28th Feb2019

‘How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

Stars: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple, Robin Atkin Downes, Kieron Elliott, Julia Emelin, Gideon Emery | Written and Directed by Dean DeBlois


We’ve finally arrived at the conclusion of a beloved franchise that has been present since 2010. People have laughed, cried and grown up with the How To Train Your Dragon series so does its final adventure leave that fandom feeling fulfilled or disappointed?

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World takes place one year after the events of How To Train Your Dragon 2. Hiccup is now the chief of Berk and Toothless is the alpha of the dragons. Berk has turned into a Viking-dragon utopia. However, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless is tested in many ways when Toothless falls for a female Light Fury and the two start to realise the responsibilities they have towards their own kind may not be so easy to keep interconnected anymore especially when a new threat enters the picture.

This is a very emotional and bittersweet movie. It’s never been a secret how the story would end for Hiccup and Toothless. You can correctly guess the ending from watching the second trailer for How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World but that doesn’t make it any less sad. Hiccup has grown so dependant and attached to Toothless over the course of the series so the idea of that changing is tough for him to grasp. You know how special the friendship between them is and what they’ve been through, so you don’t want it to change any more than Hiccup does. However, the message of the movie is about learning to fly on your own for these two with all the challenges and sacrifices that come with it.

Something I’ve valued about this series is how Hiccup’s always developing. When this started, he was a small teen trying to find his place in a world that looked down on his brain over brawn approach and he realised everything he thought was a flaw were his strengths. In the previous instalment, he struggled with the idea of being a chief, had to mature through loss and accept that there isn’t always a peaceful solution to a threat. In How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hiccup is still struggling with being a leader and having to let go of the things which have been such a huge part of his youth like adventuring out whenever he wants. He doesn’t think he’s up to being a chief even though everyone believes so strongly in him and for very good reason because of what’s he achieved. Hiccup must deal with increasingly complex situations and learn that despite his best efforts, he may not be able to achieve the vision he sees for humans and dragons. This is the final chapter in Hiccup’s coming of age story and it doesn’t talk down to the audience about the difficulty of it.

The relationship between Toothless and the Light Fury (she doesn’t get a name in the movie) is heartwarming. It’s all captured with visual storytelling since obviously they can’t talk. Some have argued it’s a little unrealistic how Toothless seems to care less about Hiccup so quickly after the Light Fury comes into it. I disagree with this because dragons won’t work on the same emotional complexity and thinking that we would. Dragons aren’t domesticated animals and this movie reminds you of it. Toothless’s instincts take over when it comes to her and it helps drive the message home of humans and dragons needing to be their own being.

The side characters (minus Astrid) don’t get much to do and feel like they’re around for comic relief in this one. This wouldn’t be so bothering if it wasn’t the concluding chapter of an entire series. Most of these characters don’t have any real form of conclusion. It’s a shame we don’t get to see them shine one last time. They’re funny for the most part but there’s one instance where they turn Ruffnut into an idiot which feels massively out of character for her. She’s not the brightest Viking but she’s not brain-dead. There are also a few sideplots that don’t go anywhere and feel like they take away from the real hook of the story which is Hiccup and Toothless. Grimmel is the villain of the story but he’s rather one-note in personality. He’s a bad guy who is out to kill Toothless and that’s it. Villains like him have been seen throughout this series and he is the least memorable by far. It’s understandable why there must be a threat because it contributes to the great ending this series gets but it doesn’t change how he’s a one-dimensional villain.

Before How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World came out, it was said the animation quality in the third movie would make the second look dated. That was a bold claim to make as the animation has evolved with each movie and 2 had some of the most exhilarating imagery in Dreamworks history but it truly stepped up a gear for the finale. If you’ve watched the second film then you’ll remember the introduction for Valka’s Bewilderbeast which was small but still very high quality. Imagine that except on a much larger scale in this movie. It looks like half of the budget went towards animating the How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World with its variety of bright colours and dynamic dragons. It genuinely feels like another world separate to Berk and it is jaw-droppingly stunning. This is one of those movies where the 3D wouldn’t be a gimmick; it would blow your mind if you get a chance to watch in that format. There is a lot of action in this movie and it gets the adrenaline pumping. The wingsuits also have a considerable improvement in detail from the second movie and look like they’re made from shed dragon scales. Yes, wingsuits. It’s not just Hiccup who has one this time.

The sound effects are also impressive. There’s a scene between Toothless and the Light Fury where sand is flying everywhere, and it sounds like actual sand. When I was watching this movie, I thought they didn’t include a Jonsi song in this one which was upsetting because his and John Powell’s collaborations have always created great tracks for the series like ‘Where No One Goes’. As it turns out, there is another song by them and while I won’t reveal its name (it gives away the ending so don’t google it), I have played it on loop since I first heard it. It’s a beautiful song and one that sums up Toothless and Hiccup’s story so perfectly that it could make you cry all on its own. Jay Baruchel has always had to carry so much of the emotional weight in the How To Train Your Dragon series and this is his finest hour as Hiccup. Cate Blanchett sadly gets less lines compared to How To Train Your Dragon 2 and there’s only one scene with Valka which stands out and that’s because of a great line she says about why Hiccup feels like he has to lead by himself. America Ferrera does a great job as Astrid through all her layers as the fighter, the supportive girlfriend to Hiccup and for comedy when it happens. Sadly, Kit Harington (Eret) has a very minor role in this movie. Eret’s only contribution to the plot is to identify the villain and being in a weird running joke with Snotlout that isn’t worth caring about to be honest.

Last but certainly not least is the ending. Yes, it’s a tearjerker but it’s beautiful and those last few minutes will make sure you leave with a smile on your face if you’ve been a fan since day one. It’s a very fulfilling and well-deserved conclusion. You don’t want the adventure to end but you realise that this is an ending that shouldn’t be ruined by any attempts to bring it back.

It may be too early to speculate but it wouldn’t be surprising if How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World gets nominated for Best Animated Picture at next year’s Oscars. It’s not the best one of the series but it would be a huge challenge to top the second movie and it’s definitely not a bad movie. This is a film that works on almost every level and concludes a nearly decade-long story with the heart it has become known for. Thank you, How To Train Your Dragon, for a story that made many hearts soar and you will be missed by your fans.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is in cinemas now.


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