When the first trailer for “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” released, I knew absolutely that I was going to see it. I had seen the first two but not in the theaters and now I had the opportunity to see this one on the big screen. As the final movie in the series, I was excited and hoping for a good ending. I found the film creative with beautifully detailed design work and an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
Directed by Dean Deblois, the final installment builds logically upon the events of the first two films, as Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), Astrid (America Ferrera) and his village continue to rescue dragons from the dragon hunters and leading them back to Berk. However, Hiccup realizes that the village cannot sustain the dragons along with the dilemma of the hunters now being aware of their location. Hiccup decides to try and find the “Hidden World”, a safe haven for dragons that his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) told him about when he was a child. Meanwhile, the dragon hunters recruit a dragon killer Grimmel the Gristly (F. Murray Abraham), giving him a female Light Fury as bait for Toothless. Instead of fighting, Hiccup leads the village in a search for the Hidden World to bring his people and the dragons to safety. Along the way, they find a new location for the village but will Hiccup find the dragons their haven before Grimmel uses the Light Fury to capture Toothless and destroy all dragons forever? Hiccup will need the help of Astrid, his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and his entire village to find a way to save his dragon friends as he struggles with Toothless’ new bond with the female Light Fury.
The biggest part of what I love about the story is that the writers use everything that has come before weaving it together to create something new. While it is not a complicated story, it is a logical progression from the first two movies, including the overcrowding of dragons, the hunters’ awareness of the dragon rescuers, and the need to find a safe place for the dragons. The message is emotional. Hiccup must face growing up and letting go of Toothless, despite his love for the dragon. I loved the message that wild creatures should be free, even when we humans love them. The plot has an impact while still deftly adding moments of humor along the way. Even the introduction begins with a non-stealthy rescue party and sets the tone for how well the comedy elements are woven into the overall whole of the story. I adored Toothless as a lovestruck suitor and the courtship between the two dragons was delightful and charming. The best part, the ending is emotional and a satisfying conclusion to not only the movie but the trilogy.
All of this can also be seen in the action sequences and the pacing of the movie. The film begins with action, the characters immediately introduced, their goals clear as are the goals of the hunters. There is a steady progression of action mixed with comedic bits while still giving time for the more emotional moments in the plot. One of my favorite comedy moments is the introduction of a type of dragon, the Hobgoblers which completely reminded me of Tribbles. I also appreciated the comedic timing of Tuffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Ruffnut (Justin Rupple), the pair of actors having some of the funniest lines in the movie. The pacing kept me engaged and while the film has a run time of almost two hours, you really don’t notice. Children will easily be kept entertained throughout the movie.
Visually, the film is just stunning. The animation is beautiful and the design work of the Hidden World is among some of the best I have seen in an animated film. It is realistic, with a real vision of what an underwater realm would contain and is designed in a natural way, with both color and boldness, meshing with all the beauty that the ocean contains. I love the richness and detailed complexity of the design team’s work.
Last, there are the actors. While it is a computer-animated film, the actors still have to provide the emotional richness to match the story and the animation. In this film, the entire crew brings their skill and talent to the voice studio. Jay Baruchel is compelling as Hiccup, his character’s growth over the three films well portrayed by the actor as he provides an innovative and strong leader for his village and a loving friend to his dragon, Toothless. America Ferrera is a match for him with her acting as Astrid. She is the perfect counterpoint to Hiccup. While there was a change in the actor playing Ruffnut (Justin Rupple replacing T.J. Miller) but the characterization was so good by Justin Rupple that I could not tell a difference. Kristen Wiig was brilliantly funny as Tuffnut as was Jonah Hill as Snotlout Jorgenson. F. Murray Abraham did a fantastic job of voicing the villain of the piece, Grimmel the Gristly with motivations that are realistic and believable. The entire cast does an incredible job and deserves all the kudos for their work.
One of my few disappointments was the lack of screen time for the actual Hidden World. There is a lot of detail and work that goes into the sequences and given the title of the film, I was hoping for more time within that world. The reasons are logical for it not being longer but I would have loved more.
I also found some of the plot repeating some of the elements from the second film and was predictable. Given that this is a children’s film, however, it makes sense to have a storyline that younger children can still follow while the adults will enjoy the little details such as Toothless’ courtship and the emotional complexity of Hiccup’s decisions throughout the story. The logical flow more than makes up for any repetition.
If you enjoyed the first two, this is definitely worth catching on the big screen. Both children and adults will adore it, especially the highlight of the movie, Toothless and his Light Fury girlfriend. The pair stole every scene they were in. But beyond the dragons, the story has a lovely message, great action and pacing, indescribable visuals, excellent acting, and one of the best endings to a trilogy I’ve seen, especially in an animated, children’s film.
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Rating: 4.5 dragons out of 5.