How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

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.

 

3.5/5

-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.

[#2015oscardeathrace] How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

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Director: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Screenplay: Dean DeBlois

102 mins. Rated PG for adventure action and mild rude humor.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

How to Train Your Dragon was a film that needed to have a sequel. Two, in fact. The first film had a very SAGA-like feeling to it. It had some more story that needed to be told. And it was, in last year’s How to Train Your Dragon 2.

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Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby) and his dragon Toothless have come a long way in their relationship, and their home Berk has changed along with them. Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300, Olympus Has Fallen), has learned to respect him as a son and a man. Hiccup’s girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera, TV’s Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez) has furthered her affection for him. Everything is going just great for Hiccup, until he discovers a dragon army led by the terrifying Drago (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son) and comes face-to-face with Valka (Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Knight of Cups), his missing mother in this sequel from director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch).

How to Train Your Dragon 2 excells in almost every way further than its predecessor. Visually, it is stunning. Emotionally, it resonates. The above developed relationships are tested further and further as the film progresses. Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington (TV’s Game of Thrones, Pompeii) are great additions to the voice cast.

DeBlois’ sequel is a tightly-knit thrill-ride, with beautiful music, and gorgeous set-pieces. It also has the distinction of being the first animated film to contain an openly homosexual character (I won’t say who, but it shouldn’t really matter). For that alone, the film deserved praise.

The flaw, and there is a big one, comes at the end, when the film takes a fairly mediocre and cliché turn developing in an underwhelming finale. Hiccup and Toothless have a respect that is stretched to its lengths, yet the plotholes near the end make one question what it was all for.

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The ending aside, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still a massively successful sequel and well worth the viewing. I only hope the open threads are continued throughout the future installments.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ How to Train Your Dragon, click here.

[Oscar Madness] How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

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Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig

Screenplay: William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

98 mins. Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

 

How to Train Your Dragon was doomed in the Oscar race by the basic fact that it was nominated next to Toy Story 3. Damn comparative Oscars!

How to Train Your Dragon movie image

How to Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby), a Viking who cannot live up to the image his father Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300, Olympus Has Fallen) has built up. He can’t win over the love of Astrid (America Ferrera, TV’s Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez). He has no friends, until a rare shot during a dragon raid on his home island of Berk causes him to meet a Night Fury dragon he calls Toothless. The bond they create begins to change the way Hiccup sees dragons and their motives for attacking.

The voice work here is nice, but not great. The big flaw of the voices is that we have Vikings that don’t sound like Vikings. The performers are comedic nonetheless.

The story, although vastly different from the one in Cressida Cowell’s book of the same name, but the changes all seek to create a more compelling story, and they do.

The animation is gorgeous and the characters well-designed. Sometimes, in movies with monsters or aliens, the characters and species don’t feel different, but in How to Train Your Dragon, they are dynamically different. Toothless’ design, based on cats, dogs, and horses, is quirky and cute.

Lastly, the music is everything I wanted it to be. It engaged me and kept me involved throughout and it’s the kind you keep humming after you leave the theater.

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How to Train Your Dragon isn’t the strongest Dreamworks Animation film and it definitely wasn’t stealing the Best Animated Feature Oscar from Toy Story 3, but it is still a pretty strong piece of animation that compels audiences of all ages and is well worth a viewing.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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