“How to Train Your Dragon- The Hidden World”- Movie Review
From 2003 to 2015, British author Cressida Cowell published a series of children’s books about a young Viking boy who lived among dragons and had to overcome several obstacles in order to become a hero. Midway through its run, DreamWorks Animation decided to (loosely) bring Cowell’s stories to life on the big screen. And thus the How to Train Your Dragon franchise was born. The first two films were widely praised, and while I don’t think The Hidden World will achieve quite the same level of acclaim, it serves as a fitting final chapter to the trilogy.
One year has passed since the events of the second film, and Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), Toothless and their friends are hard at work transforming their Viking home of Berk into a human/dragon utopia. The process proves easier said than done, though, and despite their best efforts, the island becomes densely overpopulated. Hiccup responds by proposing they find the Hidden World, a fabled safe haven that shelters dragons from human captors. Albeit hesitant at first, his friends take him up on the offer, and thus the adventure begins. Along the way, they stumble across another Fury (or rather, a Light Fury) and are sought after by a ruthless dragon trophy-hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham).
The film is written and directed by Dean DuBlois, who also helmed the first two How to Train Your Dragon movies. What I admire about his approach to this material is the level of maturity he infuses into the narratives. Through and through, the franchise has a lot to say about the treatment of animals, unification in the presence of hate, and, in the case of The Hidden World, the prospect of letting go and moving forward. The filmmakers could’ve treaded too lightly on these subjects, but they treat it seriously here, and not at the expense of its adventurous, light-hearted tone.
It also works because the relationships among the characters are so well-realized. The friendship between Hiccup and Toothless is as strong as it is adorable, and the romance between the former and Astrid is neither forced nor underplayed. And what I’ve consistently loved about these movies is the fact that the characters grow and change throughout the course of the series. It’s something we rarely see in animated films, and it’s cool that we get to see them come of age into adulthood.
The animation, as usual, is absolutely gorgeous. The vibrancy of the colors, the unique designs of all the dragons and the direction during the flying sequences alone are worth the price of admission. For the most part, the writing is pretty good too. In terms of drama, it hits the mark. Humor wise, not so much. Some jokes recur too often throughout the film, despite having lost steam well ahead of time. The funniest bits are the ones told strictly through visuals, like the scenes in which Toothless is trying to woo the female Light Fury. The villain is also a little lackluster. Grimmel’s design and intimidating presence paint him as a decent threat, but I think that with a little more development, he could’ve left a much bigger impression.
Overall, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a fun and heartwarming adventure. It has its shortcomings, of course. What makes it work is level of care that went into crafting the narrative. The film weaves together a good-natured message, beautiful animation and strong characters arcs to give us a satisfying conclusion to what I think will be recognized as one of the better franchises of recent years.