WARNING: The following contains spoilers for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, in theaters now.
In The How to Train Your Dragon franchise, the first villain and dragon killer the trilogy introduced us to was none other than Hiccup's father, Stoick (Gerard Butler). The Viking chief made it clear dragons were a nuisance, and he tried to impress upon young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) that these pests were a threat to their home, Berk, and mankind in general.
And so, to preserve humanity, dragons needed to be killed. It was a harsh lesson, and one Hiccup thankfully never committed himself to, which makes the final chapter's retcon between father and son so nonsensical. For some reason, the latest movie retcons Stoick as a dragon lover, hopeful that someday man and beast can coexist.
The movie starts by recounting a bedtime story Stoick told a young Hiccup regarding the Hidden World -- a mystical, utopic land he wants to discover someday so he can stop the war between humanity and dragons. Stoick speaks with reverence for these creatures, even Night Furies, which is what surely inspires Hiccup to be so kind and compassionate to Toothless and other dragons later on in life.
Except that this makes no sense because in the very first movie Stoick was hateful towards dragons. He never held a vision for peace or this warm, glowing sense of optimism. Dragons hindered their way of life and Stoick wanted Hiccup to carry on his legacy by killing them whenever he got the chance.
This retcon goes against Stoick's very nature, where he's shown nothing but contempt for the creatures his entire life. What makes things worse is that this speech clearly comes after his wife, Valka (Cate Blanchett), died in a raid, where she was taken by a dragon and presumed dead.
This is why it felt organic for Stoick to blame dragons for her death, and why he would try to pass his hatred on to Hiccup. This fairy tale about the Hidden World -- set after Valka's death -- feels out of place because there's no way Stoick would want peace or show empathy if he viewed dragons as responsible for killing his wife.
Sure, optimists would say he started off believing in a better future and, over time, grew bitter and angry, but this scene comes when the wound is most fresh, so Stoick should have pure hatred in his heart at this point. If this sequence was truly part of Stoick's code, he wouldn't have the dragons imprisoned in the first film, he'd have made an expedition to set them free in the Hidden World.
Sadly, this retcon is made to plant the seed of a mystical dragon realm at "the edge of the world," kickstarting the search for this McGuffin. It's done to force Stoick's redemption after trying to kill Toothless and company previously, but sadly it undoes the character's arc. In the second film, we saw Stoick mending bridges, and that's why his death at Toothless' hands resonated so much. It felt like a tragic bit of poetic justice.
This change, though, makes his heroic passing a bit more cruel, and it's uncalled for because reshaping Stoick as a longtime fan of dragons is merely done to drive the plot. All the film had to do was use some sort of shaman, another Viking explorer, a map some Berkian found or, heck, Valka herself, to spread news of this refugee world for dragons. It didn't need to retcon Stoick's past at all, because it changed the best part of the Viking leader and what made him unapologetically stand out in the first place.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the film stars the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and F. Murray Abraham, is now in theaters nationwide.