I originally wrote this analysis and posted it on reddit, but I had a lot of people recommend that I post it here as well since there are other essays critical of the film here, so I said sure, why not. So, here we go:
I watched the first movie when it originally came out at the appropriate age. I watched all the specials (Gift of the night fury, the boneknapper, ect), the series, riders and defenders of berk, the second movie, it's specials (race to the edge) and the corresponding netflix series.
I grew up with these films essentially and I really quite liked them. The world itself felt real and deep, with a ton of potential for getting lost in it, and imagining what it would be like. This is the part that mostly drew me to the series.The characters were of course, grounded and well written and behaved like people. I loved the series, and the movies still remain among my favourites.
The third movie however, left me disappointed. It felt that for the sake of cheap drama, it trampled on everything that made the franchise great in the first place. It erased the messages of the previous movies, it erased character development, it erased symbolism, and the characters turned into caricatures, purely to be more "dramatic" and because the director wanted to capstone the series with an ending taken from another franchise.
I do not mind bittersweet endings or capstones, and I do not mind seperations of the main characters. One of my favourite movies of all time, the wolf children, ends in a depressing, bittersweet capstone. I liked it, because it made sense with the plot, was well paced, stayed true to the message and the characters actually gradually developed to that conclusion.
The issue is that it has to be done right, and The Hidden World does not really do that.
Point by point. The issues with the movie:
There is no justification for drastic measures like separation in the first place
Why did the separation need to happen? The idea the movie is attempting to show, is that this villain is the absolute zenith. The straw that broke the camel's back. He is so dangerous and powerful, that he forced the heroes to seek the ultimate unthinkable solution: Seperating from the dragons.
Except there's a massive issue with that.
The villain from the second movie was a hundred times more dangerous. He had a fleet equal in size to the one seen in this movie, and he had a behemoth the size of a mountain that brainwashed dragons by simply staring at them. By every single account, a far bigger threat than the one presented here. What was the response from the heroes after facing this far bigger threat? Ditching the dragons? Absolutely not. Not only did this threat not make them give up, but after they defeated him, it STRENGTHENED their resolve.
"Those who attacked us are relentless and crazy. But those who stopped them? Oh, even more so! We may be small in numbers, but we stand for something bigger than anything the world can pit against us. We are the voice of peace. And bit by bit, we will change this world. You see, we have something they don't. Oh sure, they have armies and they have armadas... But we... we have... OUR DRAGONS!"
This is the final speech from the second movie, after Drago's defeat. What happened to that resolve and conviction? Suddenly they're giving up instead of treading forward?
Note that this is the speech he gave after his own dragon was ordered to kill his own father and his village was destroyed and encapsulated in ice. You would expect his determination to be near unshakable at this point. The events of this film are tame in comparison: Grimmel was defeated, everyone is alive and a-ok, yet Hiccup’s resolve has vanished and he gives up on all that he’s worked towards all these past years. This being the ‘final straw’ that causes them to part ways is very anticlimactic.
The movie does not demonstrate an escalation of stakes forcing the characters to the absolute end of the line solution. All it demonstrates is the heroes giving up after facing another villain of the week, weaker than the ones we've already seen. He set a few buildings on fire, but did that not happen every other day on Berk, just a few years prior?
Like, just to recap in case anyone forgot, only a few hours prior to the separation, all of Berk was living another day on their new island, humans and dragons keeping eachother company (the dragons even appear to be helping with construction efforts). Suddenly, a massive armada shows up out of nowhere. The chief and his friends take them out effortlessly, Toothless is shown to have godlike Powers and...What? Okay, goodbye forever then.
No one objected or even resisted. No one suggested any alternatives to maintain their unity.
No viking, dragon, nor child alike.
They've faced far greater threats before, and with the help of the dragons they defeated every single one of them. So, now the solution is to... give up?
So far, thanks to their symbiosis with the dragons, Berk has prospered and become victorious against anything thrown at it. The solution to this new problem is... to throw away the one thing that helped it prosper?
I'll delve more into this part when I speak about the general messages of the movies.
The separation accomplishes nothing, and was by and far not the only solution.
The vikings could have hidden on another island. They could have become nomads. They could have moved to another part of the world (since they have flight, opening up territories they could have never imagined travelling to).
They didn't even NEED to do anything. New berk is a fortress defended by a vertical cliff that's nearly 4km long. Even if enemies attack them, what are they gonna do? Scale a mountain half the size of mount everest? The movie makes a point of mentioning how new berk is only accesible by dragonback. A fortress like that would be difficult to take over with modern weaponry, much less middle age tech.
There are a million solutions, all of them preferable than separation.
But chiefly, the biggest plot hole and most obvious solution, why didn't the characters not move into the hidden world?
It wasn't made clear why it couldn't work. Because some dragons attacked Hiccup and Astrid? That's happened plenty of times before and it never fazed them. This was the perfect moment for Toothless to go "I'm the king, cut it out. Let me show all of you what real friendship can do to overcome our natural animosities." Berk could have easily moved in after that, cut off contact with the outside world and disappear off the map, exactly as Hiccup proposed and the berkians agreed to, all while keeping the dragons safe without destroying the relationships they built together in such a callous way.
They've tamed more dragons before, following the red death's demise, without even having an alpha. The justification for this not happening is that suddenly the berkians are unable to do the thing they've been doing for the past six years.
It is never shown why this couldn't work other than a few throwaway lines.
"The dragons wouldn't have obeyed Toothless"
I mean wouldn't they have? It has been demonstrated that Toothless can literally shut off their survival instinct when he orders all the dragons to submit and walk into their cages in order to save the light fury.
But now, what does the separation even accomplish? Making the dragons and humans safer? You can make the exact opposite argument.
Both groups are less safe if they separate. Are those dragon trappers going to leave Berk in peace now that their main income source is gone? Now that New Berk is a known location, they're going to regroup, capture villagers and torture or use them as hostages to get the location of the hidden world out of Hiccup. New Berk will have to move anyway, but this time it'll be more difficult and they'll be less able to defend themselves without their dragons.
This is a catch 22 situation.
