All good things come to an end, and so does all the mediocre stuff. It is not that the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, an adaptation of a children’s book series, fares badly compared to the epic fantasy franchises we currently have. In fact, it is much better, but this is not saying much considering the numerous lousy material Hollywood is having to work with.

The animated trilogy, a story about a group of viking’s love-hate relationship with dragons, is the poor man’s Lord of the Rings.

The hidden world continues with the story of Hiccup and Toothless, a human-dragon duo working hard to make the world a better place for both species. Their goal though is facing an obstacle as their small island becomes over-populated. In the classic turn of history, species that could have lived together have their lives profoundly complicated when they begin to run out of resources.

Fortunately, given that there is always such a deus ex machina in films, they find a hidden world, where dragons can live happily ever after.

Circumstances have made it such that the two species cannot co-exist peacefully - despite progress in co-existence, the humans keep turning on their dragon brethren when the going gets tough like when resources are in short supply.

This means that Hiccup has to make a choice: endanger his beloved dragon friend by insisting they stay together or let a longtime friend go and wait until humanity learns to become less egotistical and emotional. It turns out that no one had the heart to tell Hiccup that human beings will always be humans. He might as well kiss his friend goodbye forever.

The franchise has always faced obstacles as a result of its own making. It is doubtful that it is possible to make a feature film with the usual length of an animated movie - two hours is mostly considered too long - that has enough depth the fantasy genre requires. Usually, a movie should have character and story depth. An epic fantasy requires world building. It is an introduction into a whole new way of life and history - impossible to do within the time frame a feature film can give.

Even the Game of Thrones TV series, with its 67 hour-long of episodes, has barely touched upon the huge piece of material that is A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series it was adapted from. It is hard to do justice in movie-form to the universe created by a great epic fantasy.

The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy makes up for this shortcoming by exploring what growing up means. The only character that has been developed fully is Hiccup. The rest, including his cuddly pet dragon, his love interest and a group of friends, are clichés. They are the usual band that has been serving as an entourage to protagonists for decades. They are barely filler, not much more than the props of the movie.

Hiccup is different. This film is the animated version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood - of course, this one is much less authentic in terms of the character’s physical growth.

What we saw in the first installment was a kid who was about to join the adult world. He did that with hope and rebelliousness. He digressed from a long-held belief that the dragons are enemies and the humans are the good guys. He was able to prove that both could be good and bad and win the hearts of both species. Hiccup brings them together.

This last installment is the reversal of beliefs, the boy becoming pessimistic, instead of the idealist that brought the two species together. By the time the trilogy ends, he becomes a man that has given up. No longer believing that dragons and humans should continue to be united, he sends away his beloved friend.

Sure he believes that this can change someday, and the species can reunite. But it speaks to the collective cynicism we face today, to the epidemic of depression and anxiety the young generation suffers from, that we, like Hiccup, have come to settle on the bittersweet fact that perhaps there will not be a third world war, but neither will there be a happily-ever-after.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 23,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 986]

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