“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” marks the third and possibly last film in the critically acclaimed franchise. Loosely based on the children’s books of the same name by Cressida Crowell, the fantasy/adventure series started with the original “How to Train Your Dragon,” released in 2010.
Set on the miserable island of Berk, where, to make matters worse, dragons roam wild. Viking teenager Hiccup captures a Night Fury, a rare breed of dragon, which he names Toothless. Despite living in a culture where his viking people hunt down dragons, Hiccup befriends Toothless and they form a close bond. It was a big commercial and critical success for Dreamworks, giving them an animated franchise that could compete with the likes of Disney.
It was followed by a sequel, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” in 2014. Due to Hiccup’s actions, his community has learned to coexist with dragons. Hiccups and Toothless’ bond is more than a pet and master as the two have become best friends. But their new paradise is threatened by unknown forces and they receive help from an unsuspected person. The sequel was just as good as the original and helped to expand the scope and continue the characters.
Now in 2019, there is “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Everyone was adapted to the past events of the sequel, with Hiccup now the new viking chief of Berk. But enemies, similar to those in the last film, threaten Berk and the dragons once more. Hiccup has to face this danger while also trying to handle Toothless, who has become lovestruck after encountering a female Night Fury.
Something that has stayed consistent throughout this franchise is the flying scenes. Like scenes of Hiccup riding Toothless are some of the best moments in the series. It is stunning. It makes feel like you’re flying alongside them. They capture this sense of wonder and also show the epic scale of the world around them. Some of the best shots of “The Hidden World” show Hiccup and Toothless flying but only as a small spec in the endless sky. These are the kinds of movies that you should see on the big screen. It makes the experience feel even more epic. And if you are a fan of 3D, these are the kinds of movies that benefit from the format.
Moving on, the villain of the film, dragon hunter Grimmel, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, is another highlight. He could’ve have been a forgettable part of this movie, especially with his cliche sounding bad guy name. But he ends up being a good villain as he is surprisingly similar to Hiccup in a few ways. He is also menacing while having a nice, sarcastic sense of humor. It’s interesting how Grimmel both hates dragons and yet, has strange respect for them. The way a hunter respects their prey.
But what stops this movie from being a great animated movie is hard to say. To try to put it in words, “The Hidden World” feels like it’s missing something. It’s hard to describe. It just feels like if it had something else it would be better. A clear example would be with the side characters. While plenty of the side characters do work, others don’t.
It’s not that they’re annoying, because in their defense they can crack a funny joke every now and then. What’s really wrong with them is how they and the main characters like Hiccup interact with each other. They don’t talk like good friends who have known one another for the past 10 years. It doesn’t feel right. They just kind of awkwardly interact and it’s very distracting. However, they’re not the focus of the movie.
The main focus is on Hiccup, Toothless and a few other main characters and that works. The movie adds some nice moments to develop to their characters in ways that make senses when considering the previous movies. The main theme of this movie is accepting change. Which is perfect for the possible last film of the series. The way the movie concludes everything was great. To be honest, I got a little teary-eyed at the end.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a really good movie. It stays true to the franchise, providing both a thoughtful continuation and satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t really matter if it’s better or worse than the previous movies as all of them are very close to each other in quality, which is impressive for any franchise.