Since Berkians and dragons are separated, what is stopping another armada from invading them, capturing them and torturing them until they reveal the location of the hidden world? The ONLY reason berkians won is because of the dragons. So now they are defenseless, and the enemy knows their location.
If the argument is that there is no armada because they completely destroyed it, then why did they need to seperate in the first place?
Is new berk an impenetrable fortress so they are safe without dragons to guard them? Then why seperate in the first place if its so safe?
Is new Berk is not an impentrable fortress meaning the dragons are exposed? So, why give up your only line of defence? (The dragons)
The same applies to the hidden world. If the hidden world is safe then why can't the humans move in? If it isn't safe, why are they sending their dragons there?
Furthermore, how can they know that they have all the dragons? So, all the dragons in the entire world lived in that archipelago? ALL of them? Every single one? No dragons in europe, asia, africa or the americas? Hell, how are they sure they even got all the dragons in the archipelago? What about the captured dragons in dragon trapper bases?
We KNOW that dragons breed outside the hidden world thanks to GoTNF, which is canon. So what happens there?
The worst part however, is what's going to happen to the hidden world dragons.
With no one there to remind them of the good of humans, the last remaining dragons with memories of living alongside them will eventually die off, and thus, all the progress Berk made with taming and gaining their trust to co-exist with humans will be wiped.
There is no hope that they will react peacefully the next time they see a human.
And by the way, the director has confirmed that the movies take place in the real world, and serve as an explanation for why dragons don't exist today. So, we know that humans and dragons never reunited.
Think on the implications of that ending for a while.
A user on reddit called u/cd943t put it best:
Whereas the world might not be ready for the dragons, Berk has proven themselves to be worthy. After the dragons' nest and Valka's sanctuary was destroyed, the dragons lost their homes. Berk invited the dragons into their homes to treat them as family. It's only right that when the Berkians have lost their home, that the dragons return the favor and invite them into the hidden world, completing a powerful role reversal demonstrating that trust and friendship is mutual and reciprocated.
To the Berkians, dragons are not creatures whose utility is in learning what can be learned from them or to exploit for transportation or food-gathering purposes. They are family. As Hiccup said in his speech in the great hall before they left:
"We're dragon people. It's where we belong. Berk is the people, the dragons. Berk is wherever we go".
The migration from Berk was a loyalty test. They were willing to leave their old traditions and adopt a new identity, instead of staying behind and figuratively beating a rock with their heads in the hopes it would split in two. The second test was their willingness to let the dragons go, to demonstrate they truly had their best interests in mind.
When I see the ending, I see the dragons judging Berk by those tests and deeming them unworthy. Hiccup's life work was all for naught. It is not a bittersweet ending - it is a tragedy, because if the most deserving people in the world were not worthy, no one will ever be. As Valka said in HTTYD2:
"Only you can bring our worlds together. That is who you are."
Hiccup has failed, and the dragons will never leave their underground prison.
The most dissapointing thing in my opinion is that this would have actually closed the symbolic arc between humans and dragons.
In the first movie the dragons lost their home and the Berkians welcomed them and integrated them into theirs, and now that the Berkians lost THEIR home it was time for the dragons to repay their kindness by welcoming into their home.
Berk's dragons =/= The world's dragons
Toothless only took Berk’s dragons with him, and there are still dragons outside Berk, or caged dragons that were never freed. Dragons exist worldwide in this universe, given the Japanese dragonhunter in samurai armour and Drago was "A strange man from a strange land" (possibly Mongolian). That means dragons are all over the planet.
Hiccup only sent away Berk's dragons. Not the entire world's. Dragonhunters still have all their pickings from everywhere including already caged ones. What about those?
Hiccup only made them stronger by removing the one resistance force that could fight back. He crippled his allies and empowered his enemies by removing the one roadblock to world domination.
Hiccup left his people defenseless and empowered his enemies. Unless we're supposed to believe this tiny ass flock is the entire planet's dragon population.
It is just strictly impossible for all the dragons to have left the world, captive or not.
But you know what? Just for fun, let's assume that he DID send all the dragons away, and think about the implications of that. Hiccup, a 20 year-old kid from the edge of the world who never ever even left his archipelago, made a decision that would ripple across the ENTIRE PLANET, not caring nor thinking how this would affect everyone else.
What happens to other cultures that might be at peace with dragons? China, for example, has no reason to hate them, if we’re to go by historical facts. They were worshiped and revered in chinese mythology. Or what about the mayans? Giant flying serpents? The mayans would be all over that shit, worshiping the dragons as gods.
What about all the other continents? The rest of Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia? You're telling me NOBODY tamed and was living in harmonious coexistence with dragons anywhere else on the entire planet ?
Despite not being cannon, RTTE shows some possibilities of HOW coexistence with the dragons would work for other cultures.
And now, because he couldn't have it his way at home, Hiccup decided to impose his will on everyone else by appointing himself as the planet's authority on dragons because... he's the protagonist, I guess?
If he failed at accomplishing peace at home, what makes him the authority to decide that nobody else should be given the opportunity elsewhere?
Imagine living in a culture that has accomplished peace with the dragons for generations, and suddenly your entire way of life is destroyed by the dragons leaving because some brat halfway across the globe decided that because he can't have dragons, nobody else should either.
But the thing is, even if you say that nobody else had made peace with the dragons and Hiccup was the first, that STILL doesn't give him the right to do what he did, because he is still depriving everyone else of the opportunity to try and make peace on their own.
Hiccup and Toothless massively disturbed and potentially destroyed both the hidden world and the overworld's ecosystem.
Even if by some cosmic impossibility, he did somehow managed to bring all the wild dragons down to the hidden world (including caged ones) that would mean a catastrophic ecosystem collapse for the surface/hidden world via trophic cascade (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophic_cascade) due to the massive population shift, that Hiccup should be very familiar with, because this is EXACTLY the same overpopulation problem that Berk was suffering from at the beginning of the film.
And that creates another issue.
Why did the dragons not live in the HW to begin with? If it is a good and safe place for them, then it would be full of dragons/capped, therefore it can't support the surface dragons. If it is empty enough to support the surface dragons, it must suck pretty bad for them.
