The How to Train Your Dragon series has been one of the centrepieces of Dreamworks Animation. Alongside the Kung Fu Panda series, these films have shown the true talent at work at Dreamworks and every time we got something like The Boss Baby or another Shrek sequel, I kept my optimism for Dreamworks intact through these films. Now, we’ve come to the end of the How to Train Your Dragon series and, whilst this is the weakest film in the series, it is a strong note for the series to end on.
The film takes place a year after the events of How to Train Your Dragon 2 with Hiccup as the Chief of Berk, rescuing dragons with his friends from warlords and bringing them back to Berk, creating a human/dragon utopia. However, the sheer number of dragons being brought to Berk meant that living there was no longer sustainable, whilst also making Berk a target for warlords, who hire dragon hunter Grimmel to capture Hiccup’s dragon Toothless so they can control all of the dragons. Due to this, Hiccup decides that the villagers of Berk need to leave, and they set off to find the Hidden World, the purported home of the dragons. However, Grimmel sets out to capture Toothless through the use of a female Fury, dubbed a Light Fury, as bait. Now there are some interesting ideas about sustainability of resources and animal conservation within the film but the real meat of the film comes through the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. We’ve seen the two grow together over the course of this series and the character dynamic the two have in this film, with Hiccup struggling to come to terms with the fact that Toothless may need to leave and be with the Light Fury. This theme of letting go really speaks to the relationship that has built up between Hiccup and Toothless, almost being like a father/son one at some points in the film. If this element of the film wasn’t nailed then the entire film would fall apart and the emotional climax of the film would have no weight. Thankfully, this element is given the care and attention it needed in order to create a satisfying end to the series.
The performances are pretty good across the board. Whilst there is always the slight distracting element of the inconsistent accents, I’ve never been too bothered by it in the other films, and that holds true here. Jay Baruchel as Hiccup is as solid as he’s been in the other two films, showing his growth as a leader, the love he has for Toothless and his fear that the world he’s been trying to create will be destroyed. There’s also strong work from America Ferrera as Astrid, who is the moral compass for Hiccup, helping to guide him through his darkest moments and showing her skill as a warrior well. Even though it is in voice over only, the chemistry between Baruchel and Ferrera is strong, allowing the romance element of the film to work. F Murray Abraham as Grimmel meanwhile is an effective villain. Sure his motivation is fairly one note, just being a big game hunter, but Abraham brings this quiet intimidation to the role that makes him an effective threat. For the other performances meanwhile, they’re fine, but the cast are underutilised. I kind of expected this with Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Kristen Wiig, considering their roles in the other films, whilst Justin Rupple makes an effective replacement for TJ Miller. I was disappointed Cate Blanchett and Kit Harrington weren’t given more to do, considering their importance in the previous film, Craig Ferguson gets a few funny moments, and I did find myself a bit distracted whenever David Tennant popped up, mainly by questioning whether it was David Tennant.
On a technical level, this is probably the best animated of all of the films. There are a lot of subtle details in the animation this time, through things like the movement of scales to the little bits of stubble Hiccup has. The photorealism of the backgrounds meanwhile is the best it’s been in the series, along with there being a great use of colour for the backgrounds, with a great use of contrast with the dragons. There’s also a great use of character movement and visual storytelling for character development in the film, especially in the scenes between Toothless and the Light Fury, with these scenes adding some strong visual comedy to the film, along with adding to the character development of Toothless.
Overall, whilst this is the weakest film in the How To Train Your Dragon series, mainly through underutilisation of characters, this is still a strong way for the series to end. By keeping the central focus on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless we get a proper emotional end to the series, with the excellent animation adding to this element of the film. I’m a bit sad to see this series end but this is a worthy way for the series to bow out.
My Rating: 4/5