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‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ (review)

Produced by Bonnie Arnold, Brad Lewis
Based on How to Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell

Written and Directed by Dean DeBlois
Starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera,
Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson,
F. Murray Abraham,
Gerard Butler,
Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse,
Kit Harington, David Tennant

 

And so we come to the end of the story with Hiccup and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The third and final installment seems to wrap up their story in a neat little bow.

Hiccup is now Chief of the Berk. Through his leadership, Berk is teeming with dragons and is practically bursting at the seams with winged friends. Hiccup and his friends have been raiding the dragon hunter ships, rescuing the trapped dragons. Their success saving the dragons has forced the dragon hunters to take action.

In order stop Hiccup, the dragon hunters have hired the of infamous dragon hunter, Grimmel. Known for killing most of the Night Furies in existence, Grimmel ruthlessly pursues Toothless; his ultimate goal is to kill Toothless and destroy the dragon haven that Berk has become.

Hiccup, Astrid, and all the residents of Berk band together to save the dragons by trying to find “The Hidden World”, the hidden dragon kingdom at the edge of the world.

The plot this time around seems barebones. It’s a story that goes from point A to point B, with the predictable twists and turns. While parents may be bored, there are enough battles, fancy flying, and jokes to keep younger audiences enthralled. It is a kid’s movie after all.

Most of the original cast is back. Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera return as Hiccup and Astrid. Their characters being the only ones that are given development.

The rest of the cast exist only for jokes or to further plot points. Although F. Murray Abraham plays the sinister Grimmel wonderfully and there is a great opportunity to have the kind of villain you love to hate, I feel the only reason Grimmel defeats his opponents often is that every character outside of Hiccup, Astrid and Valka are written so one dimensionally dumb, that it isn’t a great achievement when the villain bests them. Having weaker supporting characters doesn’t make the hero seem stronger, it makes his achievements seem obtained by simple being a little smarter than everyone else. It’s as if the writers are relying on our having seen the past films (or tv shows) and didn’t feel the need to have any character development or arc outside of Hiccup and Toothless.

The animation is breathtaking as always. Although the landscapes and environments are beautifully designed, it’s the movement and expressions of the characters that make the film charming.

From the fluidity of the opening fight scene that is more like a Rube Goldberg creation than a standard fight to the courtship of Toothless and the Light Fury, the attention to detail continues to world build and make the characters feel tangible. The way Toothless and the Light Fury interact together tells a story without dialog, which is always the mark of good acting, and in this case, great animation.

We have come a long way with these character, and although the story feels a bit stretched out in places to fill running time, it still is a satisfying end to the franchise.

With How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, we are not left wanting to know what happened to Hiccup and Toothless, and a positive message about lasting friendships is delivered.

 

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