While we're on that, the movie says that the hidden world is the ancestral home of dragons, but... how exactly do giant FLYING serpents evolve underground? Night furies evolved to channel thunderstorms and lightning, same with skrills.
And they somehow did that, UNDERground? Where no thunderstorms or lightning exist?
Toothless is a bad leader
A thing that needs to be brought up. Toothless is an overwhelmingly awful leader, and there's a certain scene in the movie that makes him accross across as a MASSIVE asshole.
For one thing, he abandons his flock back at berk to go be with the light fury when he knows Grimmel is out there hunting dragons. Great protector he is. That's egregious enough on its own, but this isn't even my main issue with him.
When the light fury is captured, he orders every single other dragon to form orderly lines and walk intro grimmel's cages with no resistance.
Isn't it the alpha's responsibility to PROTECT his flock? The whole point of the movie, the catalyst for the separation, is that Hiccup and Toothless need to grow up, mature and start looking after their own people, with a chief protecting his vikings and the alpha protecting its dragons. Even the second movie emphasized this message! But fine, let's go with that premise.
Halfway through the movie, Toothless ALREADY demonstrates that he hasn't matured for shit and his "flock" doesn't matter to him in the slightest. How is he "fit to be king" of the hidden world when he doesn't care about the safety nor the lives of his people as long as he gets to smash?
He's willing to put the life of every single other dragon on the line for the sake of his girlfriend. That's not maturity or growth, nor is it what a leader is supposed to do. He's supposed to step up to the responsibility of being alpha which is why they need to split up, but the movie makes it pretty clear that he's neither ready nor worthy of that responsibility. And no, the light fury was not in danger. Grimmel knew if he shot her, he was dead as it was his only bargaining chip. Toothless ordered everyone to surrender for nothing.
It's fine if they wanted to go that way (Toothless not responsible enough yet), but you can't have your cake and eat it too. ("it's his responsibility to leave!")
Either Toothless is ready to make the hard decisions, solidifying him as the alpha leader and protector of the dragons, or he isn't.
Would you want your leader to sell out your entire people for the sake of a one night stand?
The movie hinges on Toothless having to leave to take care of the dragons but he is utterly incapable of doing so. What happens if someone sneaks into the hidden world and takes the light fury hostage again?
Toothless will order everyone to sit down while humans ransack everything.
And while we're at it, how did toothless even become the king of hidden world exactly? The dragons of berk made him their alpha because they saw him defeat the bewilderbeast. The dragons of the hidden world have witnessed no such thing, so what reason do they have to accept him as their leader?
Was there no alpha before toothless arrived? What exactly is the logic behind that whole "King" plotpoint?
"Hiccup wanted Toothless to be happy with his love and and the light fury didn't trust humans."
Yes. Neither did Toothless at first.
Neither did Stormfly.
Neither did Barf or Belch.
Neither did Meatlug.
Neither did literally every single dragon they have ever met throughout the entirety of the franchise.
Literally the name of the franchise is How To Train Your Dragon .
The point is that dragons don't trust humans at first, and you get them to trust humans by training them, earning their trust.
The idea that they had to separate because the light fury didn't trust humans is an antithesis to the very core point and message of the franchise; that dragons have misunderstood humans and humans have misunderstood dragons, and if those misunderstandings are solved they can co-exist.
"The dragons wanted their freedom"
I feel that this insulting to berkians more than anything. The dragons were never imprisoned or forced to stay on Berk with chains, whips and cages. They were never forced to live with berkians.
They willingly moved into Berk because they enjoyed the companionship of humans and formed bonds with the people there.
If dragons hated staying at Berk, how would it even get overcrowded to begin with? They didn't use cages or any method of forcing the dragons to stay there, nor did they hunt and imprison dragons. So if the dragons wanted freedom, why did they keep moving in?
To top that off, what about Valka and Cloudjumper? It was Cloudjumper who kidnapped Valka, not Valka who tamed Cloudjumper. So, who was he seeking freedom from? The rider HE selected?
The characters did not react like themselves to the separation.
Everyone just went along with it.
Assuming they even had a good reason that required a drastic solution, after all they have been through together, this is all it took for them to separate and not ever even try to meet again? I expected Hiccup and Toothless to exhaust literally every single possibility imaginable in an effort to stay together instead of literally going with the first suggestion of "Seperate", it feels so out of character.
They've both put their own lives at risk for each other, they practically treat each other like siblings, and this is all it took for them to let go? No alternative options? No resistance? Just a "Bye felicia, see you in however many years whenever"?
It's not just Hiccup and Toothless, either. All the other vikings just went along with it, and nobody seemed to care.
In Gift of the Night Fury , when dragons were leaving Berk on their own for another reason, Fishlegs literally chained down Meatlug so she wouldn't leave, and he only knew her for a few months at most at that point.
The real crime though is Valka and Cloudjumper.
They've been together for 20+ years, and she essentially chose the dragons over her own village. In fact, it was the dragon that kidnapped her, not the other way around of her taming him , and he left just like that? She didn't raise a word of protest or attempt to suggest an alternative solution?
Everyone just went along. No vikings protested. No dragons protested. Not a single soul resisted or opposed the idea.
The separation and the reunion
The way the reunion was handled is another one of the worst parts of the movie in my mind. While cutesy and fun on the surface, it has a ton of implications when you analyze it.
Even assuming they did have a good reason to seperate, again, the same user called cd943t put far better and more eloquently than I could:
The fact that Toothless took so long to recognize Hiccup plainly demonstrates that they haven't met in years, perhaps not since Toothless left for the hidden world.
The Hiccup I know wouldn't hesitate to dedicate a little time each month to spend some time with his best friend who both saved each other's lives countless times, changed each other's outlook on life and transformed the lives of hundreds of vikings and dragons alike. If Hiccup for whatever reason couldn't find the hidden world Toothless himself would fly over to visit, in the dead of night on a new moon if necessary to keep the dragons a secret. You're telling me that the Toothless who managed to overcome the high walls of the cove and risk his life by going into a Viking village in broad daylight to save Hiccup, go on a suicide mission against a monster of a dragon, smashed the freedom of independent flight away so he could share every moment of flying with Hiccup instead, overcome the mind control of a bewilderbeast because his bond with Hiccup is just that strong, and defeat said bewilderbeast by flying blindfolded because he trusts Hiccup just that much, wouldn't make every single effort possible to regularly see his best friend, scratch that, soul partner, is what I consider a massive miscalculation on the part of the film.
