The world of training dragons has come to an end in a worthy finale that caps off an engrossing trilogy.
Synopsis: Now chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, Hiccup has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia. When the sudden appearance of female Light Fury coincides with the darkest threat their village has ever faced, Hiccup and Toothless must leave the only home they’ve known and journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth. As their true destines are revealed, dragon and rider will fight together—to the very ends of the Earth—to protect everything they’ve grown to treasure. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and F. Murray Abraham
Writer: Dean DeBlois
Director: Dean DeBlois
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 104mins
The first two How To Train Your Dragon films marked a revival for DreamWorks Animation, desperately needing another hit after the Shrek series. The first one dealt with a blossoming friendship between Hiccup (Baruchel) and Toothless in a traditional society marked by hatred for dragons. The second one pushed the themes of the first even further, continuing the idea of changing perspectives in an evolving world. The Hidden World is a culmination of what it means to be your own person and let things go – creating a bittersweet send-off for this enduring franchise of almost a decade.
What should be noted is just how gorgeous the animation has evolved from the first film. Bright, bold colors fill the screen and swooping camera angles give the animation its trademark magic realism that is inherent in a world filled with vikings riding dragons – a draw-dropping sequence of dazzling lights and neon hues near the end will cement its beautiful animation. Hiccup is the Chief of Berk, and with that title comes responsibility and a new level of maturity.
Taking place a year after the events of the second movie Hiccup is on the cusp of adulthood now – we see distinct peach fuzz on his face, his voice becoming deeper and raspier; its really a testament to how intertwined the creative team is with their characters. Hiccup has created a utopia for dragons on Berk – constantly embarking on missions to save more dragons – resulting in overpopulation and a need for relocation. Through flashback sequences, we learn of a tall-tale about a hidden paradise where dragons can live in harmony. This idea feels like it was lifted from Thor: Ragnarok; Berk isn’t a place, it’s a people.
The greatest strength of the film was the two dyadic relationships between Hiccup and Astrid (Ferrera) as well as Toothless and the Light Fury. Some of the best comedy stems from the latter – one scene in particular presents a head-over-heels Toothless doing everything in his power to impress the Light Fury only to increasingly make a fool of himself. In terms of children’s films, comedy tends to be pretty hit-or-miss and the same applies for The Hidden World. All the jokes that fall flat really fall flat. Children will surely find them funny though others will surely be rolling their eyes. However, the adult jokes work well. The supporting characters also have great arcs, especially Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), although the film could have been bolstered by a stronger presence of Valka (Cate Blanchett).
Another aspect that needed more depth was the villian, Grimell (Abraham). We hear that he is the most skilled and feared dragon hunter in the world by hunting the Night Fury’s to near extinction. We never really see his skills put on display and never seems like a very formidable villain. He gets lucky way too often and his cunningness seems to be his only character trait. The editing and pacing also seems to be strangely off – scenes never have time to fully develop with the cuts being poorly timed making the scenes feel jumbled and loosely connected.
Overall, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a visually enriching, sentimental finale that teaches kids the importance of honesty, determination, self-realization, and learning to let go of the things that you love – a fitting conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.