‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ — comedy, fantasy and a sweet love story

Emma Jiang and Amy Lin

Photo: DreamWorks Animation

“How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World” is not only a lighthearted comedy and visually enticing fantasy adventure, but also three wholesome love stories and a fulfilling ending to the “How To Train Your Dragon” trilogy.

The town of Berk is a place for humans and dragons to live as equals — but also an attention-grabbing and exposed target for dragon hunters and other enemies to attack. To escape this danger, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the chief of the Vikings, hopes to bring the people of Berk and their dragons to a fabled dragon paradise beyond the edge of the world.

The romantic storyline between Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless, and a newly discovered female dragon of his species, dubbed the “Light Fury,” is prominently featured in the trailer. The relationship between Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera), while surprisingly excluded from the trailer, develops almost immediately in the movie. But perhaps the most touching and important love in the movie is the friendship between Hiccup and Toothless, as Hiccup learns to have faith in himself while Toothless pursues the Light Fury.

The plot is not particularly sophisticated — Hiccup convinces hundreds of Vikings to leave their homes forever within three minutes — and is riddled with cliches. Ideas like a need for teamwork to solve problems are raised momentarily, only to be forgotten and left unaddressed. They travel from their town of Berk to an island across the ocean, where they begin to settle, but Hiccup soon realizes it is not enough to save them from their pursuer, the dragon hunter infamous for the slaughter of Night Furies: Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham).

Photo: DreamWorks Animation

The movie’s main character, Hiccup, stands alone as a pillar of reason for most of the movie. He is the one who struggles to make all the important decisions, to lead his people and their dragons, and to suffer the consequences when he fails. Though the movie pushes the message of the power of teamwork and unity, he still seems to play a much more important role than the others.

The personalities of the side characters, members of Hiccup’s friend group, stays relatively consistent throughout the course of the three movies, with their mild developments based solely on age. They retain their airheaded but memorable and loveable personas: Snotlout (Jonah Hill) repeatedly attempts to charm Hiccup’s mother, despite being eclipsed by Eret (Kit Harington); Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is always babysitting his dragon’s babies, especially at the most inconvenient of times; Tuffnut (Justin Rupple) develops an obsession with expressing his masculinity and ties his long hair into a fake beard; Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) becomes a self-assured teenage girl who spends her time gossiping and trying to woo boys.

On the other hand, there are a few characters whose portrayals are not as satisfying. Grimmel, the main villain, is rather poorly developed — though his stance and his motivations are clear, he fills the role of a cliche and unremarkable antagonist without distinct characteristics. Astrid’s regression from a young, independent, and confident warrior to a tame supporting character is disappointing — though she does play a critical part in the movie in encouraging Hiccup, there are just much more interesting ways that her character could have developed.

The voice actors do an excellent job of maintaining a tone of voice that best fits their characters, from the snarkiness in Tuffnut’s voice to the gentleness in Astrid’s comforting words.

A good amount of the movie’s humor, written by Dean DeBlois, is manifest in the ridiculous personalities of the secondary characters. A varied range of jokes is included; a couple of them are even built upon throughout the movie, and peak during the climax. The humor is much smarter than that of an average kids’ movie.

The animation in this film, headed by Gil Zimmerman, is definitely up to industry standard. There are several well-crafted transitions where scenes blend seamlessly, like when the dragons fade into the light of the bright sky or when Toothless and the Light Fury disappear under crashing waves. At times, the scenery is stunningly beautiful. Toothless and the Light Fury flew through a thunderstorm together as lightning crackles in the clouds and emerge into a beautiful cloudless sky, decorated by a glittering aurora.

An undeniable amount of attention is given to small details throughout the film. Toothless’s wide eyes often reflect the scenery around him, and even the scales on the backs of the dragons are detailed and pronounced. When characters walk across densely forested areas, each blade of grass wavers from the touch.

Photo: DreamWorks Animation

While nowhere near iconic as the original soundtrack, it is a treat to hear the bits and pieces of familiar motifs we grew up with in the third movie’s soundtrack. It does all the right things — heightened tension, defined the mood of the scenes, and more — but does not reach the heights of the first soundtrack.

As children, we obsessively watched “How To Train Your Dragon” eight years ago, so we walked into the theaters with high hopes. Despite no longer belonging in the franchise’s target demographic, we still found ourselves entertained and highly satisfied by the third movie.

‘How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World’

1 Hour 44 Minutes

Rated PG

Directed by Dean DeBlois

With Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and F. Murray Abraham