The Hidden Betrayal: A How To Train Your Dragon 3 Review

I LOVE the first two How to Train Your Dragon movies from DreamWorks and LOVE the TV series attached to them. Beatuiful animation, fantastic characters, fun stories, they have it all. Those characters and dragons have woven themselves into my mind and the very fabric of my being. I dream about them and try to push my own dragon designs farther because of them. I gave a glowing review of HTTYD 2 when it came out, and I was beyond excited for this third installment. Unable to see it in theaters due to a cross-country move and lack of money, I anxiously waited to finally see it on DVD.

I finally had that chance recently. These GIFS sum up how I felt about it pretty well:

I’m pretty worked up about it, which is an understatement.

I will admit that my toddler kept slapping my face through the whole thing which had me irritated, but overall the impression I got from HTTYD 3 was of underwhelment and then at the end, betrayal.

The story was mediocre. The antagonist weak. A sad small number of new dragon designs were introduced. The group dynamic and humor from the support characters was lacking and they didn’t get to shine.

There were some good things about it. The dragon’s hidden world was gorgeous. So was the viking’s new island they ended up at. The animation was brilliant and Toothless stole the show as always, but even that wasn’t as well done as the previous two films.

And I would have been able to accept all that if it hadn’t been for the ending.

DreamWorks and the HTTYD franchise has spent two movies, a few specials, and five seasons of TV shows telling us that humans and dragons can get along and it’s important to fight and protect them.

And then at the end of The Hidden World, they go and take that idea and:

Against all previous character development and world building the plot takes over and kicks the dragons out of the world.

This makes NO SENSE with the characters in what has been up to this point a strongly character-driven story. Yes, I agree that it was an important growth moment for Hiccup to give Toothless his freedom and come into his own as a chief and person. That was good. However Toothless and all the dragons leaving is so wrong. Those dragons and vikings have grown accustomed to living together. Neither Hiccup or Toothless lead them by mind control, so them just obeying and splitting up with no protest makes no sense. But most importantly the bond between Toothless and Hiccup is so great that even the Light Fury had to acknowledge it and chose to save Hiccup because of it. Hiccup is Toothless’s closest friend. Toothless has proven time and time again that their relationship is most important to him. He wouldn’t leave to NEVER return with some female night fury he just met. He might need some distance to keep his new woman happy and spend some time away once in a while, but he’d still be there for Hiccup. They’re two pieces of a whole. It’s just wrong.

I read in an article (that I managed to find and lose in the process of writing this post) that Dean DeBlois, the film’s directer, was thinking of this as a “call to the wild” story for Toothless, and that his animal instincts trump his relationships and its his inevitable destiny. I don’t like that. It debases the dragons and puts them at the level of animals when the previous entirety of the franchise has shown us that the dragons are, for the most part, a step above animals in cognitive ability–especially Toothless.

Then there’s also the character break in Hiccup at giving up entirely on helping dragons anymore. Sure his utopia might not be reasonable, but sending all the dragons he currently was protecting away to the hidden world means he has zero tools to continue to help and protect the dragons still out there in the world and send them off to safety. There is zero indication that he attempts in any way to fight for dragons from then on out. He completely gives up on an important core aspect of himself. Sure he can give Toothless freedom, but dooming the rest of the dragons left out there to the terrible humans goes completely against Hiccup’s morals and personality.

Another flaw in this ending is Hiccup’s decision to no longer fight to be an example to the world on what the world should be. How is he supposed to make the world safer and better for dragons like he says he will by kicking the dragons out of it? That’s the opposite of helping.

My hubby saw the ending kind of like a City of Enoch promise thing to help kids want to be better so the dragons can come back. That’s not how I see it. To me it’s more sinister. By ending the story this way we’re told humans are unworthy and incapable of accepting and living alongside those who are different. We shouldn’t bother to fight for what we believe in, or protect those who need to be protected, or even try to get along. We just need to send the troublesome different things away to fend for themselves. This concept even gets punched into the story directly with Grimmol’s, the antagonist’s, practically religious hatred of dragons and his little speech to Hiccup about how Hiccup’s ideas of dragons and humans living together are toxic and dangerous to society. Let’s stop and think about the weight of this for a moment. According to this line of thinking, anything and anyone that doesn’t fit in with the “society,” in our case typically privileged western white male-led America, should be cast out and ignored. That means women, people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled, refugees, etc. People with different opinions should stop fighting for them because there’s no hope and we shouldn’t bother trying to get along.

