HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD is the latest and final installment from DreamWorks Animation’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON film series. The film is directed and written by Dean DeBlois. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD features the returning voices of Jay Baruchel (The Kindness of Strangers), America Ferrera (“Superstore”), Cate Blanchett (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle), Craig Ferguson (Duck Duck Goose), and more. F. Murray Abraham (Robin Hood) joins the cast, voicing the villainous dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly.
The film opens roughly a year after the events of the previous film. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now the chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid (America Ferrera). Since the events of the previous film, he has created a form of Utopia for the dragons. Since Toothless also became the Alpha dragon at the end of the events of the previous film, it’s not difficult to have the dragon utopia since the dragons follow Toothless. However, the more dragons the people of Berk gather, the more the village becomes a target for those who would seek to cause the beloved winged creatures harm. And this leads to the villain who discovers Toothless, the remaining male Night Fury, is still alive and threatens to destroy the village of Berk to acquire the dragon.
Because HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD is supposed to be the final film in the trilogy, there were certain components in the writing that didn’t really run as smoothly as the film’s predecessors. I think this is possible because there was a lot that needed to be wrapped up and resolved by the end of the film’s runtime. However, because of all that needed to be covered, there was a lot that needed to be cut out in order to get to the heart of the story. This had mixed results in my opinion and – ultimately – made the film feel weaker than the previous two films. Because the franchise has aged with its original audience, the film’s themes of growing up and embracing adulthood definitely felt more mature in its execution. For me, this was a plus. For others, this may actually be a detriment.
What I think will be a surprise for many is how the sense of urgency feels differently in this film. Although the villain is aiming to destroy Toothless, the writing doesn’t really make that seem to be the biggest issue for our heroes. Whether or not it was intentional, what I think many will take away from the film is the universal feeling of needing to move on. We can’t stay stunted in a perpetual state of childhood. In order to grow and become better versions of ourselves, we need to battle our insecurities within and push forward.
The visuals, once again, are stunning. It’s been an amazing experience to see how the animation team behind the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON series has grown and also how animation technology has expanded since the original film’s debut. There are absolutely breathtaking views featured throughout the course of the film, especially so with the unveiling of the Hidden World. It made me a bit sad that I hadn’t been able to see a 3D showing of the film, but you can bet that I will go out and purchase a ticket to see it in 3D so I can get the full impact of the animation team’s creativity.
Overall, I think HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD is a fitting conclusion to what has come to be one of my favorite animated trilogies. Although it does not operate like a standalone compared to the previous two films, there isn’t too much of a learning curve for viewers. However, I do recommend for people who haven’t seen the previous two films to go watch those prior to viewing this. I think a lot of the emotional impact that HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD carries in this final installment will be lost on those who haven’t followed the trilogy’s development.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD will soar its way into theaters on February 22, 2019.
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