Dragons, Humans, and Emotions
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I cried. If I'm going to spoil anything, it would be to tell you to bring your tissues because this one packs some really deep wallops. Satisfying in that sad way, but still, one of those things all people go through at some point in their lives. It's the kind of sadness that comes with the rain, that metaphorical rain. It falls, it just happens, it's kinda sad... but then it brings a sort of somber peace with it. You know it needs to happen. Without rain, there wouldn't be any life.
So, that's how the movie made me feel. There were other little messages scattered throughout which I will talk about more in depth in my Spoiler Edition review (below), but I believe this somber sadness was the main feeling the movie was trying to give. But not without a light of hope with it, of course.
The movie itself goes at a good pace without it feeling too rushed. Sure, there were a few parts where I wished they could have stretched out for a moment or two. But since they had to cram everything in under two hours to wrap up this series, they had to be concise with things without loosing the emotional value. I feel like they did just that (without pandering to my wishes) and go at the sort of pace that keeps the children entertained.
The animation in Dragons 3 is great yet again. What stood out to me the most was a scene which featured sand. The way they animated it was Pixar levels of good. I honestly could have watched just that all day, trying to fathom how computers and humans can make a thing look and behave like the actually stuff.
Ultimately, though, with how people are saying that it's a good conclusion for the series, I would have to agree. This doesn't come easy, because I don't want it to end. But I also don't want to see it get run into the ground so much it loses its magic. Yes, I feel like the creators and the entire team of people working on How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World did right by the series and ended it the best way they could.
The Land of the Spoilers
I cried. TEARS POURED DOWN MY CHEEKS. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The movie starts off like the others, but it takes a while to get there. The opening scene is a long one-take of Hiccup and his entourage rescuing dragons from trappers. What was interesting about this scene, though, was how apparent it was that the dragons were actually looking out for all of their riders. They swoop in and rescue their riders without any prompting and even knowing where to be when their rider needs them.
The normal narrative intro given by Hiccup doesn't happen until they fly back to Berk. And while it's framed the same way, it feels like it's done differently. While they revisit the same descriptional narration of Berk, they twist it up and change it a bit to where it doesn't feel like they're just rehashing the same schtick. It was far more casual this time around.
Berk is far more colorful now, filled with inventions to help the lives of the dragons feel more at ease in the village. For instance, there was a type of dragon escalator, where they could fly and land at a top post, and that post is lowered down by twisting around a center contraption to lower the dragon down to the ground. I was impressed!
Moving on, though. Hiccup is faced with the challenge of realizing that more and more trappers were coming closer to Berk, and eyeing all of the dragons there... with diminishing space for the dragons and the vikings. Hiccup wants to stay, feels like he can just deal with whatever comes at them... until the Big Bad shows up.
The evil guy, I missed his name and don't feel like looking it up, is different from anything they've faced before. He's more after the hunt, is calculating, and merciless. And of course, he's especially after Night Furies, thinking he had killed all of them. He provides the momentum to move the movie along.
After a scary encounter, Hiccup realizes that they need to take the dragons away. He finally agrees that they are too exposed where they are (since everyone knows the location of Berk), so they leave to find a new home for them and their dragons; they have to find the hidden world that Hiccup's father, Stoic, searched for when he was younger.
Thing is, Toothless found a Light Fury, the female version of a Night Fury. He's instantly attracted, but she's wild, so, she doesn't enjoy the presence of Hiccup one bit. Every time he shows up, she tries to kill him, growls at him, or just flies off - much to Toothless's disappointment.
So we have the problem of boy meets girl, boy has a friend, boy's friend gets in the way of girl, girl gets in the way of boy's friend. It may feel very high school, but it's something that happens time and time again. The person with the love interest is pulled two ways, between friend and squeeze, trying to find a balance.
As an aside to this. Something I have noticed in the Dragons series is that the women are either pretty much perfect or highly irritating. Women are not able to be flawed and accepted like Hiccup is. Astrid is the quintessential tough gal, ready to speak her mind and be assertive, helping Hiccup when he needs it, and always performing in that highly skilled way. Any 'flaw' we could put on her is still something that is perceived as a good quality.
The Light Fury even displays a lot of these qualities. So we have the same thing happening with the dragons as with the humans - Toothless fumbles around, the Light Fury puts him in his place a few times, Toothless is completely smitten.
