How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the concluding chapter in the acclaimed film and television series. All our favourite characters return for one last ride as Hiccup and Toothless undertake a quest to save the people of Berk and to find the titular Hidden World, the mythical place where all dragons hail from. But do the dragons want to mingle with humans? Is this the morally right thing to do? These are among the many challenges that Hiccup has to face in this movie. So how does this entry fair?
The short answer is quite well! Unlike most animated films these days, which rely on humour and gags to keep their young audience engaged, the Dragon series is a much more complex, mature and nuanced franchise compared to most of its contemporaries. For that, this movie may not be ideal for kids on the younger side as many of the themes might go over their heads and may even bore them, judging by the audience I was in attendance with. That being said, those who can sit still and appreciate it will find a grand tale worth remembering.
Jay Baruchel once again voices Hiccup, the Viking chieftain of Berk. Unlike most Vikings, Hiccup is unsure of himself and relies heavily on Toothless to get the job done. He’s not as fearsome as his father was and he’s yet to find his way in the world. For that, he’s a fascinating character. Under his father’s rule, the Vikings hunted down dragons but now the village is a dragon utopia. That makes them a clear and obvious target for dragon hunters, who found all of their prey in one location ruled by a leader who is known for not being as fearsome as Gerard Butler’s Stoick. This comes to the attention of Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a vicious hunter who has killed all the Night Fury dragons in the land except for Hiccup’s trusty friend Toothless. Hiccup decides he has to migrate his people away from Berk to save both people and dragons. Grimmel is definitely a frightening villain, with not an ounce of humour in his body, but he is a bit one dimensional. That being said, I couldn’t help but notice some contemporary commentary, very subtly, woven into his characterization. He has a very “us versus them” mentality and thinks humans, a superior race, would be better off without mingling with dragons, a violent and savage beast.
While all this happens, Toothless, who was believed to be the last of his kind, encounters a female Night Fury that Hiccup’s partner Astrid (America Ferrera) coins as a Light Fury. Hiccup begins to struggle between what makes him happy and what makes Toothless and other dragons happy all while trying to keep then save from a deranged and murderous hunter. Toothless is immensely curious as to who this new addition is and quickly begins to formulate a way to get her interest, including some humorous mating dances that you’d see in BBC’s Planet Earth. It’s good to see Toothless start to operate on his own agenda and find his place in the world.
The animation on display here is nothing short of spectacular. A scene involving Toothless drawing in the sand will convince you that you were looking at live action footage for a bit, while other effects like water and fire are equally stunning. Seeing Stoick’s beard flowing in the wind with individual strands is jaw-dropping. There is also plenty of great action sequences, many of which put the fire effects on full display. The finale is a pure adrenaline rush and should satisfy both kids and fantasy film lovers in general. John Powell also returns to score the film. Powell has once again made a terrific musical composition for the film and what he’s done over the course of the trilogy cements him as one of the best composers working today.
I think if I had to rank them, I would say I preferred the second film more than the first one, but only by a bit. The sequences with Toothless and his new friend are certainly cute but did go on for a little bit too long. But honestly, that’s my only complaint. This is a great film and more so, a wholly satisfying conclusion to a series that’s grown up with its audience and wasn’t afraid to tackle more complex issues and do it so well. From the acting, animation, story and resolution, this is a great animated film for kids and adults.