Almost eight years after the release of the first “How to Train Your Dragon” movie, the story is coming to a tear jerking and heartfelt end with the final installment of the trilogy.
Fandango held a limited run of the film ahead of its full release Feb. 22, giving movie goers a chance to experience the epic finale three weeks early.
“How to Train Your Dragon: A Hidden World” continues the story of Hiccup, now the Viking leader of his clan and his tamed dragon Toothless on their quest for a new world where humans and dragons can co-exist in peace.
Like all visions of peace, it didn’t come without resistance. Vikings have always hunted dragons and the idea of them being loving, affectionate creatures is inherently disregarded by the other Viking communities.
Dragon slayer and ultimate villain Grimmel comes to help the other Vikings eradicate the dragons. He is a well-known hunter famous for wiping out all but one of the Nightfury dragons in existence. Upon learning that Toothless is the last of his kind, Grimmel becomes obsessed with the hunt.
F. Murray Abraham plays the voice of Grimmel and perfectly captures the essence of his character, often showing no remorse for his swift and harsh actions.
I enjoyed the movie’s continued theme of challenging traditional gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity.
Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, is not a stereotypical image of a Viking. He is tall and skinny, he doesn’t have an abundance of facial hair and he never wanted to “become a man” by killing dragons. It’s nice to present to kids at a young age they don’t have to conform to the norms around them. Compassion and love continued to prevail in face of brute force and aggression throughout the movie.
The sense of love and compassion really shine through in the expressions of characters and heavy use of close up shots. The animation is so fluid and high definition that I was almost unaware of it until an intense close-up of the dragon’s eyes flashed on the screen and I saw the reflection of fire in their retina that I had time to appreciate it.
The dragons’ personalities also lend themselves to creating a deep connection with the viewers as characters in the films. By framing fictional animals with the personality and companionship of a dog I had a familial sense come over me that I don’t usually find with human characters. This led to several emotional scenes as the ability for Hiccup and Toothless to stay together became harder and harder to maintain.
The movie also made use of flashbacks to show us the evolving mindset of the main characters from the first movie when they were all awkward teenagers, to now when they are fully grown adults with real responsibility. This is refreshing for an animated movie where writers can often opt for endless sequels over a decade in which characters never age.
The “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy has taught lessons about loss, discovery and loyalty though a balanced cast filled with emotion and just enough comedic relief to keep you laughing through the crying. The final movie built on those lessons and brought them together in a visually beautiful world and even more impactful stories. I’m just sad the dragon ride is over.