By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Dreamworks TV©
Everything about the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ world seemingly breaks animation convention. Unlike the set and cemented “Peter Pan effect” which dominates so many animated films today, the characters of Dean Deblois epic Viking trilogy do the opposite. From the first outing, Hiccup, (Jay Baruchel) a gangly pre-teen pipsqueak has transformed into a bearded, brave leader of Berk, the Viking Village were humans and dragons now live in harmony. This aging has helped create one of the best character arcs in animated movie history.
And whilst everything surrounding ‘Dragons 3’ compliments this impressive character development, it is Hiccup and his rabble of friends which becomes the beating soul in the final movie of the trilogy. The emotional development and exploration of the new confident Berk Chief enhances the storytelling without sacrificing the founding themes ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ as come synonymous with.
These themes of family, companionship, bravery and determination all exist with the narrative framework again but are explored with much deeper intuition. It feels as if Deblois and Co. fully understand their characters and are more courageous to take risks.
This stems from the relationship between Hiccup and his puppy-turned-dragon, Toothless. In the first two outings, we were led to believe that our favourite Night Fury was the only one, how wrong we were. Here we see the introduction of the ‘Light Fury,’ the female version of Toothless and here is where the fun starts.
The ‘fun’ we describe isn’t necessarily enjoyable for Hiccup and the residents of Berk, as they and their dragons face a threat unlike any other – Grimmel.
Armed with a serum which brainwashes dragons, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) sends the Light Fury to entice and capture the last of the famed Night Fury’s. What is refreshing about Hiccup’s latest adversary, is the relativity of his reasoning. We have heard the same speeches by Hiccup’s own father Stoick The Vast, though Grimmel’s are extreme, they pay an impressive insight into the conflicts Hiccup faces.
Amongst all the notable successes ‘Dragons 3’ boasts when it comes to the characters, the style more than matches the substance. The animation is beyond stunning, the vast expanse of Hiccup’s world is vividly imagined on the big screen unlike before. From the neon dragon’s nest to the sweeping battle sequences, they are as thrilling as they are addictive.
And whilst watching the movie, you can’t help but think whether Dreamworks Animation will ever reach a pinnacle like this again.
How to Train Your Dragon 3 showcases the importance of balance between scope and story and Dreamworks rivals Disney here. It pushes the progressive tones of todays world without being patronising. The revelation of Gobbler (Craig Ferguson) being gay in the previous movie is touched upon, but instead of making it a plot point, it isn’t deemed to change the character all together. In an industry which can sometimes be desperately blatant with diverse themes, here Deblois knows full well of the importance of reality when dealing with elements like this. None of the other characters treat Gobbler any differently, they embrace his qualities, not his preferences.
As the final curtain comes down on Hiccup, Astrid, (America Ferrera) Toothless and the Island of Berk, what is most satisfying about ‘Dragons 3’ is the conclusion. It doesn’t feel forced, predictable or purposely constructed to catch you out. It unfolds beautifully, with an organic feel that compliments the stories of the previous two movies. It also doesn’t keep the world open to return, and whilst this may seem sad for fans of the trilogy, in fact it is refreshing to see a movie know it has naturally reached its conclusion. It is emotional but doesn’t disappoint.
We have watched these characters transform from teenage tearaways to strong, complex and interesting adults whose strength stem from their sense of emotional companionship. The fire may have gone out, but How to Train Your Dragon 3 burns brightly as the bar to reach for animated storytelling.