The Art of Letting Go – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Film Review)

Rating:

*Spoiler Warning*

It’s been a long and emotional ride, if you include the series ‘Dragons’ as well as the first two films in the series. We’ve grown up with Hiccup, Toothless and the Berk clan, seen them through difficult and hilarious times but just like all great stories, there be must an end. The Hidden World is an adventure and  serves as the ‘final’ chapter of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise. There is heart and soul in the characters, story and the animation that has dazzled the fans.

It’s a year after the tragic death of Stoick and when Toothless became the Alpha, the gang has evolved once more but this time they’re all kitted out in dragon scaled armour rescuing dragons from trappers. The Isle of Berk is more than a haven for dragons, it’s more like an over crowded nest. With their home a target, Chief Hiccup decides its time to find a new home for dragons and Berkians alike. The search for the Hidden World, the place where dragons come from, becomes top priority especially when Grimmel, the Night Fury Killer appears on the scene. With all this excitement and peril, the discovery of a Light Fury, a female, shifts Hiccup’s and the excited loved up Toothless’ relationship.

Growing up is never easy. Growing up and letting go is even harder. We’ve seen Hiccup grow up from the outcast to dragon rider and now, Chief and through it all, Toothless has been with him. Their relationship is one for the ages, so this, the final chapter, was always going to be difficult story to create and execute. With the dragon rider gang older, wiser (except for Snotlout) and thinking about the future, the parting of dragon and Viking was always going to happen. Talk of marriage is mentioned and comically discussed, as Hiccup and Astrid clearly aren’t quite ready for that step. Toothless also gets his moment to move on when he meets the Light Fury. They comical mating ritual serves more than a funny scene, it shows what little interaction Toothless has had with his own kind, likely having been alone before meeting Hiccup. They’ve needed each other for such a long time that the moment independence comes, it’s too quick and not given a proper thought. Its only when Hiccup sees Toothless on his ‘pride rock’ with his Light Fury that he understands, he’s not needed anymore. It’s a sweet but crushing moment, particularly as these two are more than friends, their partners and knowing when to step back can be heart-breaking, but we all knew this was coming. It’s all about the art of letting go, once the riders let the dragons go, they can fully grow up.

An almost flawless film, it seems harsh to criticize the weaker parts of the story. With such rich characters on Berk, an evil villain is needed to balance. While Grimmel is indeed evil, drugging his own dragons into blind obedience and killing all the Night Furies, he feels more like a villain from the TV series, around for an arc then never to be seen again. With the story cantered around Hiccup and Toothless plus the discovery of the Light Fury, a larger than life villain was needed, rather than a medieval looking hitman working for nameless war lords. But that, is all there is to grumble about this film. Its animation is beautiful as ever and you can see the fun the creators had with the Hidden World itself, a new undiscovered land is always thrilling to see, especially if it involves so many dragons.

Based on the book series by Cressida Cowell, the How to Train Your Dragon stories and characters feel timeless.  Even though its set during the time of Vikings, Cowell has said that she wanted this to feel as if dragons are real and that they’re just waiting for their time to return. This hope that they will one day is what fuels the closing of the film. There is sadness but there is joy to be had in The Hidden World, ending the franchise like on this high was the best way to say goodbye to Hiccup, Toothless and the gang.

 

Dir: Dean DeBlois

Prd: Bonnie Arnold, Brad Lewis

Scr: Dean DeBlois

Based on: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, F. Murray Abraham, Gerard Butler

Music: John Powell

Country: USA

Year: 2019

Running time: 104 minutes

 

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden Kingdom is out in cinemas 1st February

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