragons, as well as doing what is best for Toothless. The film may not always strike that emotional chord in order to elaborate on this theme, but I would be lying to say that the last ten minutes didn’t leave me in a crying state.
If there is a recurring problem throughout the trilogy, it would be the lack of development towards the supporting cast, most notably Hiccup’s fellow dragon riders, who never go beyond their roles as comic relief; three movies in, the humor is starting to get stale. Despite trying to progress Hiccup’s romance with Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) with an ongoing discussion about marriage, the film doesn’t do anything interesting towards her as a character, other than being the shoulder to cry on. As for Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) who was such a bad-ass previously, she gets sidelined and creepily ogled at by Jonah Hill’s Snotlout.
When it comes to humor and actual characterization, the dragons have more to do as they are so varied that they offer more than just flight and fire. Certainly, the sequences in which Toothless tries to mate with the Light Fury showcases the silent brilliance that the series is known for. As well as the diverse designs of the dragons, the world-building of these films can rival the likes of Avatar, especially when the Hidden World is finally revealed, showing how mythic and brightly-colored the flying reptiles can be.