Directed by: Dean DeBlois
Runtime: 104 minutes
I am currently writing this review with mascara stains down my cheeks, feeling a mixture of emotions too complicated to actually type out. It is very rare for a series of films to grow with you—films that can somehow be by your side, comforting you as you awkwardly stumble through life. The How To Train Your Dragon series began when I was a teenager, gave me a cute, simple show to watch when I was sick or hungover, gave me an epic sequel when I was mid-way through university and has now left me while I am (reportedly) an adult. In doing so, watching the finale of the series that I didn’t know meant so much to me was loaded with a strong sense of the bittersweet that I was not expecting when I entered the cinema.
Toothless and Hiccup are back, and that is all an audience really needs to know before buying their tickets to see this film. However, what will keep you engaged throughout the film’s runtime is the mature, natural growth of its characters, and the feelings of reconnecting with and saying goodbye to old friends. While the plot of the film is, for the most part, simple, it is in the small moments of character interactions and development that makes the final entry to the series so satisfying. Every character in the film has a little arc, some more silly than others, that makes sense with how the previous two instalments had left them off.
The animation is still of incredibly high quality, with the animation on Toothless in particular just as fresh and engaging as it ever has been. From his general design, his majestic flights across landscapes, and the subtlety of emotion they can capture with his eyes, it is hard not to love him. Designs on new breeds of dragons are just as impressive and imaginative, with even the dragons in the background coming in an array of shapes and sizes. It is nice to see a film series that has maintained such a consistent degree of quality throughout its instalments, and you can go into this one expecting the same level of care and devotion to each frame.
This all culminates in an emotional gut-punch that will hit home to anyone who had followed this unlikely pair over the years. Part of that comes from the finality of its ending—we are aware that this was created as a trilogy, and negating a spin-off or reboot, we know that this is probably not going to come back in the form we have come to love it. Personally, I am hoping they just leave this one be. In an unlikely plot development, it seems as if Dreamworks has created the best trilogy of animated films to hit cinemas, heck, perhaps one of the best trilogies of the decade. While I am happy for the time spent with Hiccup and Toothless gliding through the sky, I am incredibly relieved they were able to stick the landing.