When Dreamworks Animation first adapted the work of Cressida Cowell into a major animated motion picture back in 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon, they treated audiences to an unexpected hit. While the likes of (arguably Dreamworks’ most famous animated franchise) Shrek, the work of Pixar and the Despicable Me series have garnered a lot of focus, the How To Train Your Dragon series has been one of the most reliable animated sagas around. The 2014 sequel particularly wowed with its poignant storytelling and character development and now director/writer Dean DeBlois brings us to the end, with the trilogy capping How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. And in this grand climax, DeBlois shows us why his series ought to strongly be considered the studios jewel in the animated crown.
Less emotionally driven than the last film throughout, this third part of the story centres more on fun, romance and the duties of leadership. In fact, it is not really until the practically perfect last 10-15 minute finale that the film harnesses its emotive power, and as such it is less all-round moving but still warm, passionate and exciting. Picking back up with these characters – led of course by the young leader of the people of Berk, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) – is once again a joy and the film really tells more of a love story for both man and beast. As the dragon-human bond is tested by what is right, as opposed to what we want. Of course Hiccup’s adorable Night Fury Toothless takes the spotlight, as he is enchanted by a female ‘Light’ Fury, but Hiccup juggles with a lot of big issues, like leadership, protecting the dragons/people, his blossoming relationship with Astrid (America Ferrera) and allowing Toothless the freedom to pursue his own feelings.
DeBlois once more directs with adventurous spirit and an eye for wonder, as The Hidden World of the title particularly brims with colour and imagination, while also maintaining the series’ trademark of being very character focused. Toothless and Hiccup naturally are given the most depth but Astrid also gets moments to shine as her wisdom and faith comes to save the day on more than one occasion, while Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) remains a tough and loving supporting face, among many other memorable characters many of which return from the other films and are voiced by a talented crew of familiar faces. Meanwhile new villain Grimmel, the white-haired ruthless dragon hunter, makes for an effective antagonist, superbly voiced by F. Murray Abraham, even if some of his traits remind of the baddie Drago of the last instalment.
To that point, The Hidden World does repeat itself a tad with some callbacks to the other films, be it similar themes, sequences or story elements but this is not a major factor and in wrapping up the trilogy, some reflections of the past are not necessarily too jarring a thing. The script and story will likely delight fans of the films overall and offer plenty of high-flying spectacle, alongside some genuine drama. The visual power of this series continues to astonish and next to another cracking score by John Powell, the story is allowed to soar even higher.
Even if The Hidden World is not quite as good as the last film, it is still excellent and fits in very well with the rest of the movies, offering constant entertainment for all ages, that brings things to a kind-hearted climax, especially in that timely and compassionate closing stretch, which caps off this deservedly beloved trilogy quite nicely indeed.