Genre: CG Animation
Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Craig Ferguson, F. Murray Abraham
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 31 January 2019
Synopsis: From DreamWorks Animation comes a surprising tale about growing up, finding the courage to face the unknown...and how nothing can ever train you to let go.
What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic adventure spanning their lives. Welcome to the most astonishing chapter of one of the most beloved animated franchises in film history: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Now chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, Hiccup has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia. When the sudden appearance of female Light Fury coincides with the darkest threat their village has ever faced, Hiccup and Toothless must leave the only home they’ve known and journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth. As their true destines are revealed, dragon and rider will fight together - to the very ends of the Earth - to protect everything they’ve grown to treasure.
‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ was conceived alongside the previous movie by its writer-director Dean DeBlois, and it shows.
There is no attempt to recap the events of what happened before, so those new to the franchise will probably feel a little lost at the start, especially since we are dropped right back into the world of Hiccup and his fellow dragon-riding Berks with a night-time raid that they stage on board a pirate ship to liberate some dragons being held captive. Oh yes, you’ll need to have some knowledge of the last two films to know who is who among the eccentric bunch, including Hiccup’s tough but supportive girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrara), his previously long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), a pair of bird-brained twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), and the shortest and cockiest one among them named Snotlout (Jonah Hill).
Ditto the other details that matter over the course of the movie – such as how Hiccup came to have a prosthetic leg or his dragon (aka Night Fury) Toothless’ inability to fly solo – which DeBlois assumes his audience should already be aware of and therefore need no reminder. Instead, setting the events one year after that of the last film (even though it’s been five years since), we find that Hiccup’s quests to free caged dragons have led to their home being increasingly overcrowded. Worse still, Hiccup’s ambition of creating a ‘dragon-viking’ utopia has drawn the attention of ire of warlords who see it as a threat to their own established way of life, leading them to call upon the infamous hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) whose motivation in life is to hunt down and exterminate every single Night Fury.
To get his people out of harm’s way, Hiccup uproots his entire tribe to look for the mythical Hidden World, which his late father Stoick (Gerard Butler) had described as a subterranean paradise where only dragons roam freely. Trouble is, Hiccup doesn’t know how to get there, or whether it really exists. It doesn’t help that his reliable companion Toothless is distracted by hitherto unseen female company, a pure-white female night fury which Astrid dubs ‘Light Fury’. Neither Hiccup or Toothless realise at first that the Light Fury’s appearance is part of Grimmel’s wily ploy, but even so, it doesn’t change the fact that Toothless’ encounter with a fellow kind marks his coming-of-age that will change the course of his future – as well as that of Hiccup’s – forever.
At the heart of the series is the question whether humans and dragons can peacefully co-exist with one another, and this third chapter tests that proposition even further by pitting it not only against the indomitable human instinct for power and control but also the allure that the call of the wild has on the beast. The latter allows for some of the most beautiful visuals of the series so far, including a dazzling airborne sequence that marks the two dragons’ first official date and a tour of the titular Edenic locale of striking bioluminescence. With master cinematographer Roger Deakins as visual consultant, the imagery truly soars, whether in its glorious vistas over land, sea and air or its more intimate moments of photo-realistic detail.
But more than the animation itself is the narrative’s emotional finish that rounds up what is allegedly the last film in the franchise in a bittersweet yet utterly satisfying way. As he did in the first two movies, DeBlois demonstrates once again that he is not afraid of injecting darker, even unsettling, turns and themes into his stories – and even though this chapter doesn’t deal with death, loss and revenge in the same way as its predecessors did, it still packs a wallop by not shying away from the cruel realities of mankind’s baser inclinations. Fans as well as those who have revisited the earlier two movies in preparation for this one will find their loyalty and/or effort rewarded handsomely, not only in terms of continuity but also in terms of closure.
So, like we warned at the beginning, you’re probably better off doing some revision before stepping into the ‘Hidden World’, for this is less a standalone film in its own right than one intended as conclusion for the last two. There is still much fun and laughter to be had with the oddball bunch of alpha males that form Hiccup’s loyal gang of sidekicks, but both the romantic and dramatic underpinnings of the tale are both more significant and compelling. It is a soaring and roaring end we say, and if this is indeed the final ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ movie, then we’re proud to say that it does go out on a high.
(As poignant a finish as you can imagine, this concluding chapter boasts the series' signature breathtaking visuals, while soaring through new dramatic turns of co-existence between man and beast)
Review by Gabriel Chong