How to Train Your Dragon

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ averaged across 3 films.

tl;dr: A brilliant trilogy filled with heart, action, and excellent world building.

How to Train Your Dragon

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Damn, this film continues to stand up extremely well. Animation is looking a little, well, flat-faced with the human characters lacking some emotion, but Toothless, the rest of the dragons, and the general environment remain stunning and pretty unique, visually. Plus, jokes still land, the plot still packs plenty of punch, and the pacing is spot on. Nothing ever feels forced and information is revealed at a pace that feels natural, rather than plot-necessitated, creating a world that still has a lot to explore but which feels familiar enough to keep you entranced.

Basically, an excellent kids film with a great message wrapped up in more than enough extras to keep adults just as entertained. Still one of the best family films of the last few decades.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I absolutely loved the first film in this (hopefully ongoing) franchise. It has brilliant creature design, excellent animation, a fantastic cast and - most importantly - an intriguing, developed, emotional and fairly original story. What it did not do, however, was clearly leave an opening for a sequel, so I have to admit to approaching HtTYD2 with a fairly sceptical outlook.

My first viewing was at a wonderful independent cinema in New Zealand, which was both a lot of fun and a great memory. What I remember of my reaction, however, was distinctly mixed. I can recall feeling that the plot was a little telegraphed and that various characters felt rehashed or a bit weak, rather than more developed. I definitely enjoyed myself, loved the new dragons and considered the animation and humour on par with the original, but the spark that made the original an instant classic felt lacking.

Firing up the film for a second time was, well, enlightening. For some reason, knowing the rough beats that the plot was going to take made the story a lot more interesting. On the whole, the movie felt somehow more complete. The humour and animation seem almost better than the original and characterisation was hard to fault. Most interactions felt natural and consistent with the characters I enjoyed in the first film and the new cast felt like they belonged.

HtTYD2 is clearly a more mature outing than its predecessor and, perhaps, that threw me a little first time around. However, I'm happy to say I think that initial impression was wrong: this is a solid sequel that builds nicely on the original in just about every way. A friend recently pointed out that, though further films are in development, they are clearly not rushing them just to make bank off the success they've received so far. Instead, they're crafting them, taking the time that is required and it definitely shows. If the creative team continues in this vein, and similarly continues to mature the subject matter, when the set becomes a trilogy we could be in for something truly special. I'm definitely a lot less sceptical than I was two years ago.


How to Train Your Dragon 3

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

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