The Curious Ending of ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’
After almost a decade, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World concludes director Dean DeBlois’s animated film trilogy is suitably poignant fashion: young Viking chief Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), realizing that dragons will never be safe in the human world as long as outsiders keep preying on them, tearfully bids farewell to Toothless, the disabled Night Fury he has cared for for the past six years. Years later, Hiccup, now a married, bearded father of two, reunites with Toothless on the open sea, and introduce each other to their offspring.
It’s a beautiful ending, one that left me almost on the verge of tears — it’s also a strikingly conventional one. The first How to Train Your Dragon was about an outcast whose capacity for invention, and to think outside the box, changed the world: it was the story of a boy whose inability to be like his warmongering father (who was literally called Stoick) helps bring about a fantasy land where humans and dragons live in harmony. In the second film, Hiccup discovers he inherited his Bohemian side from his mother, who has been living a rustic existence all this time with dragons.
The third and final film, on the other hand, is about growing up, and putting away childish things. Hiccup literally relocates (with his whole village), gets married to his childhood sweetheart Astrid (America Ferrera), has children, and bids goodbye to his best friend, who he will not see for many years. It’s an insightful message for the film’s younger audience about the inevitability of change when you grow older, but it didn’t ring true for this millennial fan.
Millennials are less likely to have stable jobs, and so we are simply unable to afford our own homes, get married, or have children, as often as previous generations. We are also far less likely to put away childish things, like comic books, video games, or dragons. As author Catherynne Valente tweeted after Bill Maher went on another rant about adults mourning Stan Lee:
If a millennial had directed the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, perhaps the trilogy would’ve concluded with Hiccup pushing his people onward to settle with the dragons in the Hidden World, instead of giving in to the pressures of the villains. As it is, Dean DeBlois is a Generation X filmmaker giving Generation Z viewers baby boomer expectations about their future — that childhood friendships and hobbies can only be resumed after everyone has grown into adult responsibilities.
At the end of the film, Hiccup narrates to the audience that perhaps someday, humans and dragons can co-exist again, but only if we can prove ourselves worthy of these majestic beasts’ secret. He may as well have been telling us settling down and starting a family is also an out-of-reach fantasy.