I, like many people, have enjoyed the first two installments mostly due to the main attraction of the saga – the adorable Toothless the dragon. Having seen both previous films and enjoying the first one quite a bit, but finding the second one still enjoyable but mostly forgettable, I simply expected the third film to be more of the same. Essentially, this is exactly what we got.
I don’t have very much bad to say about How to Train Your Dragon 3 – just that it has stopped catering to adults and children alike and seems solely interested in giving the kids a good time, without worrying too much about how much of the plot makes sense, or strong character arcs, or anything else that might bog down the fun of the film. Sure, it would make it a lot more interesting and profound, but all of that goes over the heads of the 12 and under market so why bother?
As mentioned, the films major gripes are that the plot doesn’t make any sense and nothing feels like it has any direction or real weight to it. Of course, this is a kid’s film, so why would I expect this? Well, quite simply I have seen other big studios create films that are massively enjoyable for all audiences, not just the children. For example, Pixar’s’ classic films Toy Story (all 3) The Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and many more all feel much weightier and much more fun than this movie ever does, not to mention stop motion brilliance form Studio Laika, with the wonderful Coraline and the masterpiece that is Kubo and the two strings. I have been a little spoilt for quality in recent years is what I am saying, but that is not to say that films that so desperately want to appeal to all markets cannot learn from these. I think that with a little more thought and fewer plot holes, this would have been a much better story and would have kept me a bit more invested.
For example, the main plot point is that the Viking clan are trying to keep dragons as pets, while also keeping them safe from poachers that are trying to hunt down and capture or kill the dragons. Our main villain comes along (whose name I have already forgotten) and he vows to kill every last dragon, specifically of the Night Fury race, (Toothless) however at no point does he ever attempt to actually kill Toothless or the “Light Fury” – an all-white female counterpart of Toothless – he simply tranquilises them and tries to capture them alive. I spent the whole movie wondering why this ruthless evil killer does not try and kill any of the dragons at any point. As I never spoil anything in my reviews, I can’t go into too much detail but the movie was full of plot holes like this.
I did, of course, find that the animation quality is superb, as it always is with DreamWorks studios, and there were some stunning scenes of beautiful landscaped and epic sea battles to feast your eyes upon. I also did enjoy some of the funnier moments of the film, mostly from Toothless, who is the star of the show as always. I couldn’t help but chuckle out loud as he tries to perform his own little mating dance to try and impress the Light Fury, but ends up looking a bit silly in the process. As Toothless’s movements and mannerisms are based heavily on that of a cat, he spends most of his screen time either being adorable, funny, or adorably funny, which does leave you feeling a bit like he belongs on a YouTube compilation video, or on the r/Awww subreddit. I also admire the film for its cast of somewhat off-kilter characters as it’s always refreshing to see large, round, hairy, ginger Vikings with glorious beards, as opposed to the same cookie cutter tall dark and handsome types. I was also a fan of the fantastic voice acting, and the great casting of Scotland’s finest (Craig Ferguson’s voice never gets old) as well as a mish-mash of American and English talents (Kit Harrington, TJ Miller) who all do a stand-up job.
Overall How to Train Your Dragon is an enjoyable movie which I certainly had fun with, however, if you think about it too hard you will find plenty of faults with it. There are better animations out there, but this film does a good job of being safe and fun for the little ones.