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Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 12:04 am

Dragon III: A flawed but satisfying conclusion

Based on the series of books by Cressida Cowell, Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon adaptations have been a success both at the box office and critically.  Having taken in over $1.1 billion globally, the first two entries have a 95 percent average approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This really is no surprise, as the films are not only visually arresting, but the plots and themes they contain are uncommonly mature and complex for movies of this sort.  Our hero Hiccup has to contend with unrealistic parental expectations, issues of abandonment, a physical disability and the usual dose of teenage angst.

That’s an awful lot for the kid to carry on his shoulders and writer/director Dean DeBlois has done a wonderful job of shepherding Hiccup from boy to young man. He completes his journey with the third entry in the series, The Hidden World, which proves to be a fine conclusion to the trilogy, though it’s obvious Dragon fatigue is setting in. The film lacks the energy of its predecessors, lagging so much at times that even at a little over 90 minutes, it feels long. Still and all, the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives.

With the death of his father, Hiccup (voice by Jay Baruchel) has taken the mantel of chieftain of the Clan of Berk and has succeeded in his radical plan of creating a refuge for all dragons, where they can live in peace, side-by-side with humans.  Ironically, he becomes a victim of his success, as the island where they live has become overcrowded, their once fire-breathing adversaries now docile, well-meaning pets who are simply too big to live with.  Hiccup decides that the clan should relocate to a dragon utopia his father once spoke of, a hidden world where the winged creatures can live in peace and harmony.  The only problem is, it’s never been found, so Hiccup, his best dragon buddy, Toothless, and his girlfriend, Astrid, (America Ferrera) set out to discover it.

The adventure that follows moves along in fits and starts, the action sequences proving dynamic and engaging, while the love story that develops between Toothless and an albino dragon named Light Fury slows things down to a halt.  While this subplot is necessary for the film’s heart-wrenching finale to work, the moments where these two characters cavort and flirt are likely to tax the patience of viewers young and old.

However, the series continues its tradition of providing strong villains in Grimmel, a fierce dragon hunter who’s quite happy with Hiccup’s efforts to gather all the dragons in once place, as it makes his job that much easier.  The character’s likeness resembles Sacha Baron Cohen, while F. Murray Abraham brings him to life, voicing him with relish, seemingly channeling Bela Lugosi.   

Despite the movie’s uneven nature, there’s no question it ends strongly, bringing the entire saga to a satisfying conclusion that will likely have devoted fans reaching for a tissue.  The poignant ending is well-earned as Hiccup’s journey from boy to man must be completed through a sacrifice he’s loath to make, but realizes as necessary. He’s become the man his father always wanted him to be, but more importantly, the man he wants to be.  This example, as well as the film’s message of the dangers of judging man or dragon by their appearance, and the powerful, forgiving nature of acceptance couldn’t be more timely or effectively driven home by this deceptively powerful movie.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at koplinski@usd116.org.


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