The way their relationship was tossed aside so callously, the same relationship that first drew all of us to this series to begin with, is a mistake that makes this film to me, regardless of all of its feats in animation quality, voice acting, and pacing, irredeemable and an insult to fans of the series.
In fact, the worst part is that the director confirms it in this interview.
Ten years had passed, and [Toothless] had kind of forgotten his former life.
So, Toothless forgot about Hiccup and their friendship and all the adventures they had together.
The legendary bond of friendship they shared that shaped the core of their very being, was all for nothing and didn't actually last the passage of time.
Toothless and Hiccup were together for 6 years, spending about a third of their respective lives together and have supported each other through many hardships that involved the loss of loved ones and crippling injuries. Only through their friendship were they able to survive and grow.
This isn't a "Yeah, but I forgot my best friend from middle school too" type friendship. Hiccup and Toothless are a fundamental part of each other's identity.
Surely this type of relationship would mean something would it not?
So much for the "friendship of a lifetime".
You'd think the mechanical tail would serve as a memento but no.
"It's normal to forget about friendships you had decades ago."
The issue is that this is not a normal "I knew this guy in highschool and we talked during lunch break" type friendship.
This is about the two characters forming a fundamental piece of each other's personality.
They nearly died together. Toothless killed Hiccup's dad. Hiccup crippled toothless. They both left permanent marks on each other, physical and emotional.
Unless you're a psychopath, forgetting about someone that fundamentally changed your entire worldview and nearly died with on multiple occasions is not normal.
Hiccup and Toothless are not high school friends.
Toothless is responsible for Hiccup's entire life philosophy. And this is not me saying it, it's the movie.
With Grimmel having found a night fury and killed it instead of befriending it, the point is made that Hiccup could have easily turned into Grimmel, the direct opposite, had he killed Toothless instead. Toothless is responsible for who Hiccup is at his absolute core.
Toothless would have just remained a ‘wild animal’. Thanks to Hiccup he evolved as a character to the point where he sacrificed bodily autonomy for the sake of friendship. (More on this later)
To pretend their friendship is like a highschool lunch break buddy you forget a year later shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire franchise.
Hiccup and toothless apparently never ever met again after the reunion according to dean.
There’s an interview with Dean that was published after I had finished this essay which only adds insults to injury:
When talking about the final reunion, there was this question and answer:
”Does that scene indicate that Hiccup's children would have dragons?”
"It was meant to be a final joy ride. It's confirmation that Toothless survived, and not only survived, but thrived. And it's a neat meeting where it's like, 'look, you have kids, I have kids.' That last joy ride was meant to be a celebration, but not an indication that they would see each other again."
So... Hiccup and Toothless never actually met again after the reunion? The “friendship of a lifetime” lasted 6 years, then they seperated, then they met once after 10 years, and that was it? Never, ever again?
This was the last time they EVER met?
But...why? In the same interview, Dean confirms that all the dragons are gone. So, dragon hunters are no more. What stopped the dragons from returning or even just meeting at least once a year? What stopped Toothless from continuing meeting up with Hiccup, especially after they reunited?
I’m sorry, I know this is breaking character/flow a bit, but when I came across this interview after the review was done I was just left speechless absolute awe, and I felt like I needed to include it.
The message of the franchise
This movie outright ignores if not tramples on the messages of the previous movies.
Hiccup was in the exact same situation in the first film. He was about to give up and leave Berk for good until Astrid interrupted and showed him that convincing the villagers might not be an impossible endeavor. He originally thought that humans were too stubborn to change, but by the end of the first movie, he found out they aren't, and that minds can be changed.
Hell, the second movie was about convincing Hiccup's mom to change her ideas too. Her journey was congruent to the village's journey of acceptance in the first film, this time from another viewpoint.
This movie leads to separating because humans aren't ready and can't change, despite everything up until now, from the main series to its spin offs, was about changing minds and uniting.
"People aren't ready and ain't gonna change." Well guess what, the first movie showcased that people won't change until you do something about it .
Change is driven by choices, and doesn't always happen by itself. Hiding the dragons will do nothing but preserve the status quo. It's just going to preclude peace between dragons and man, not improve it The characters are giving up everything they have worked for without accomplishing anything in the process. Progress is never found by removing a controversy. It's resolved by facing it.
"Humans aren't actually that stubborn, you just need to work for it" was the entire reason the plot of the first movie could happen. And now that message is pissed away.
Flying on your own?
The second movie was about resolve and conviction. They faced this, they will face everything in order to protect their friends. They are right, and they will make right by the world. Bit by bit, they will show everyone that dragons are more than just ferocious beasts. With dragons, they can overcome anything.
Except no, they won't. They give up.
The Hidden World seems to be about "flying on your own", but that doesn't really seem to make sense in regards to what all the other movies have been about. Every single piece of media in the franchise is about the exact opposite; how friendship and unity makes you stronger, and how, by trusting others, you can accomplish more things than if you acted alone.
In the first movie, the other teens trusted Hiccup and together they were able to fight off the red death.
In the second movie, literally what saved the entire village from annihilation was the fact that Hiccup's friendship with Toothless was just THAT strong it was able to overcome the bewilderbeast's mind control.
And then the most important example, Gift of the Night Fury , which I will elaborate on later.
And finally, the overarching symbolism. Hiccup caused Toothless to lose his tail out of misunderstood malice. Toothless caused Hiccup to lose his leg while trying to save him. But they became friends and they were each able to cover one another's weakness.
I mean hell, one theme clearly expressed and even spoken outright by one of the characters was that Hiccup realized that he didn't have to try to do all of his chiefing duties by himself. That was Stoick's burden, but now Hiccup has a whole team of friends and family to support him.
