With How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, director/screenwriter Dean DeBlois brings to an end the journey of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless that began 8 years ago. A largely unknown property when How to Train Your Dragon was first released, the surprisingly warm and poignant arc between the two protagonists has created fans the world over.
The first two films were a great showcase of visual art, storytelling and acting, with the narrative deftly balancing humour/slapstick with powerful emotional beats. And not only did they introduce us to the inventive and shy Hiccup and his dragon Toothless but to a whole host of colourful characters including Hiccup’s father Stoick (Gerard Butler), his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), and his partners in mischief Astrid (America Ferrera), Eret (Kit Harington), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and Gobber (Craig Ferguson).
They created a believable world that was fun to be in and the audience wanted more of.
Thankfully Hidden World continues and builds upon the legacy of its predecessors with a story that is sure to tug at your heartstrings, animation that surpasses anything we have seen in the series so far, and a musical score by John Powell that will once again be stuck in your again long after you have left the cinema. In this third film, the team at Dreamworks deliver a worthy conclusion to the story of Hiccup and Toothless.
One of the strengths of Hidden World is that rather than introduce a myriad of new characters in the third instalment of the franchise, DeBlois instead chooses to put the story focus on the established players of the series. Not only do we focus on the same characters, the characters have grown and aged with each film. There is something special about seeing Hiccup and his friends grow from young children into teenagers and eventually becoming the adults we see them us in Hidden World. It makes you feel like you have shared their journey, and have been with them through their ups and downs, creating a sense of attachment and family.
While the bond between Hiccup and Toothless obviously lays the foundation for these films, the camaraderie between Hiccup and his misfit friends also plays a large part in helping carry the story forward. Whether is the unrelenting annoying banter between twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, or the egotistical and slightly deluded stylings of Snotlout, or even the bumbling adorability of Fishlegs, Hiccup’s crew add another layer of entertainment and variety to the story that keeps it from becoming stale or redundant. But if you put aside the jokes and tomfoolery, you can easily see that this is a group that loves each other, the adventures they have had together creating a close-knit crew, willing to forgive each other’s faults and relying on their strengths.
One of the strongest interactions I found in the film was the unwavering faith Hiccup’s girlfriend Astrid had in him. Their romance has been built over three films and it shows, their chemistry together feels natural, and each character feeds off and complementing each other. It’s another benefit of watching these characters grow together, their romance feeling earned as we have seen how the love between these characters started and evolved over time.
At its heart, Hidden World is a story about love, growing up and letting go. It shows that sometimes the right answer sometimes involves the hardest sacrifice and it also asks us to look within ourselves, to put aside our fears of being incapable and trust in our inherent abilities. In a time where Into the Spider-Verse is telling kids that absolutely anyone can wear the mask, it’s great to see more animated films delivering equally powerful messages to their audience.
If you have been following the How to Train Your Dragon series from the beginning, then I guarantee there will be moments where you will have tears in your eyes. It’s a fitting end to a great story and with Hidden World, the franchise joins the ranks of the rare set of trilogies where each instalment is a great watch.
I give How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World an 8.5 out of 10 (and there is no post credit scene).