UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig, F. Murray Abraham, Gerard Butler
Did it take three movies to train the dragon?
Finally, after years of turbulence and behind-the-scenes changes, Dreamworks Animation and Universal have unleashed the final movie in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, The Hidden World. After the first two movies became critical successes and gained sizable audiences, The Hidden World had the chance to round off an excellent trilogy whilst also showcasing some tidy advances in CGI animation – moving further out of the giant shadow of Pixar.
Following the arc from the previous two movies, Hiccup (Baruchel) is now leader of the island of Berk (not of my man JB) along with his trusty scaled sidekick, the Night Fury, Toothless. Dragons and humans have a tenuous co-existence and all seems well finally. Hiccup is closer than ever to his lover-in-waiting Astrid (Ferrera) and the familiar faces are back for the ride as well. However, the nefarious Grimmel (Abraham) lurks in the shadows waiting for his chance to banish the dragons permanently and take control of the lands – though a dazzling white Light Fury may scupper everything (and steal Toothless’ heart at the same time). It all sounds fairly formulaic, but the key element of The Hidden World is its characters. Since the first movie of the saga, the characters and their arcs have been front and centre and here they are honoured and concluded excellently. Hiccup’s memories and influence of his father (again voiced by Gerard Butler) shapes his destiny, as does the new life he leads with his mother Valka (Blanchett) and Astrid. No longer is he the weird teenager from the beginning. How DeBlois handles his lead character is commendable and an example for other franchises to follow – the same goes for the narrative that has been present through the entire trilogy. It was all planned out in advance and oddly enough was successful because of it!
The voice acting throughout is on point and the animation is also wonderful again. A standout mating scene between Toothless and the mysterious Light Fury dragon (just dancing, no XXX dragon stuff here) really accentuates this, along with John Powell’s fine score. There’s real depth in the small details which just brings everything to life. Small hairs are animated, faces have greater expressions and come the end of the movie, these extra layers really help with the homerun conclusion. The plot itself is fairly thin and there’s a minor lull in the middle but it’s well-written and engrossing for the majority of it, whilst the humour the saga is known for is still present, though at times it feels more…mature. Crucially, the conclusion works – after a decade-plus worth of stories and waiting, the finale feels earned, justified, and pulls at the heartstrings as characters must learn new lessons and let go of things they love (just like the audience for these movies).
Also, Hiccup has a flaming lightsabre (basically) which is just awesome.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World may be light on narrative but it’s big on heart, delivering key messages and sticks the landing after all this time. Just as good as the previous two movies, The Hidden World is a fitting finale for a strong, and fun, trilogy.
January 28th 2019