'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' Film Review - A Bittersweet Finale You've Definitely Seen Before
By Jack Dignan
In Cinemas Today
Watching a beloved franchise slowly dip from creative original content into generic and by the numbers sequels always hurts. A little piece of what made that franchise great deteriorates, and while nothing will ever replace the magic and wonder of the original, your hope for a sequel has vanished. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, and with How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third and final film in the beloved animated trilogy, the series takes a slight, but not completely irredeemable dip.
This is certainly not a bad movie. None of them are. But watching the original How To Train Your Dragon in cinemas back in 2010 blew my little adolescent mind. It was warm, creative, hilarious and worked wonders thanks to the heart at its core. It’s a film that still holds up. However, it seemed I was in the minority with its 2014 sequel, which, while I thoroughly enjoyed, didn’t work quite as well as the first. But it seems that’s up for debate amongst fans. Still, it was the finale I was most excited for, but it’s one I could’ve lived without watching.
Despite going through three different studios, one for each installment, the key creative team behind this franchise has remained consistent, and the films are all the better for it. These characters remain admirable, with their goals and loveable traits just as recognisable as ever. You care for their journey and their interactions, as well as the evolution of the dynamic they each share with their dragons. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless remain protagonists worthy of a franchise. However this time around, it’s their story that falls flat.
The Hidden World sees villainous dragon poacher Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) returning from the shadows to hunt down his long sought after prey, Toothless. But, with Hiccup’s people on the run and in search of a new home, they uncover a lightfury (a juxtaposition to Toothless’ breed, the nightfury), who helps lead them towards the titular hidden world, a secluded sanctuary for dragons all across the world. As the plot progresses, more and more familiarities are flung your way, and it won’t take long before you start to realise this is literally just Toy Story 3 with dragons, something that sounds much cooler than it ends up being.
It’s a predictable, lifeless and formulaic conclusion to a series that could’ve gone down as one of animation’s all time greats. There’s some heart to be found, especially as the film powers through the skies towards its emotional conclusion, but it all feels a little rushed. Character arcs just happen, people teleport across countries in the same irritable vein as the latest season of Game of Thrones, emotional farewells feel unearned, and by the time it all comes to a close, you realise there wasn’t really much to the film you just watched.
Credit’s due for some spectacular animation, one that continues to push the boundaries of what photorealistic 3D animation can do, but visual delights can only go so far. Sure, it’ll entertain the kids for an hour and a half, but there’s nothing for them to chew on. It’ll all become white noise as they watch colourful creatures spurting fire and making funny faces. And, surprisingly enough, Jonah Hill’s Snotlout and Kristen Wiig’s Ruffnut are the two that steal the show this time around. Most of the other characters, particularly the villain and Cate Blanchett’s Valka, feel wasted.
Devoted ‘Dragon’ fans will likely leave satisfied with the bittersweet wrap up to their beloved trilogy, but for the more casual acquaintance of this series, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World offers you nothing you haven’t seen before. Toy Story 3 is no doubt a brilliant source to take inspiration from, but copying and pasting the plot feels more along the lines of plagiarism than “taking inspiration.” Still, there’s enough wonder and fun to be had here, and best of all, this serves as a definitive ending. Even if it makes $1 billion, there’s little room to move about from here. In a world dominated by endless sequels, I appreciate that.
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