I hate it.

In fact, I’m so upset I don’t really even want to own the movie. I wanted to love this movie so bad, but then it went and stabbed me in the back.

If the ending had been just a little different I would have been so ecstatically happy. All it would have taken was Hiccup offering Toothless and the other dragons freedom, Toothless choosing to stay, and the dragons being allowed to leave as they please for the hidden world and/or stay to help with the dragon protection effort. That’s it. Or something along those lines, at least. Something that stayed true to the main characters and their morals and relationships.

Just because you decided to limit HTTYD to a trilogy doesn’t mean you have to send the dragons away at the end to prevent any more movies from being made about it, DreamWorks!

I’ve never liked fan-fiction and have always preferred to adhere to official canon. I’ve always thought people should go make their own stories and leave published media alone, or at least not change things that are clearly canon. I could understand little side stories that didn’t change anything about the actual published work but were just extensions of it. But I’ve never been blatantly betrayed by a major story before. Now I want to go rewrite the whole movie and make it right. I lament not being there to help save this story that is so precious to me from the story writers who broke it so badly and took from it what it could have been.

I won’t be writing corrective fan-fiction, though. I will just do my best to not ever betray my own readers so badly by breaking characters to serve the plot.

Overall I give The hidden word three out of five stars. Plus three for all the great animation and good moments, minus two for the weak story and bungling the end so bad.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Movie Review

Yesterday I went with my family to se How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I don’t know why, but I’ve never been more excited to go see a movie in my entire life.  Seriously, this movie has invaded my dreams for the last couple months.  That’s never happened before.

The movie did not disappoint.

Beautiful animation, fantastic new dragons, and epic composition to scenes.  DreamWorks made a big step up in the quality of their craft for this movie.  I loved the body language and facial expressions of the dragons, especially Toothless.  Toothless manages to communicate very well despite his lack of human speech.  We know exactly what he’s thinking.

As for the story, they aged it up along with the characters.  Not in a bad way, but in a good one.  All their actions have consequences.  Permanent consequences, just like they established in HTTYD when Hiccup lost his leg.  I shed tears.    Much emotion was had, both sad, happy, and silly.

And just like my writing teacher Carol Lynch Williams said, someone in a story has to be dead or naked, or both.  This movie does have one of those.

Also, Hiccup’s mother is a great character. I love how feral and dragon-ish she was, while still very human.  My only complaint about the movie was that I think she could have been better developed.  A bit more rounded out.

Overall, I love this movie.  I will own it and watch it again and again.  It gets five out of five stars.

And I MUST get my hands on the art book!  It will be mine.

Amazing Spiderman 2 – Movie Review

I got to go see the Amazing Spiderman 2 on Friday, and I loved it!

All the characters, even the seemingly random villains, and situations moved the plot forward.  Plenty of action, family dynamics with Aunt May, emotional conflict, and consequences for everyone’s actions.  I really, really like the design for Electro.  He was awesome!  Gwen Stacy got to be an even stronger character who helped in major ways.  And Spiderman got to be the silly, quirky, joking superhero that I love him to be even when he was having a rough time.

The soundtrack might be hard for some people.  My parents didn’t like it, but I was fine with it up until the credits.  Didn’t like the credits music.

The only thing I had an issue with was the development of Harry Osborne.  It started off great with him, but I feel like he moved a bit fast to where he ended up.  There was a little something lacking with him.

There is a little video clip advertising for the next X-Men movie in the middle of the credits, but nothing at the end.

Overall, I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars.   It was fun and action-packed with a good story.