From the very start, the tale of Hiccup and Toothless was the symbiotic relationship in the form of friendship between two creatures working together to make one unstoppable, stronger whole that could take on anything.
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't about the movie having a different message. This is about this movie's message directly contradicting the messages of the other two and making the characters violate their own convictions.
"Berkians have become too dependent on dragons and need to stand on their own once again."
I see a lot of people parrot this point as a justification for the separation, and it doesn't make any sense.
It's like saying hunter gatherers have become too dependent on wolves.
Or that medieval society has become too dependant on horses.
Or that farmers have become too dependant on oxen.
Or that humans have become dependant on whatever animal and need to stand on their own again.
Humans evolved symbiosis with with tons of animals for the benefit of both and it didn't make anyone weaker. It only made humans stronger and ensured the continued survival of the animal in question. It doesn't make sense to say the vikings need to ditch their symbiosis with dragons because somehow that will benefit either group.
Taming and training animals for the benefit of both the animal and mankind has been a facet of human civilization going as far back as before the beginning of recorded history.
The Villain has won before the movie even started, and thanks to Hiccup, he accomplished a hundred times more than his original plan intended.
What was Grimmel's plan? Wipe out all the night furies.
Before the movie has even started, the director confirmed Grimmel has killed all the night furies except for one: Toothless.
The events of the movie could have literally not even happened, and Grimmel would have still accomplished his goal. Once Toothless dies, even if he has kids with the light fury, since she's a different subspecies, the "night fury" as we know it, is extinct. Literally all Grimmel had to do was wait it out.
But now, thanks to Hiccup, his goal was accomplished above and beyond!
Aside from wanting night furies extinct, he also opposes coexistence between humans and dragons. Thanks to Hiccup and his nonsensical reaction to the events of the movie, dragons are now eternally removed from the world and mankind will never face them again for millenia! (The director confirmed the movies take place in the real world, and the hidden world is there to explain why dragons don't exist today)
So, to recap, the main villain, Grimmel, stayed true to his convictions until the bittersweet end, accomplished the one thing he set out to accomplish, and thanks to his sacrifice, ensured that the vision he had for the world would be realised.
On the other hand, the protagonist, Hiccup, broke every single conviction he held, failed in his vision, gave up, accomplished nothing, lost his best friend, and as a result of his decisions, potentially doomed both the dragons and the Berkians, while condemning mankind to a future without dragons.
The worst part is that the movie doesn't even acknowledge this.
Grimmel is incompetent.
"NIGHT FURIES HATE THE COLD Y'ALL" ~Grimmel
Massive thanks to Miza (linked at end) for making this hillarious compilation of Toothless (not) surviving in the cold, I highly recommend you check it out just for the amusement value alone (if not for anything else.)
It snows 9 months in berk and hails the other 3. So Toothless would be dead if what Grimmel said about night furies were true (And even if that quote about Berk isn’t to be taken literally, aren’t they already as high up north as civilization can safely inhabit without freezing to death?)
Grimmel's entire plan hinged on one of the twins being stupid enough to get left behind. What would he have done if the twins didn't have room temperature IQ? He only relied on luck.
Plus, speaking of luck, his entire plan with the light fury was "Lets release it and hope it falls in love with the night fury, and the night fury falls in love with it, and the light fury doesn't just fly away the instant we release it, and it leads the night fury to me."
That's not even covering the dumb logistics for a single guy to have genocided the smartest, fastest, deadliest and most elusive dragon in the series that was nicknamed "Unholy offspring of lightning and death".
From what we've seen in the movies alone, night furies have the "rage of gods" "alpha mode" that gives them enough firepower to down titans, they can go invisible and they can summon storms as well channel and direct lightning in broad daylight. That's not even counting stuff like echolocation and healing saliva seen in the series.
How the hell did one guy manage to bring down an entire species with such a versatile and quite francly, overpowered, ability set in such a short timespan?
The Night Furies
What personally bothers me the most: Why was the biggest hook of the series ditched? All movies, the specials and all serials teased us with finding out more about night furies.
They were teased in the first movie when everyone talking about how rare they were and the fact that toothless was the only one we ever saw, in the second movie when it was said how rare toothless was and valka seemed to know about his unique spinal trick implying she had seen it before, in all the specials, like in gift of the night fury they thought toothless wanted to find a mate, even in the series multiple times, remember the night fury island?
They were practically the overarching hook of the entire franchise.
Even the second movie ended with that hook when Hiccup told Toothless they might find more of them, and it turns out they're all dead and Toothless is the last one? What? (Dean, the director, confirmed Toothless is indeed the very last.)
Why was the whole "night furies are completely extinct, light furies are a different subspecies" thing not given more weight and just relegated to a few lines on the side?
They were the biggest mystery of the entire franchise, and the answer to that mystery is "They're all dead"? What kind of payoff is that?
Why was that even necessary in the first place other than artificial drama?
The conclusion of their mystery being "They all died offscreen while you weren't looking" is incredibly weird. It genuinely feels like a last second change. No, not even a change, just a complete handwave of "forget about it".
Why have all this buildup over so many years only to never use it on anything?
The gift of the Night Fury, and the prosthetic.
Are we just going to forget about the mechanical tail? The movies made a massive deal about the meaning of Hiccup losing his leg and Toothless his tail and their synergy together. It has been a theme throughout the entire franchise.
In The Hidden World , Hiccup just made a magical prosthetic (Literally magical, what is the reasoning for it being able to survive being repeatedly struck by lightning as if it were a biological part?) that lasted on it's own for god knows how many years without any maintenance or re-adjustment, just as good as a real tail would, with middle age tech?
Then Toothless might as well had never lost his tail in the first place for all the good that did.
It's not even that the message is ruined, it's that it doesn't even make sense.
If Toothless grew a new tail, then fine, it would at least make sense how he'd be able to fly alone for this long.
Or maybe he could have re-learned how to fly WITHOUT a prosthetic, following the "fly on your own theme" that the movie was based on.
But no, it's literally just a magic invincible indestructible prosthetic that can survive being repeatedly hit by a lightning storm without a single scratch that's as good as a real tail with no downsides.
