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

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

Directed by: Dean DeBlois

Premise: The third film in the series. The villagers of Birk have turned their island home into a sanctuary for dragons. With the island overcrowded and dragon hunters closing in, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) leads the villagers in a search for a new home.

What Works: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is presumably the final chapter of the series and it brings the trilogy to an effective close. Each How to Train Your Dragon installment has its own distinct story while fitting into an overarching tale and the way these characters develop over the course of the three films is very satisfying. This series has combined drama and comedy and the third installment achieves the most dramatic shifts between the two and it has some of the series’ best comic bits. The Hidden World takes the story in some unexpected directions. The center of this story has been Hiccup’s relationship with his dragon Toothless. The third film brings that story to a conclusion in a way that mostly earns its sentiment. Despite the silly humor, this is a surprisingly mature film about how loss and letting go are integral to growth. The Hidden World is also a great looking film. The quality of the animation has set the bar for DreamWorks Animation’s body of work and the third entry continues to impress. The creature design is fun and imaginative and there are some startlingly vivid backgrounds. John Powell has provided the music score to all three of these films and his work on The Hidden World revisits familiar themes but gives them an appropriately mature spin.

What Doesn’t: How to Train Your Dragon 2 was an exceptional sequel. By comparison, The Hidden World is merely adequate. It does not achieve the emotional or dramatic impact of the second film in part because of problems with the storytelling. The Hidden World is pulled in a lot of different directions. A dragon hunter is enlisted by a trio of warlords who want to enslave all of Birk’s dragons. Meanwhile, Toothless meets a female of his own kind, straining his relationship with Hiccup, and the people of Birk move to an entirely new home.  There’s a lot going on here and the story is stretched thin. Some of the key themes of this movie are underdeveloped. The opening sequence sets up the ideas that the people of Birk are too dependent upon their dragons and the core cast needs to learn to work as a team. Those ideas are mostly abandoned until the end of the movie. Most of the picture is about Hiccup and the people of Birk adjusting to change but hereto the filmmakers don’t do nearly enough with that plotline. The Hidden World resolves most of its themes and storylines but it doesn’t get enough drama out of them. 

Bottom Line: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a flawed but accomplished adventure. Like a lot of final chapters, the film struggles to resolve everything but it is a satisfying end to an impressive animated trilogy.

Episode: #739 (March 3, 2019)