Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrerra, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson
Screenplay: Dean DeBlois
104 mins. Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.
2019 has been full of some amazing franchise cappers. It’s also had some stinker franchise enders. So how does this third and supposedly final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise end up?
It’s been about a year since we last caught up with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, Goon, TV’s Man Seeking Woman). In that time, he and the other dragon-riders have spent their time freeing captured dragons and growing Berk into a haven for both dragons and humans alike. They’ve been quite successful, and Berk is overpopulated with the winged beasts. Hiccup believes that he can solve this problem by finding The Hidden World, a legendary dragon utopia his father Stoick had told him about. Meanwhile, Toothless discovers a white dragon similar in appearance, called a Light Fury by Astrid (America Ferrera, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, TV’s Superstore). Toothless is clearly smitten, and Hiccup is unaware that the Light Fury may be a trap set by the dangerous dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham, The Grand Budapest Hotel, TV’s Homeland), who has his eyes set on Toothless.
The Hidden World is the lengthiest of the How to Train Your Dragon films, but it doesn’t feel that way. This movie cruises by, not taking time to reintroduce the audience to the characters, and just letting the story get moving. It has to move quick because the film feels a little stuffed with plot. There’s a lot more going on as Writer/Director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch) tries to wrap up his trilogy nicely, and it mostly works. I really enjoyed Toothless’s plotline involving the Light Fury. Toothless has never been the focus of these movies like Hiccup, so it was nice to really focus on the needs of the dragon here. The Hiccup and Grimmel part of the story is where it feels a little too familiar. Again, we have another dragon hunter with an eye for Night Furies.
The story, this time around, does feel more epic in scale, and I didn’t laugh nearly as much as the other films. The Hidden World is more serious and action-laden than the others too. There’s a very noticeable and welcome tonal shift as the story packs on weight. I very much enjoyed where it went and how it ended. I also love that DeBlois and DreamWorks seemingly aimed at ending this series, and I appreciate that as a fan and viewer. Sure, there’s plenty of possible plot threads here to lay work for a fourth film, but it felt like the aim was to end it, and that’s a really special thing not all franchises get to do.
With that ending, the film and its audiences are awarded for hanging in there throughout the franchise. I teared up more than once as the film headed for its inevitable conclusion. This is a story so wrought with emotion, a boy-and-his-dog tale with strength and innovation, and this franchise capper sticks the landing quite well.
The voice work is always well done here, with specific credit to franchise newcomer F. Murray Abraham, who always kicks villainy up a notch. Bam! From a technical and visual sense, everything looks gorgeous in the film. I had previously watched the first two films a few nights before hitting up this final chapter, and I have to say, it’s astonishing how the animation has steadily improved on an already impressive-looking first film.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a pretty solid franchise capper, and it closes out a story that has beloved by many fans in a way that will elevate it to one of the best animated film trilogies of all time. If you are a fan of the first two films, you will find a lot to love in this finale. The Hidden World comes with a solid recommendation from this writer.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’s How to Train Your Dragon, click here.
For my review of Dean DeBlois’s How to Train Your Dragon 2, click here.