How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the long-awaited conclusion to the fan-favorite series. The film follows Hiccup and the people of Berk as they seek to protect the dragons from a ruthless hunter who will stop at nothing to kill Toothless. Although it is just now coming out stateside, it debuted last month internationally, picking up great reviews.
The story of the movie is pretty straightforward, but that can be expected. This series has never been particularly original, but it gave its target audience a plentiful helping of heartwarming family fun. The third entry provides more of the same. Don’t go in expecting to be thrown off by twists and turns — it goes in exactly the direction that you would expect.
However, the script compensates for its straightforward plot with some intriguing character work. The protagonist, Hiccup, is very well-developed over the course of the film, building upon the foundation that was set in previous entries. Even someone who hasn’t seen the other movie will connect with the character because of the excellent way in which he was written.
Whereas the first film was about accepting individuality and the second was about grief, this movie is a story about family. Even though there is the external conflict involving the dragon hunter Grimmel, the far more interesting aspect of the story involves Hiccup and Toothless coming to terms with having to start their own lives away from each other. The moments that focus on this aspect of the story are the best in the film. If more time had been spent exploring this and less on the action elements, it would have been even better overall.
It would be a lie to say that this movie isn’t extremely emotional. There is a good deal of humor, some of which is actually funny and some of which is aimed primarily at younger audiences, but the film is at its most successful when it is pulling at the audience’s heartstrings. It’s not as tear-jerking as the second entry, with the resonance of the movie feeling much more natural.
The film definitely has a very strong ensemble for its voice cast, but their talents aren’t always utilized to the maximum extent. The true standout in the cast is F. Murray Abraham, who voices the antagonist. He really dives into the character and gives a performance that makes the movie five times more enjoyable to watch. Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all give solid turns, but pale in comparison to Abraham.
The animation in the film is wonderful. This is one of the stronger Dreamworks properties in visual terms, and this entry does not disappoint. The use of color in the movie, especially in Berk and the eponymous world of the dragons, is very impressive. The only disappointment in regards to the visuals is that it didn’t spend more time in these beautiful settings.
Overall, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was a pretty solid film. Those who aren’t fans of the series may or may not find something to enjoy, but devotees will likely find it to be a worthy send-off.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opens in theaters February 22.