Movie Review – Thor 2

I saw Thor 2 this past weekend.  It was pretty good.  Thor has never been my favorite Avenger, but I love Loki and the other side characters, so there needs to be a good balance between everyone for me to think that the movie is worthwhile.  I’m not saying I hate Thor, just that he doesn’t interest me like the other Avengers.  This movie is worthwhile, especially since we finally get to see the brotherly relationship between Thor and Loki for the first time.  I can totally see them as little kids with Loki  sitting just out of arm reach going, “I’m not touching you!” to Thor.  They were great.  There’s more of Darci and the rest of the earth-side support team and they get to develop their characters in a great way.  I love Darci.  I’m so glad we get to see more of her.

Of course there is epic-scale fighting.  The Dark Elves’ space ships are fantastic.  I love their designs and how they fly.  It made me want to go design space ships.

Overall the whole movie was pretty good, but there was something about it that bugged me.  I’m not sure what it is.  I’ll probably like it better the second time I watch it, which seems to be the case with all movies and me anymore, but there was something about the way they wrapped up parts (or didn’t wrap up, there are lead-ins to much more story) that didn’t feel right to me.  So I give this movie four out of five stars.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people who likes to hang out and see the movie bits in the credits, there’s two of them.  One in the middle and one at the end.  You need to see them both.

Review – Ender’s Game Movie

Went and saw Ender’s Game with my family today.  I remember reading the book back in high school and having mixed feelings about it.  I loved the concept, but hated some of the characters and things Orson Scott Card chose to put in.  It’s definitely NOT a children’s book.  If I read it now I might have a different opinion, but I have no desire to read it again except to see how Card manages to write so well and what I can learn from him and to see what I would think of it now that I’m an adult and replace the bad memories with good ones.  The only things I remember from it were the things I don’t want to remember.  So, we’ll see.  Maybe I’ll read the whole series someday, but maybe not.

However, since I did love the concept so much, I was hopeful for the movie and figured I would like it much better than the book.  I wasn’t disappointed. Ender’s Game is a fantastic movie.  None of the stuff I hated from the book made it to the movie, and all of the good stuff did.  In fact, I wish the movie was longer so that we could experience more of the battle school stuff.  That was the most interesting to me in the book and covered so many interesting ideas and strategies and is where the most character bonding happens, which is always my favorite part.  The movie did a great job of covering it, but since it wasn’t longer a lot had to get cut out.  It felt a little rushed in spots due to this and like we lost time, but they managed to keep everything making sense.  Beautiful effects and heart-touching themes.  I give Ender’s Game four and a half out of five stars.

Webcomic Review – The Dreamland Chronicles

I spent my whole afternoon reading this webcomic called The Dreamland Chronicles.  I don’t know what about it caught me this time around, since I’ve had people point me at it before and didn’t pay attention to it, but somehow after reading the first fifty pages yesterday it managed to invade my dreams (which is unusual).  At the moment it holds the rank of #7 on Top Web Comics, and it deserves that position.

It’s the story of a guy who travels to Dreamland whenever he sleeps and how he gets caught up in saving it while trying to help his friends and lady love.

Dreamland Chronicles has been updating on a regular, every weekday basis since 2006 and is done with 3D computer animation technology, which is a ton of work.  It has a grand scale of plot and action with good characters.  Over the years the art has gone from pretty good but stiff CG to having panels that look like they came out of a legit Dreamworks or Pixar movie.

The beginning is a bit rough for the first 2-3 chapters, but that tends to be the case with a lot of webcomics when they’re starting out.  Some of the character interaction didn’t make sense, but once the rough patch was over the characters stayed truthful to themselves and made a lot more sense.

Go check it out!  It’s got romance, adventure, beautiful hard work, and fantasy all rolled into one story.  It also manages to stay pretty clean and family-friendly as well!  I give it four stars out of five.

Despicable Me 2 Review

I had the great fun of going to see Despicable Me 2 on the 4th of July.  It was fantastic.