I'm disappointed this plotpoint wasn't addressed. The synergy between Hiccup and Toothless was a main theme of the franchise. The entire christmas special revolved around this, and it was just handwaved.
No, the prosthetic would not last longer than a week on it's own
I want to address this separately. There is absolutely not a single snowball's chance in all 7 circles of hell that the prosthetic would last. Even completely discounting natural wear and tear (and the fact that Toothless' prosthetic was hit by lightning multiple times with no issue), people with prosthetics:
* Often remove the prosthetics at night, reattaching it in the morning, because keeping them on for too long irritates the skin due to chafing. Toothless can't do this.
* If the prosthetic is kept on their limb for too long, chances are it will fall off after being used for some time. Straps will slip off eventually. Toothless can't adjust it.
* People take more care of their prosthetics than any dragon could. Prosthetics are generally kept in an environment where they're unlikely to be damaged by improper use or the elements. Toothless is simply unable to care about the tail to that extent.
* Prosthetics are generally made of corrosion-resistant materials that don't get damaged easily. Leather and middle age iron falls in neither of those categories. With close proximity to the sea, salt corrosion and rust are especially going to render the tail completely unusable.
Objects made with modern materials and modern technology eventually fall apart even WITH proper maintenance and care. Objects as delicate and with as many moving parts of a prosthetic meant to regulate flight would be ruined as long as 1 tiny gear rusts or falls off.
Toothless, being unable to do maintenance, regulate, re-adjust or repair a highly delicate prosthetic with many moving parts that relies on precision to work, that will be in use 24/7 and constantly exposed to the elements (Not to mention being struck by LIGHTNING every time he goes invisible) would not last more than a week by any stretch of the imagination.
Toothless' prosthetic is a massive issue no matter which way you look at it. Both plot wise, and message wise.
Gift of the Night Fury and the degradation of Toothless' character
There is a short movie called Gift of the Night Fury . The christmas special. The only issue is that calling it a "christmas special" does it a massive disservice. It is exceptionally well written and contains some of the biggest and most important character building moments in the entire franchise.
Among other things, it does a "separation" plotline a lot better than The Hidden World does, because it shows the emotional impact it has on the vikings and actively demonstrates people resisting the separation.
The tl;dr of the plot is: dragons suddenly abandon Berk to go lay their eggs. Hiccup feels sad for Toothless because he can't fly like the others, so he builds him the prototype automatic tail.
In the end, it turns out, Toothless accepted the tail to recover a heirloom Hiccup had lost in the ocean, and all Toothless wanted to do, was go and find it. By the end of this short movie, Toothless smashes the tail in front of Hiccup, wishing to fly manual instead.
Because he'd rather share every moment of flight with Hiccup as an active participant instead of a passenger.
The movie tries to erase this critical moment in the franchise with a single exchange between Hiccup and Astrid:
"You tried this once before, he didn't want it."
"Well until now he didn't have a reason to, right bud?"
Again, cd943t; I know I've cited him twice so far, but the guy truly has incredible writing and can get the point across far better than I can:
>I don't see that as anything other than a retcon to justify the events of the 3rd movie. It fails to explain so much, in particular why he destroyed the tail afterwards.
>Toothless's animal instincts kick in when he is first given his new tail. Notice how his irises narrow after he realizes what the new tail can do. His irises contract every time he is being controlled or succumbs to some bodily instinct. We now see Toothless, the animal.
>After Toothless comes back in GOTNF, he pulls out the old tail setup. Hiccup says "why'd you pull this out for? You don't need this anymore." Indeed, if the only reason Toothless came back was because he didn't find a mate, then he would have simply resumed his morning flight with Hiccup using his new tail. Hiccup evidently thinks this and moves to jump on Toothless's back. After all, Toothless can do everything he did before with the new tail and he will need it to make another attempt next Snoggletog.
>Instead, we no longer see Toothless, the animal. He has evolved from that. What returns is a new Toothless, the person. Animals don't put ideals before practicality, nor do they have existential thoughts about what they need and want from life. If Maslow's hierarchy was adapted for dragons, the instincts of fire and flight would be at the very bottom, where we expect most dragons to be.
>This scene perfectly illustrates that Toothless is not just a mere animal. Flight is everything to a dragon, the animal. A downed dragon is a dead dragon, but not just in a physical way. Not being able to fly is mentally crushing for a dragon as an animal, as we see when Toothless is utterly defeated when he was stuck in the cove. Toothless has moved on from this primal instinct as he has found something even better - a lifelong companionship with his best friend - where if he had to choose between friendship and such a base animalistic urge as flight, he would rather choose friendship. Destroying the new tail is Toothless's way of saying "if I can't fly with you, I'd rather not be able to fly at all."
>I'd argue that Toothless's flight symbolically represents his journey in life, the path that he chooses to take. By destroying the tail, Toothless demonstrates to Hiccup that he is not just a passenger but an active participant in both flight and life. With the old tail, Toothless doesn't control their flight fully, and Hiccup doesn't control their flight fully either. They both fly as one, and whatever path they take is done as a team.
>Toothless didn’t destroy the tail because he didn’t need it. That’s not what you do to things you don’t need – that’s what you do to things that you hate, that you have a visceral reaction to even the notion of. He did so because flying, the most natural, everyday occurrence for a dragon, felt wrong without Hiccup by his side. There was a longing that Toothless felt, a void in his heart that wouldn't be filled unless he made it clear to Hiccup what was missing. That was the choice Toothless made, the gift of the night fury.
Toothless going from a wild animal operating on raw instinct to a character who makes decisions based on ideals WAS part of his original character arc. Toothless isn't "developing" by becoming wild again. He's losing development.
And the third film with a single line attempts to completely erase this character development and the entire message from Gift of the Night Fury just to justify the already choppy ending.
The light fury and the power of friendship
The light fury has no character and is the textbook definition of a toxic relationship (She forces Toothless to stay away from his friends because she doesn't like them) and Toothless was willing to abandon his 6 year old friendship with Hiccup for a girl he knew for less than a day.
