“HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” IS A BEAUTIFUL AND POIGNANT CONCLUSION TO ONE OF THE BEST FILM TRILOGIES
Within the past two weeks was the first time I had ever seen “How To Train Your Dragon 1 & 2”. First released in 2010 and 2014, the trailers I had seen for the film never appealed to me and therefore I never even gave the films any chance. With the final film in the “How To Train Your Dragon” trilogy opening this weekend. I knew I had to go back and discover the first two films that have become beloved treasures. I gave both films four stars out of five, they blew me away at how visually stunning, emotional and action packed they were. They were both equally on par with each other neither one was worse nor better than the other. This is a rare feat for the original and sequel to be so on par with each other. The question now remained is if “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is just as good? Better? Or worse than the first two films?
Writer and director Dean DeBlois returns for the third film, he continues his streak with “The Hidden World” by giving us a delightful, gorgeous, and touchingly conclusive third adaptation of author Cressida Cowell’s fantastical universe of Vikings and fire-breathing dragons. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a fantastic, visually stunning and poignant way to end the beloved trilogy. Over the course of nine years both the audience and it’s characters have grown up, and DeBlois grapples once again with complex themes and makes “The Hidden World” for a truly satisfying and bittersweet conclusion. It’s the best of the trilogy.
Taking place a year after the events of “How To Train Your Dragon 2”. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), is now the chieftain of Berk following the death of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), he has transformed his home village into a place where dragons and vikings can live in harmony. At the same time, Hiccup’s ongoing efforts to free the dragons make him a target for other warlords and viking clan leaders. Eager to claim their creatures back, Hiccup’s enemies turn to the villainous Grimmel (voiced with perfection by F. Murray Abraham), an infamous dragon hunter who agrees to help them in exchange for being allowed to hunt Hiccup’s pal Toothless, the last of the male Night Furies.
As Grimmel closes in on them, Hiccup convinces the citizens of Berk to follow him on a journey to find The Hidden World, a the legendary realm where his father Stoick believed the dragons came from, and a potential safe haven for all. Meanwhile, Toothless encounters a female Night Fury or Light Fury, as Astrid (America Ferrera) calls it. Just as Hiccup is falling for Astrid, Toothless is falling for the Light Fury.
Of course, the voice cast is ideal, with everyone from the original films returning despite being even bigger stars than they were in the original. Only “Deadpool’s” T.J Miller doesn’t return for obvious reasons. Everyone from Kristen Wiig to Kit Harington to Jonah Hill is on-board, with Cate Blanchett reprising her role as Hiccup’s mom, Valka, from the last one, and even Gerard Butler pops in despite his character having been killed off in the last film. F Murray Abraham, voicing the villainous baddie Grimmel, is an excellent addition to the franchise. Abraham really puts a lot of subtle sinisterly tone into the part. Grimmel, whose glee for hunting down dragons, particularly Night Furies, hits the core of what these movies have always been about. Unfortunately despite Abraham’s enjoyably theatrical vocal performance, Grimmel isn’t as physically threatening as he looks nor he should be. That is probably the films only downfall.
The magic of the franchise (all three films) should be seen on the biggest screen, you can find it. “The Hidden World” features incredible medieval action that I couldn’t help but think, this is something Ridley Scott would have made if he had directed an animated film. These movies have never been what you would call cute or cuddly. Everything from the scenes of destruction to dragon fire and the scales of the dragons to the softness of human characters’ hair all looks truly impressive. It has emotional notes that rank among the series’ best. When it’s over you won’t want to say goodbye to these characters that we’ve loved for so long, but you’ll be happy with where the characters have headed.
“The Hidden World’s” running time is dedicated to the changing dynamic between Hiccup and Toothless, and having to come to terms with the fact that his beloved dragon is no longer just his pet, but a creature and friend with its own wants and desires. Toothless is given a female counterpart which he pursues. Hiccup must also come to terms of having to let go of the fact that both of them have found partners and that maybe their adventures may have to come to an end. DeBlois injects big doses of mature material within the family flick, and he handles it in a really delicate way. It’s a bittersweet lesson on growing up and the changing nature of a friendship.
Being advertised as the final film, by this point moviegoers have prepared themselves emotionally for what “The Hidden World” will have to offer. It’s very much a poignant farewell to the world of “How to Train Your Dragon”. When both Hiccup and Toothless are faced with the possibility of leaving one another for good, it’s heartbreaking for them but also the audience who has been following them for almost 10 years now and it’s a real gut punch for us. Even though DeBlois ends the film with a closer to prevent future installments. Just how “final” still really remains to be seen, because the door is left open just enough to get a reunion between Hiccup and Toothless. I for one hope that never happens, it’s hard to come across a trilogy that is this good and I want it to stay the way it is…pitch perfect.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2 OUT OF ★★★★★