The humor wasn’t the same as the first one, but still very good, and there’s much more minion madness and shenanigans.  It deals with different issues than the first one, so it’s not the same, and that’s good.  All of the characters get to be more developed.  The girls are well on their way to being awesome and cool, especially Edith.  I now want a story about Edith as a teenager.  She would rock so hard.

Illumination Entertainment stepped up their game on this movie.  The quality and detail of the computer graphics along with the compositions in some of the shots impressed me with their epic-ness.  Also, the water was mind-blowing.  Beautiful.

Granted, there are things I would have done different and jokes I didn’t find funny and stuff I found pointless about the movie, but those things are more than made up for by the rest of the movie.  After all, no movies is perfect.

This is another sequel that is at least as good as the first one.  It’s definitely worth a watch!  I give it four out of five stars.

Monsters University Review

I went and saw Pixar’s new movie Monsters University recently, and I have to say it’s amazingly good. The characters are deep, the action fun and exciting, and there’s plenty of humor to go around.  It doesn’t have the same feeling as Monsters Inc.  It’s very different, but I guess that should be expected from a story about two guys becoming friends instead of trying to send a little girl home.  It’s fun to see how Mike and Sully’s personalities grew and changed from when they were in college compared to when they were working at Monsters Incorporated.

This movie has a ton of new, cool monster designs and beautiful textures.  I’m amazed at how some monsters managed to look scary when their designs were all cute and cuddly.

Mike Wazowski gets to shine in this movie, and Sully doesn’t do too shabby either.  There are plenty of nods to the first movie and some things are explained or connected to the other one.

Overall, Monster’s University is just as good, if not better than, Monster’s Inc.  Go watch it!  It’s awesome!  Five out of five stars!

Epic Review

Today I saw Epic by Blue Sky Studios.  It was pretty good.  I’ll give it four out of five stars.

Epic is a beautiful movie.  The designs of the creatures and characters are brilliant and detailed with beautiful colors and shapes.  The characters were good and there was a decent amount of humor.  I heard some people complain that it had little plot, a symptom of most Blue Sky movies, but I thought it had enough.  Actually, I think it had more plot than most of the Blue Sky movies I’ve seen.  There was a little something from it missing that I couldn’t put my finger on, (maybe the word is depth?), but it didn’t detract too much from the movie for me.  The ending wasn’t what I was expecting, but it ended well.  It had good themes, some of which were more obvious than others, such as we’re all connected and you should never give up on your dreams or ignore the things that are most important.

If I could describe Epic in one word, it would be “pretty.”  There’s more to it than beauty, though, and I found it a very enjoyable movie.  It’s definitely worth a watch.  I saw it in 2D, but I could tell that it had great potential as a 3D movie.

I want more stories from this world.

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

I finally got to see Star Trek: Into Darkness on Saturday, and I do have to say… it was amazing!  Five out of five stars for that movie.  It had character development, tearful moments, kick butt moments, awesome action, and a few laughs.  There are several nods to the original Wrath of Khan movie some of which could be considered cheesy, but I think it was good cheese.  Not that you have to see Wrath of Khan before you see Into Darkness, but I feel that it’s a better experience if you have.  I actually watched Wrath of Khan the weekend previous since I’d heard that you should see it before, because somehow, in my life of being raised on Star Trek and Star Wars, that was the one Star Trek movie I hadn’t seen.

Scotty gets to be a bigger part of this movie and do some cool stuff, poor Chekov has a hard time doing important stuff, McCoy gets some danger, Uhura is brave, and Kirk and Spock become better friends and both become more human/easier to connect to.  In a way, they all get their chance to save the day.

And Benedict Cumberbatch makes a fantastic Khan.  He does Khan the way I think Khan should have been done in the original movie.  Cumberbatch’s Khan is brilliant, arrogant, conniving, and a perfect beast.  He’s not a rabid, hurt beast, but a deadly predator waiting for the right moment to make the kill.

This is definitely up there in quality with the first movie.  Into Darkness gives Star Trek a run for its money.  I’m not sure which one I like better, but right now they’re tied for me.

I hope this review was helpful!