Another thing about that that annoyed me, is that Toothless never showed any signs of wishing to return. He was even upset when Hiccup came to get him, as if Hiccup didn't even matter anymore.
It screws with the message of the other movies because it presents the idea that romantic love is stronger than any other type of love, which is a direct contradiction to the messages of the first two movies as well as the TV series and the Gift short. The point they were making is that platonic and familial love is a powerful and important bond that is (extremely often) overlooked.
On top of that, the light fury has no clear reason to be infatuated with Toothless. It's understandable in his case, as she's possibly the first fury he's seen in years (though even that doesn't justify ditching Hiccup and forgetting about him). But she hails from the hidden world, where light furies live and thrive. What exactly drew her to this male?
There's no character development/growth between them. It's just love at first sight and she keeps coming back, Odin knows why.
The entire plot of the franchise up until this point was based on the idea that true, platonic friendship can surpass everything. That was the main theme that was wonderfully executed, and now it's flushed down the toilet as well. They just pitted one form of love against another, which is soap opera tier writing.
What annoys me is according to Maslow's need hierarchy, physiological needs like bodily autonomy are more important than love. Hiccup matters more to Toothless than anything in the world, infatuation overruling that is against his character.
Toothless rejected the automatic tail (which is a baser need for physical autonomy) for Hiccup, yet het rejected Hiccup for the light fury, which is a more advanced need than bodily autonomy was.
Also, at the very end, why was Toothless outside the hidden world with his entire family? I can see a justification for him flying out to patrol or something, but why risk the lives of his hatchlings and his mate for no justifiable reason?
A lot of people will say that characters acting so out of character is just them "developing", but this is not true.
Character development for the sake of character development doesn't make a story good. It has to be justified in a logically consistent manner. The Hidden World suffers because the creators were too rigid in insisting that the story had to follow a certain format without stopping to think enough about whether such change actually makes sense in the context of the story. They overlook a ton of possibilities, a ton of character development, retcon the previous movies in messages and symbolism, all so the ending could be a little more dramatic by shoving in the ending from a completely different franchise that just so happens to share the same title and protagonist names.
It's actually pretty easy to see if it's an evolution or a violation of the character, just ask these questions to yourself:
Is there a feasible way around it? Are the character's hands tied?
Hiccup had plenty of time to come up with a plan since the biggest threat on the horizon was gone. There were hundreds of feasible solutions, the ones I mentioned above: nomads, hide, the hidden world (which was forbidden for no reason other than plot said so ) or just move away.
Yet he picked the one that most went against his character, when there were hundreds of options that didn't do that.
This is why I consider this a character violation and not character growth.
He chose this solution out of many instead of going around it when there were options that didn't involve separation, AND he was fully capable of finding one AND also a ton of time to actually make said decision.
So, why did he make this decision other than for drama?
But it's Call of the Wild! It's Born Free!
The first two movies, the specials, and the series were dedicated to showing how human Toothless could be despite being a dragon.
He lived 16 years in the wild, and the franchise was dedicated to showing how easily he could put that behind him and live among the humans.
Now the third movie is dedicated to undoing all that and making him wild again. Is he going far if he literally goes backwards right into where he was before the franchise started?
How does undoing the work of everything that came before him ‘develop’ him?
>But what about the call of the wild? What about being born free!
The stories of Call of the Wild/Born Free and Toothless are direct opposites in every sense of the word.
In Born Free, the cubs were raised in captivity from a very young age and released after they grew up. Same for Call of the Wild. Buck was a house dog for the majority of his life and was born in the city in captivity. The connecting element in those two stories is that neither Buck nor the cubs had ever experienced nor knew what the wild was like. That choice was deprived of them.
Toothless, on the other hand, was born and raised in the wild. He didn't even have any personal interactions with humans or human civilization for the vast majority of his life, and only befriended humans after he was nearly an adult. He spent more time in the wild than he did among humanity. He already was wild and opted to join and stay with the humans as a conscious choice on his part (as signified by GoTNF and him rejecting the automatic tail).
How is his story even remotely comparable to Call of the WIld and Born Free ? Every single piece of media in the entire franchise save for The Hidden World is literally the exact opposite story.
Cotw and born free were about animals born in captivity joining the wild after discovering it for the first time in their lives.
Toothless on the other hand, was a wild animal, born and raised in the wild, having ALREADY experienced it, that opted to join humanity after he was already grown up, because after experiencing both, he prefered humanity over the wilderness.
The stories are direct opposites in every sense of the word.
Mere animals, or intelligent beings?
The movie also struggles to decide on whether or not dragons are mere ‘animals’, or more than that. Are the dragons basically smart, flying animals? (Toothless has to become wild again and "answer the call" as we keep hearing over and over) Then why do they need their own separate world/dimension? Giving them a hidden world is like given horses or sheep a hidden world. Are they noble intelligent creatures that desire peace like the innocent, perfect little angels they are, and originating from their own mystical world? Then stop treating them like animals that are slaves to instinct. If they are intelligent, they should not have decisions made for them by others. What right does Hiccup have to impose his own will on them ?
Good and evil are a byproduct of the ability to make choices, which stems from sapience and intelligence. By saying dragons are too pure for humans that means dragons aren't intelligent enough to be evil/impure.
And if they are wild , that goes against everything in the franchise.
In the real world, there are lots of animals that can't be sent into the wild because they were tamed or domesticated. Or it's a long and arduous process, i.e. We can't send cows to live on the plains like bison do, they're domesticated. Animals that are born and raised in zoos often can't be released into the wild after a certain point, because they are not acclimated enough to self-reliance/dependence, wild social structures, etc.
So this goes back to my "are they animals or are they mythical creatures?" argument.
Are they just animals? Then no way they can transition that smoothly. Are they mystical creatures capable of that transition smoothly? Then why all this "call of the wild" nonsense and treating them like animals instead of letting them choose on their own?
Furthermore, while there is an argument for all the other dragons, toothless is absolutely more than just a mere animal, and has demonstrated several times to have full intelligence, and not just emotional intelligence, actual intelligence.
In the second movie especially, at the start, when hiccup TALKS about endangering himself with the risky manuvers, toothless groans, meaning he understands what hiccup is saying about putting himself at risk as well as the consequences of it.
