REVIEW: ‘Dragons: The Nine Realms’ is a Promising Start to a New Adventure

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Dragons The Nine Realms - But Why Tho

Dragons: The Nine Realms is a new fantasy series set in Dreamworks’ Dragons franchise, taking place approximately 1,300 years after the events of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden Worldbasically in our modern-day. So far removed from the fantastical historic Viking setting, how would this new series live up to the epic adventures of Hiccup, Toothless, and their friends and family? The first season of The Nine Realms suggests that there is a promising adventure ahead for our new heroes, namely Tom (Jeremy Shada), Jun (Ashley Liao), D’Angelo (Marcus Scribner), and Alex (Aimee Garcia), but one that fits more with the issues of our modern-day that still continues the themes of the original film franchise.

Our four young protagonists find themselves at the ICARUS research site, which overlooks an abnormally large fissure, accompanying their scientist parents who work for the Rike Corporation. The parents are researchers with a sincere interest in making new discoveries but are at the whims of their corporate bosses who demand they turn over anything they discover so they can make a profit. When Tom and his friends discover the dragons in the Hidden World, which the fissure connects to, they’ll have to do their best to keep the secret from their own parents.

Unlike the previous stories that took place all across ancient Scandanavia, the six-episode season is limited to the space of the gorge, but there’s a lot the show does with its seemingly limited setting. ICARUS is a complex research site that the core four must tread carefully through as they go to see the dragons and protect the secret. The series wisely addresses the inherent corruption of a major corporation funding the scientists’ excavations and exploiting their discoveries. If they discovered the dragons, they’d potentially be weaponized and brutalized for profit. Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see how the corporate entities of today would do such a thing to such magnificent creatures, making this an incredibly relevant central topic and conflict for the series to cover. Thankfully, our young protagonists recognize this immediately and serve as great examples to inspire kids and adults alike.

Tom is an actively compassionate character,  inquisitive, big-hearted, and daring, while Jun embraces mysticism and astrology (to her scientist mother’s chagrin) for an open-minded view of the world that leads her to quickly accept the dragons, but still retains her keen sense of wonder. D’Angelo is a scout who wants to do his parents proud but finds himself conflicted when they make the discovery. Alex is shy and reserved to a fault, with a trauma in her past that keeps her from opening up but that the discovery of the dragons helps her with. All feel relatable with fantastic interiority There’s a fantastic dynamic in our core four that’s supportive with moments of conflict, and the actors clearly have chemistry with one another as they try to protect the dragons. And the visible inclusiveness of the group is great to see in this franchise.

The dragons themselves are wonderful and full of life. Thunder is a night-light descendant of Toothless and the Light Fury who’s inquisitive and adventurous like his partner Tom. Feathers is an emotionally attuned dragon who can sense Alex’s anxiety and helps her through it. Plowhorn is a bulky horned dragon with a soft and caring heart for D’Angelo and the others. And Wu and Wei make up a mischievous twin-headed dragon whom Jun must tame with what she knows of Taoism that she learned from her family. There’s so much exciting promise for what their adventures will be from here.

While the series and characters start out with a lot of promise, I can’t help but wish we had more so far. The first season plays out like a six-part origin film with a final climax, and we spend most of the time for the dragons and their riders to become acquainted. But it’s also very good that ample time and attention is given to these characters to ensure they’re fully fleshed out. There are so many directions and adventures they can go to from here, and the first season does a great job of setting up the dragons in a modern setting. I’m both excited for more and am frustrated we didn’t see more, but my excitement definitely takes up more space.

The animation is beautiful. It may not be up to the exact standard we have in the Dreamworks films, but it holds strong as a TV series in the same way that Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous does. The designs of the dragons are beautiful and rich in detail, and the flights and action are exciting to watch. It’s an overall beautiful series, and I eagerly anticipate more.

Dragons: The Nine Realms is an exciting new adventure in the How to Train Your Dragon universe that moves the franchise consciously to the modern-day, addressing realistically how we would interact with these marvelous creatures. The human and dragon characters are all wonderful in their own unique ways, the setting is intriguing, the animation is gorgeous, and it’s clear that there are so many more adventures to be had. My only wish is that this was a longer season with more adventures and character moments portrayed, but for what we have in this origin story so far, I keenly look forward to what we’ll get next in this wonderful series.

Dragons: The Nine Realms will be available to stream on Peacock and Hulu on December 23.


Dragons: The Nine Realms Season 1
  • 8.5/10
    Review - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Dragons: The Nine Realms is an exciting new adventure in the How to Train Your Dragon universe that moves the franchise consciously to the modern-day, addressing realistically how we would interact with these marvelous creatures. The human and dragon characters are all wonderful in their own unique ways, the setting is intriguing, the animation is gorgeous, and it’s clear that there are so many more adventures to be had. My only wish is that this was a longer season with more adventures and character moments portrayed, but for what we have in this origin story so far, I keenly look forward to what we’ll get next in this wonderful series.