By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
* Spoiler Alert
DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon is at an end and the ride was wonderful. Ever since I saw the first film, I felt this adaptation of Cressida Cowell‘s works was special onto itself. I followed Riders of Berk and Race to the Edge. The former was formulaic (gotta train ’em all mentality) and it simply needed a boost in the world building realm to make it a must-see. Vikings have always been dragon hunters and the citizens of Berk dared to defy convention by caring for these winged creatures. Throughout these trials, Hiccup and Toothless were inseparable.
With the third film now out in theatres, we discover a female dragon of Toothless and she will no doubt drive a wedge between the two; love blossoms and Toothless is hilarious trying to court the lady. Writer-Director Dean DeBlois looked to mating rituals of birds and reptiles to create some Buster Keaton-style comedy gold. The story does not get any much bolder as it follows down a similar path as the second movie. Dragon hunters want to destroy the species and use them as instruments of war than faithful companions.
The kingdom of Berk is a haven for dragon kind and as a result, the rest of the Archipelago are talking. Not all Vikings from other villages approve, and I got to wondering about those allies made in the Netflix series. Where were they in this mess?
The villain of this film is Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham) and he’s all kinds of nasty. Not every Viking clan believe dragons have a place in this world. Soon, The Hidden World needs to be found if dragons and Berk are to survive.
The series theme is in how different species can work together. Even within dragon kind, the squabbles were more about territory and what happens when the symbiotic connection with the environment is disrupted. Other threats included dealings with Alvin the Treacherous, Dagur the Deranged, and Ryker Grimborn. Allies like Heather and Trader Johann helped Hiccup and team survive in the intern, prior to the second film. To see them return, even in passing, can make for a proper finale. Instead, they have gone off somewhere else.
Instead, what’s found in the fact Berk remains isolated. Home is where the heart is, giving this movie a Marvel Cinematic Universe (Thor) type of flavour. The courtship moments are akin to Pixar films best. Had I not been heavily influenced by The Flight of Dragons (trailer, YouTube link) from decades before and read Cressida Cowell’s books, I might have been more taken with this third film. The title alone gives a huge hint that it time for the dragons to retreat to a new world.
The future is scary because warmongers exist. Past adventures, especially during Race to the Edge, shows this. Rinse and repeat is not what this finale needed. The breathtaking cinematics is not enough.
The idea of dragons completely disappearing is glossed on, and the movie could have been more powerful if it stated they only live on in folktales. The big question is if the people of Berk will follow, and many times the red herrings had me wondering if they will or not. They had to abandon their original home. In what I found upon a second viewing is a soft send-off, leaving room to revisit the Archipelago in the future.
4 Dragons out of 5