After they almost crash, he understands that hiccup (jokingly) mocks him for their crash blaming the locked up tail and his sloppy manuvers, and responds by throwing a pebble at him and hanging him off a cliff until he apologizes, that's a conversational exchange where he understands what is being said and understands the meaning of an apology, as well as the concept of requesting an apology from hiccup.
He understands the extremely human concept of a hostage negotiation with grimmel and negotiates it (although poorly) and last but not least, he actually understands the concept of creating art, and its actual value.
He mimiced human speech to mock hiccup (blah blah blah), showing that he understands both what hiccup is saying, the meaning of those words, the meaning of the words he himself is using, and the meaning of sarcasm. How many animals understand sarcasm, much less have the ability to use it in a conversation? Fucking hell, even some humans have trouble understanding that.
Toothless created art and was smart enough to understand that it was his creation and defend it from anyone who tried to deface it (hiccup and the light fury in the first and third movie respectively).
There is no known animal on the planet that can do this. You can train monkeys and elephants to drag a brush accross a canvas, but they will not register that as a creation of theirs, nor will they be able to appreciate its value, nor will they defend it.
You can try to raise an argument for all the other dragons, but you cannot raise it for toothless. Both on emotional intelligence and actual intelligence, he is far more than just a mere animal.
The ending taken from the books.
A lot of people will say that this ending is fitting because that's how the books end, but they are either forgetting, or don't know, one key fact.
The books had literally nothing to do with the movies other than the name and the characters.
Like, literally nothing.
In the books, the vikings ALREADY had dragons and were using them before Hiccup came around. A hunting dragon and a flying dragon per viking. Toothless wasn't crippled and he wasn't even a night fury. He was a garden variety dragon, essentially the most underpowered dragon instead of the most overpowered one. Night furies didn't even exist in the original books.
The message in the books was also about animal abuse/cruelty as vikings mistreated the dragons they had already tamed. And to top it all off, in the books, Toothless and Hiccup didn't separate. They remained together. As did quite a few of the most loyal dragons with their human friends.
The trilogy literally never kept up with the books. The only thing that was maintained was the name of the series, and the names of some locations and characters.
Everything else was for all intents and purposes a completely different story. In the books, dragons could even speak.
THW essentially took the ending from a completely different story that had nothing to do with it, and tried to use a stapler to attach it to its own.
But the movie made me emotional. If the movie makes you emotional, that means it’s a good movie no?
Emotional manipulation is incredibly easy and takes very little effort from an artistic standpoint. In fact, most of the time it's a hack writer's shorthand, which is why a lot of low quality fanfiction and inexperienced authors rely on it.
Throw in a separation/death and you can instantly pretend that your story has more weight than it actually does.
Forcing a separation of beloved characters that are already established by other installments will be emotional regardless of quality or execution, because you like the characters themselves and already have a connection to them.
The movie doesn't accomplish any emotion on its own merits. It relies on backing of the previous movies, which actually bothered establishing a friendship and a bond, and only accomplishes said emotion by tearing down what the other movies built up. Without the other movies backing it up, this one has nothing going for it, because it’s not a good story that can stand on its own. It’s riddled with plot holes and nonsense, as well as a lot of mischaracterization, and the only reason it can fool people is because it relies on goodwill from the rest of the franchise.
You can make a story out of this idea, but you can't make a story with this idea in the established HTTYD franchise.
You aren't emotional because you like the movie. You like the characters, and because you like the characters, the movie can just use a cheap separation "trick" thus evoking an emotional response not by good writing, but from the characters other films set up.
The reason the ending is "emotional" is because the other movies were good in their portrayal of the characters. The third movie cannot stand on its own without that backing because the only thing it has going for it is breaking the bond that the other movies setup. Without the others movies to set that bond up, the third movie is null.
Let me give you an example.
if I made a movie that was literally nothing but 1 and a half hours of bad guys shooting and torturing puppies and kittens, that would make you sad, because puppies and kittens are cute with big eyes and they naturally evoke a protective response.
Because it evokes emotion from you, that means 1 and hour and a half of puppies being thrown into meat grinders is somehow automatically quality writing?
No, It means I just know how to abuse shitty techniques to emotionally manipulate you as an audience. I didn't put any effort into it, I just used an emotional shorthand.
"You're overthinking this, it's just a stupid kids movie. Just shut up and enjoy the pretty colours on the screen."
This point I don't get the most of all. For one, it's implying that kids are stupid and should just eat up whatever garbage you give them. Isn't the fact that it's a kid's movie put even bigger scrutiny on it? You want the best for kids, not the worst.
And second of all, which is what bothers me the most, is that the other movies did not need to have excuses made for them.
It does the effort put into every other part of the franchise a massive disservice to overlook the flaws in the writing of this one when every other movie and special in the series managed to go above and beyond.
They got across their messages without plot holes or inconsistencies, and the more time you spent analysing them, they got better and better instead of worse.
Look, I'm not saying you can't enjoy the movie. It's certainly very pretty and has a nice soundtrack. You may like the ending for one reason or another, maybe because it resonates with you or because it made you emotional. But if you claim to analyze things beyond a surface level you have to acknowledge the plethora of flaws, plot holes, inconsistencies and character breaks this movie has to get to said ending in the first place.
In essence, the plot was not driven by characters with established traits reacting in a plausible manner to challenging scenarios, but rather bent them to reach a specific conclusion.
The separation only happened because the plot demanded it to, and the characters only acted so out of character and inconsistently because the director wanted to force the ending. But my issue is, again:
The other movies and installments didn't need excuses made for them; they got their message without compromising the plot nor the characters. And neither should this one.
I don't believe this needs to be said, but it does: I don't hate the series. The only reason I even bothered (and was able) to put this thing together is because of how much I love the series and the characters, and believe they deserved much more and much better than this.
A ton of thanks to Miza, a great httyd artist for beta reading this, and making various suggestions to improve flow as well as helping me fix syntax and grammar errors. It wouldn’t have been nearly as good without his help and suggestions.
His instagram and deviant where he posts art.