Hiccup and Toothless are back for one last hurrah in this delightful tale of Vikings, dragons, and friendship. There’s plenty of action scenes to chew on and a solid emotional core, mainly thanks to Toothless and Hiccup. If this is going to be the last film in the franchise then it’s a nice way to bow out.
It seems that in the five-year gap since How to Train Your Dragon 2 I have managed to completely erase all memory of that film. I even went into the latest installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, thinking I deeply disliked the previous film. Within the first five minutes, I was reminded that I did, in fact, love the previous two films and was almost instantly swept up in the tail (it’s a dragon pun, get it?).
On the surface, things look fairly familiar for Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the inhabitants of Berk. They’ve turned their backs on their rich dragon-hunting heritage and now spend their days freeing captive dragons to bring back to their increasingly crowded island. Everything seems to be going perfectly until the council of warlords employs famed dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) to kidnap Toothless, the alpha dragon, and give them control of all dragons.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World might seem fairly familiar on first inspection. There’s a bigger, badder threat to Hiccup and his friend Toothless and our heroes can only hope to save the day by banding together and learning a lesson about themselves in the process. However, if you start to dig beneath the scales (another dragon joke, I thank you) you find an interesting story about what it means to become a grown-up, and all of the tough choices and responsibilities that go along with it.
The film is, as expected, beautifully animated with the characters (both human and dragon) being brought to life so vividly. I think there are more different flavors of dragon on display than ever before and even after two films, they’re still finding ways to be incredibly inventive. I would certainly put Toothless in my all-time top five dragons and he does nothing here to damage his lofty position. He’s a fangtastic (dragon joke!) creation and one that has silently conveyed so much character across the course of the three films.
There is a strong voice cast including returning favorites like Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and Cate Blanchett as well as newcomers like F. Murray Abraham as the villain of the piece. I felt like Abraham was channeling Javier Bardem’s Silva from Skyfall; I was convinced it was Bardem for at least half of the film. Grimmel certainly provides a good antagonist to Hiccup but his character was never properly developed, he just seemed a baddie because… he wants to be?
I think the only downfall of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is its own embarrassment of riches in that there are so many good characters that need to be juggled that I did feel a little shortchanged at times. We check in with all of our old favorites like Snotlout, Fishlegs, and Ruffnut but they never really get to grow at all. The character development is really all saved for Toothless, Hiccup and Astrid.
Despite being skeptical to start with, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World won me over within a matter of minutes. It’s a delightful tale that doesn’t shy away from tackling some complex issues. If this is really the final chapter for the Toothless and co then it’s a decent send-off.