How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
It’s hard for any trilogy to deliver consequently with expectations set as well as bring originality. The How to Train Your Dragon franchise came out of nowhere in 2010 with a surprisingly heartfelt story, it’s 2014 sequel was a proper escalation in stakes as well as developing its characters in intriguing ways. The final film of the franchise has arrived, closing out the decade and announcing the end of an era.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the final film of the HTTYD trilogy. It finds our hero Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless living in prosperity in their Viking village of Berk, which has now become a haven for dragons. As the dragons begin to accumulate, however, Berk becomes a target for dragon hunters, the most fearsome of which is the veteran Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham). The film ensues with Hiccup’s plan to save the dragon species, but in doing so he’ll have to learn to lead and fight on his own.
The film is as sweet and inspiring as its predecessors, there is no dip in quality, which perhaps might be the biggest surprise of this franchise. Since the first film, writer/director Dean DeBlois has been given a much freer rein than most studios allow, and this has allowed for him to take HTTYD in creative and refreshing directions. DeBlois set out to tell the story of Hiccup maturing from an insecure tween into a confident leader, and he achieves this to a great success with this last film, not shying away from difficult subjects or consequences to his characters. Toothless’ role is enlarged as the origin and destiny of the dragon species is explored. In fact, many of the best scenes in the film only involve dragons, with the funniest involving Toothless trying to court a sleek and white female dragon.
The film feels taut and never begs you to look at your watch. The visuals and CG are truly mesmerizing and it’s curious to see the entire trilogy back-to-back as you can note how the technology has developed over the decade. The values and emotional journey are expertly integrated with the finale bringing most of the adults to tears in the theater (most of the kids ruthlessly remained stoic).
However, The Hidden World is plagued by some of the stumbles that affected the previous films of the franchise. One is the villain, which in this film is again characterized as only being hellbent on killing all the dragons: why? We never get a reason; if there had been some exploration to Grimmel’s motivations, perhaps he would have been a more compelling antagonist. Instead, during his scenes we end up longing to return to the banter between Hiccup and Toothless. The other flaw that plagued the films is the treatment of the background characters. Given that the films in the franchise have always been very short, you can’t expect much time to be devoted to supporting players, but the voice actors (the likes of Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, and Kristen Wiig) and character design had been so promising for many of Hiccup’s friends that we longed for a shining moment or exploitation of them.
In the end, however, the film is hits its emotional notes, and that is enough. It properly bookends a solid trilogy, the quality and originality of which will become rarer and rarer in the future.