How to Train Your Dragon is, like many other popular series of movies, adapted from books, but it's different here. The How to Train Your Dragon books by Cressida Cowell are a cute set of stories aimed exclusively at a relatively young demographic. In one of the only cases I know of, the movie adaptations expand, flesh out, and complicate the stories they're based on. In doing so, these movies have created one of the most fun yet deep universes to grace kids cinema. How to Train Your Dragon 3 will no doubt add to this rich universe, but how?
How to Train Your Dragon 2 expanded on the first film further, establishing a depth to the ideologies in the story, and even challenging the hero, Hiccup, in his naive world view. The conflict with Drago Bludvist gives complexity to the world of How to Train Your Dragon. While Hiccup befriends dragons, showing them careful respect and appeasing their kind nature, Bludvist bullies them into submission. Both are effective ways to get dragons on your side, but the film suggests the two ideologies just can't co-exist.
The way How to Train Your Dragon 2 ends with the hero's naive quest for good being complicated is not uncommon. In fact, having the good guys very nearly lose the battle in the second movie is indicative of quite a beloved film.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the Series
Yes it's fun to compare stuff to Star Wars isn't it? It's almost as if those movies have been treated as a framework for all storytelling since. Few series have managed to master that same rise, fall, then rise again structure that the original trilogy laid out so well. Now I know that How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn't end with Drago Bludvist revealing to Hiccup that he's his father, but the film does ape Empire Strikes Back quite elegantly. The section of the film where Hiccup visits his mother and gets in touch with his roots while his friends are in danger parallels Luke's training on Dagobah perfectly!
Unfortunately, How to Train Your Dragon 2 cashes it's chips too quickly, with a rushed finale that forces a happy ending when more of a downer note would have set up an excellent sequel. Perhaps these films are still aimed at too young an audience for a depressing ending like Empire's to be viable. But must that really be the case? Children still love the original Star Wars trilogy, and another cartooney property did this just right!
Avatar: The Last Airbender did the Star Wars model!
Think back to the end of Avatar Season 2. The attempt to defend Ba Sing Se fails, and the hero, Aang, suffers a bitter defeat due to betrayal and an overestimation of his own abilities. It parallels the ending of Empire Strikes Back almost exactly, and how does it end? With the good guys retreating, barely alive, with only the hope that they could one day fight back keeping them going. That's a pretty grim note to leave an audience made up predominantly of children hanging on, but Avatar did it, and did it well. How to Train Your Dragon Very nearly nailed it too!
Can How to Train Your Dragon 3 be Return of the Jedi?
It might take a little bit of tweaking, but How to Train Your Dragon 3 may well be able to parallel the Star Wars original trilogy still. Sure, Berk was taken back successfully at the end of the second film, and Hiccup and his people are now stronger than ever, but who knows? Drago Bludvist and the Bewilderbeast are still out there, and some kind of opposition to Hiccup's allegiance with the dragons could be massing. There could always be a greater conflict awaiting our heroes, and if How to Train Your Dragon 3 indulges that possibility, it still has a chance to master the classic Star Wars formula!