Please note that this review may contain spoilers regarding each of the How to Train Your Dragon films.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opens with darkness; our heroes stealing through shadows to burst fire and light upon the scene. Hiccup, in his dragon-scale armour, walks unscathed through a burning ship and brings us back into the world of dragons with a bang.
Other reviewers have said it, but I’ll say it again. How to Train Your Dragon sets itself apart from other series by its emphasis on the growth, and development of its characters. This doesn’t mean the movie was without its flaws – a one-dimensional villain contributed to that, but the film solidly rounds out the end of a phenomenal trilogy that really, couldn’t have ended any other way.
A fun film, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is bursting with fluorescent colour, dazzling flight scenes and a hilarious courtship ritual that made me laugh out loud. Taking the cake however in the laugh department is Kristen Wiig’s wannabe-sultry Ruffnut. With a Queen-Bee attitude and less intelligence than a chicken, she steals the show with her legendary escape from Grimmel’s clutches.
What’s excellent about How to Train Your Dragon’s storylines are that each of the supporting characters grow and develop around the heroes. Snotlout, having hit puberty early in the first film, is the shortest of the bunch by the final film and learns to use his brains over his muscle. Fishlegs, cowardly and afraid at the first becomes an expert on dragon behaviour, breeding and caretaking by the third film. Ruffnut and Tuffnut too go from inseparable obnoxious twins to separable obnoxious twins that show real care and affection for others around them. Most importantly, Hiccup and Astrid go from rivals with different ideals and opinions, to a supportive team that relies on each other. They demonstrate a healthy relationship, rooted in friendship and made solid by their belief in each others abilities. As Hiccup says, all he has done is thanks to Toothless. All of the dragons have made Berk and the lead characters better people. However, all things must change and the dragons need to find a new home, free from ‘greedy humans’ and those who would hope to hurt them.
The only aspect of this film that could perhaps have been stronger was the use of a one-dimensional villain – Grimmel. The dragon trapper who hunts dragons to kill rather than capture. Viewers are given no real background to his character (which does have a lot of potential with his gleeful appetite for the hunt and clever witticisms), and he is hard to become invested in. It is different to the first film’s use of Stoick as antagonist turned ally, or the second film’s Drago Bludvist as mortal enemy. We are made to find Grimmel a bit creepy, but he doesn’t quite hit the mark like the character-driven powerful opposing forces of the first two films.
What has been most impressive about the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is how it deals with all forms of love and loss, and what we as people gain from living through the trials that life throws at us. In the first How to Train Your Dragon film, it was the tension between a single father and son who love each other but can’t communicate that took centre stage. Hiccup loses his leg, but he gains a dragon for a friend, the respect of his father and a whole new world for his people. In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship develops into something beyond flirtatious friendship, Hiccup finds his long lost mother who shares his belief in and love of dragons, and he then becomes Chief of Berk, only after losing his father to the dragon he loves so much.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is no different in the way it handles love and loss. The crux of the film is a displaced people who lose the home they have known for seven generations, and the way of life they have come to love. It’s about dragons of all shapes and sizes finding the place where they belong and most importantly it’s about letting go and moving on with your life.
The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy has found in this last film a resounding conclusion to the series. It neatly ties all of the audience’s questions together and ends on a bittersweet note that leaves hope for the character’s future and our own. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a movie that kids and adults alike will enjoy and brings to a close one of the greatest cartoon series of this age.
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