There’s so much to love in all three of the How To Train Your Dragon films from writer/director Dean DeBlois. The first introduced us to the village of Berk and its quirky inhabitants, brought chieftain’s son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) together with his brother from another species, Toothless, who was the only surviving Night Fury dragon in a world full of dragon hunters. The second film, which could rightly be thought of as the “Empire Strikes Back” of the trilogy, expanded the understanding how dragons existed in this world, but also raised the familial stakes, ripping a few fans’ hearts out in the process. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ties up the trilogy by putting love front and center; love between a young man and his creature pal, a chieftain and his tribe, a night fury and a potential mate, and the love of two young people on equal footing slowly blossoming into a more adult relationship. Though not as engrossing, memorable, or intense as its predecessors, it’s still a worthy, heartwarming ending to a franchise that has deservedly been a fan favorite.
Hiccup has become chieftain of the Berk clan, with the support of his dragon friend, king of the dragons Toothless, as well as his level-headed warrior lady-love and best friend Astrid (America Ferrera). The entire village is on his side, though they continue their good-natured ribbing. When dragon killer Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) mounts an assault in an attempt to kill the last Night Fury, it causes havoc, putting both dragons and humans at risk. Hiccup gathers his clan and sets out to find the mythical place his father called “The Hidden World”, where dragons are safe to live in peace. On one sortie to rescue kidnapped dragons, Toothless discovers a snow white female Night Fury, instantly recognizing he has found his life mate. Feeling the dragon version of Cupid’s sting, Toothless’s desire to stay by Hiccup is put at odds with a future spent leading the dragons, with his sweet sparkly miss along side him.
The cinematography is, once again, likely to render fans speechless, especially in scenes depicting hundreds of dragons of all shapes, sizes, and ages. The moments where Toothless attempts to woo what Hiccup and Astrid call the “Light Fury” are charming, especially to dog lovers or viewers with mated pets. The stakes are meant to feel high, but they feel a bit contrived, as does Hiccup’s drive to move his whole clan potentially across the world because of the latest onslaught of dragon hunters. We are meant to believe Grimmel somehow poses such a threat that it’s better to cut and run than make a stand in the home they’ve built over centuries. The plot doesn’t carry the same the weight that HTTYD2 did, wherein grief and loss played a major part. That story resulted in far longer emotional shockwaves for fans. While The Hidden World has a generally frothier, lighter tone, it still satisfies as the final punctuation for a trilogy of a sprawling, imaginative tale.
DeBlois did great honor to Cressida Cowell’s book series, which is no small feat. With current events as they are, it’s not exactly the best time in history to take film fans through loss and grief. We all have enough grief reading the daily news. What a delight that the ending to these wonderful characters, even as it teaches everything must come to an end, offers charm and just the right dose of sweetness.
4 out of 5 stars