The dragon trilogy comes to a close with a character-driven finale.
We were a little late to the How to Train Your Dragon bandwagon. My kids only started watching the Race to the Edge series on Netflix after Christmas, but soon became enamored with the entire franchise. We caught up with the movies in time to see the third one in theaters. It was a great ride. This is a review of the entire trilogy and TV series as a whole.
The Vikings' World
The setting is quite charming, with colorful characters and solid messages about acceptance and loyalty. Dragons and Vikings and pirates and dragonhunters... honestly, it's just a cool world, and the animation is stellar. The stories have tons of adventure without getting too intense (apart from one notable tragedy in Dragon 2), making it perfect for the older elementary crowd.
The first movie sets up protagonist Hiccup to be a different kind of hero - one more interested in stopping fights than starting them. While that doesn't always work out (there is quite a lot of fighting), it's still a welcome theme that pervades the entire series. Hiccup is teased for not being big and tough and strong like all the other Vikings - but ultimately he learns that those differences are what make him special. He and his dragon buddy Toothless each have a disability - a missing leg and missing tail-fin, respectively - but it doesn't hold them back.
While Hiccup and Toothless are indisputably the focus, the series features a number of great female characters as well. Hiccup's relationship with fellow dragonrider Astrid is allowed to slow-burn over the series. At one point they even discuss how they're not ready for marriage despite the village elders pressuring them. They fight alongside each other, but they also support each other. It really is quite a nice, healthy relationship. We need more of that in kids movies.
Besides Astrid, there's also Ruffnut (who's just plain hilarious even if she doesn't get to do much beyond comic relief), Hicucp's mom Valka (a central figure in Dragon 2, who also gets some good moments in Dragon 3), dragonrider Heather (who gets a nice storyline in Edge) and a few other guests here and there.
An Epic Trilogy
The three movies and the TV show fit together perfectly to tell a cohesive, epic story. The characters are allowed to grow and change in organic and meaningful ways, which is pretty remarkable for an animated series.
What I found interesting is that the third movie felt much quieter than the first two. There's a bad-guy, of course, and a final confrontation, but compared to the scale of the other movies - the conflict is almost anti-climactic. The real story is about Hiccup navigating his relationships - with the village, with Astrid, and most importantly, with Toothless. This focus on the characters gives the film its emotional core, and makes the finale all the more powerful. Bring tissues.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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