Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
Release Date: February 22nd, 2019 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Dean DeBlois Actors: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington
s the new chief of Berk, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) continues building his island into a utopia where both humans and dragons can live in peace. But on his latest raid to free captured dragons aboard a trapping barge, Hiccup and his gang of “dragon riders,” including Astrid (America Ferrera), Eret (Kit Harington), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), and Valka (Cate Blanchett), encounter a new force of evil to be reckoned with. In the employ of a band of conquerors, famed dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham) plots to capture Toothless by using a female Night Fury dragon. When the “Light Fury” is released onto Berk, it quickly garners the attention of its obsidian counterpart, allowing Grimmel to set his diabolical plans into motion. But Hiccup and his band of faithful allies aren’t so easily thwarted. Determined to find a safe home for his reptilian friends, the young chieftain sets out in search of a fabled “Hidden World,” a mariner’s myth about the ancestral home of all of dragonkind.
An initial stealth mission expectedly transforms into clumsy, comical reintroductions for the recognizable squad of bungling heroes, who manage to find great success in their rescue operation, despite appearing unable to effectively kill the opposition (let alone board an enemy vessel). As with many children’s pictures, there’s an almost awkward refusal to portray death; and here, with armored Vikings and ruthless dragon slayers, it goes beyond merely tiptoeing over mature themes. Still, the action-packed sequences are present, utilizing plenty of fire and destruction, which is enough to distract from the fact that very few merciless marauders actually meet a fitting fate. “One day you’re gonna pick a fight you can’t win.”
Once again, the highly detailed dragon city is visually overwhelming; the look of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series keeps getting better. When it comes to environments, clothing, inanimate objects, and background elements, few computer-animated features are superior. The vivid colors and the bustling swarms of dragons are spectacular, with photorealism abounding. The animation isn’t bad, either. But no matter how impressive the designs and movement, it’s the storytelling that must justify yet another episode in the series.
“Greedy humans always find a way.” With a never-ending supply of anti-dragon warlords providing never-ending opportunities for battle, it’s possible that this franchise can keep going indefinitely (assuming the films remain profitable). But this latest chapter can’t keep up the momentum of the first two, resorting to funny but commonplace mating rituals, unconvincing romance between the young adult leads, and an aggravating stream of screw-ups by the perpetually softhearted and softheaded Viking leader. The eventual showdown is exciting and rousing, but undeniably inferior to its predecessors.
Perhaps the most disappointing factor is a lack of new dragon designs; even the steadily multiplying drove of tiny, round, insect-like dragons, which are highlighted repeatedly, fails to pay off in any memorable way. Here, the human villain turns out to be the greatest threat, yet he’s also the most generic obstacle. And those anticipated moments of emotion and pathos, which usually work their way into these films, never quite surface. Plus, the brief commentaries on domesticating wild animals and the notion of equality between man and beast are, of course, largely discarded for simpler notes on friendship and freedom. At least the conclusion is satisfying and resolute; hopefully, the filmmakers will allow this agreeable close to be the true final chapter … and not just another episode in a franchise that will continue to deteriorate with each additional entry.
– The Massie Twins