It's a trope that I feel is overplayed. It is nice that the role of women have swung in the other direction from the early days of movies where they were little more than just ornaments, tools to be used to make the man feel like the hero. But I feel like they could do more here. Stormfly is the only female I can think that isn't on either side of the annoying/perfect spectrum. But her activity is largely muted in the film.
Instead of having women at one end of the spectrum or the other (annoying like Ruffnut, or perfect like Astrid), can't they have one woman... even just ONE who is a little bit like the men? Fallible and yet still appreciated? Now, not all of the men in this movie are appreciated for their quirks, but when the main protagonist is able to be treated like a human, can't a woman be allowed to display some of the same faults? The closest we get is Valka, Hiccup's mother, but we don't see her much in Dragons 3, and even she is still viewed on the infallible end of the spectrum; she is more of a guide for the hero than anything else.
But besides that, they did a wonderful job animating the dragons, as always. How they moved and how their wings would be pulled or shifted one way or another, it made them feel real. Another thing I was impressed with, animation-wise, was the sand. They did a PHENOMENAL job making it look and behave like sand. The water, too, was really good; there was a scene with Hiccup and Astrid on Storm Fly where the 'camera' pans out, so you can take in the sight of them circling around a huge waterfall. It felt much like how movies do when filming from some helicopter that's following the actor around so the views can take in the sight the actor is seeing and everything around them.
One message that I liked, which seems to have been a theme throughout the series, is that you need to accept and embrace yourself. Hiccup feels like he isn't anything without Toothless. He doesn't feel like he can effectively be a chief or be himself without his best friend. And it's understandable, Toothless has been with Hiccup through the years of his life while he became an adult. Before Toothless, Hiccup still felt like he had to be like the other Vikings. But, once Toothless showed up, he gave Hiccup the courage to take a different path, inadvertently showing Hiccup that he and his ideas were valuable.
And we get to see the same sort of thing play out with the dragons. The Light Fury isn't impressed with Toothless until he's more himself, showing his own interest (in drawing) instead of solely showing off for her. He was still showing off for her by drawing her picture in the sand, but it was from a place that spoke to him, not some weird dance he tried to do because all of the other dragons were doing it. After Toothless was done trying to show off like as a dragon would, he instead shows off by drawing in the sand (just like how he connected with Hiccup) and the Light Fury sees more of his true nature. She then finds him actually interesting beyond just being one of her kind.
Another thing I picked up on: Hiccup and Astrid's kids are not just mini versions of themselves! The girl has Hiccup's hair and the boy has Astrid's! But the Night/Light Fury children... are mixed in their colors, all three having a variant of black and white coloring. I would have assumed since Night Furies are black and Light Furies are white, that their gendered children would stay in the same line of color (males black, females white). But, so little is known about these species that perhaps this is just how things roll. I would just think that as a survival mechanism, from an evolutionary standpoint, that their colors would be more standard.
But back to Hiccup, Astrid, and their two kids: at the end flying scene where Hiccup and Astrid take their kids up in the air, it just felt so good that the parents traded off their kids, the boy and the girl each got a chance to ride with each of their parents. They weren't just paired off with the same gendered parent! Am I the only one who got the warm feels from that? Maybe, but by golly I enjoyed it!
So the movie ends with the scene of Hiccup, Astrid, and their two kids in a boat, dropping anchor at the edge of the Hidden World. You see Toothless and his new family, and as a protector, he springs into action and flies to the boat. Hiccup looks very different, with a full set of facial hair and a somewhat deeper voice, so they almost have to start from the beginning. But, Hiccup knows how Toothless is, so he just goes back to the first time they connected, putting his hand out and looking away, waiting for Toothless to come to him. In that moment, Toothless recognizes him and it's good times again! The flying scene starts off and Hiccup begins his outro.
That is where we get the bit of joy at the end, the bit of hope. By knowing that Toothless and Hiccup have their own separate lives now, we see a friendship that becomes more long-distance, even if they keep their connection, it's still bittersweet. So many people go through this same evolution in a friendship, having to say goodbye to their best friend, someone they didn't think they would ever spend a day without, but knowing that letting go is what is best for them so they can live out their life, to move to the next chapter in their lives. It's a beautiful love that is displayed between two guys that just loved flying together.