'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' - Ah, Toothless: A Brandon Schreur Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

It’s not always easy to stick the landing on trilogies, especially when it comes to animated trilogies, but along comes How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World to show us all how it’s done.

To some degree, at least. You may not leave this one as head-over-heels in love with the franchise compared to when you walked out of the first How to Train Your Dragon, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to walk away not feeling anything at all, either.

Nearly five years after How to Train Your Dragon 2 came out, which was then followed by a whole bunch of television shows and films which debuted straight to Netflix (some of which I hear are actually pretty good), director Dean Deblois closes out his trilogy with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

Berk has changed a lot in the past five years.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit: YouTube

While dragons have been welcome in the village since the end of the first How to Train Your Dragon, the island is now somewhat of a dragon sanctuary that’s home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the beasts.

With Berk quickly reaching its level of capacity, it means that Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) — given that he’s now in charge of the village, ever since the events with his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler) of the second movie played out the way they did —  has to come up with a new plan for how the villagers and dragons can continue to co-exist.

Luckily, he has an idea.

Legend tells of a far-off land known only as the hidden world that’s home to all kinds of dragons and creatures. It’s a story that his father told him when he was a little boy, and has been something Hiccup has tried to find ever since.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit: YouTube

No, you’re not remembering incorrectly, Stoick hated dragons until the ending of the first How to Train Your Dragon, so it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense why he’d tell this story to his son with such an amazed or impressed tone.

Now, Hiccup figures that he and Toothless can fly out into the great unknown, find the hidden world, bring the rest of Berk there and happily subside for the rest of their days.

They’ve got to do it in a hurry, though, as a new enemy is afoot. Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is notorious hunter with a vengeance against dragon. Upon hearing of Toothless, who very well might be the last Night Fury left alive, Grimmel quickly sets his sights for Berk and aims to kill as many of the monsters as he can get his hands on.

Thing is, Toothless might not actually be the last Night Fury after all.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit: YouTube

A female Night Fury, one who’s covered in white scales and who can fly even faster than Toothless, comes soaring in out of nowhere. Toothless, of course, is instantly in love and wants to woo her, which then creates something of a divide between Hiccup and his dragon.

That all plays out in a way you might expect it to, which creates a real doozy of an emotional ending that’s totally going to blind sight audiences.

I mean, you’ll likely see it coming and all, but you’re still not going to be prepared for just how hard the ending of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World hits you. Even if you’re not all too invested in this franchise, you’re going to want to bring some tissues along with you just in case.

The rest of the movie surrounding that emotional gut punch of an ending isn’t bad, either.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit: YouTube

By far, the best thing about these How to Train Your Dragon movies has always been the animation. Dreamworks has captured that same level of reality in their backdrops that Pixar has where, at times, it looks like we’re looking at real photographs. Mix that in with a bunch of really colorful and creative dragons — which, at times, completely take over the screen in a breathtaking kind of way — and we have a likely Best Animated Feature nominee for 2019’s Oscars.

The best example of this within the movie is when the characters actually enter the hidden world. The bad news, however, is that this film only spends a good five minutes inside the hidden world before it’s attention darts elsewhere.

That’s really just to say that the story for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is one that’s pretty scattered and clichéd.

It borrows from other animated movies/franchises like The Lion King, Kung Fu Panda, The Iron Giant and several others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing except that How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World really doesn’t make any effort to stand out from the rest of those movies.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit:YouTube

Part of the problem, I think, is also the tone. The How to Train Your Dragon movies have always wanted to deal with more mature or emotionally complex material, as Hiccup himself is a very well-rounded character who’s hardened and adapts throughout the course of these three films. Yet, all too often, they’ll go for the slapstick route and undercut their serious moments some sort of gag from one of the supporting characters (most of whom I found to be annoying), which ultimately ruins the moment.

Grimmel is a pretty good example of this, too. At the start of the movie, he’s introduced as this really intimidating kind of threat who will kill a dragon with his bare hands just for the thrill of it in a Kraven the Hunter kind of way. By the halfway mark of the movie, however, he’s devolved into a jokey, dim-witted kind of villain who winds up be defeated by slipping on a banana peel.

Okay, not actually, but you get what I’m saying.

Yes, these movies are still for kids and naturally are going to include that kind of humor, it’s just a bummer when the film sets itself up to be something a bit more complicated but then doesn’t follow through. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did it, so why can’t How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World?

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
credit: YouTube

In the end, however, this is still a satisfying end to a trilogy that never really dipped below being anything less than good. Yes, as was the case for How to Train Your Dragon 2, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World isn’t all that memorable and doesn’t match the bar the first How to Train Your Dragon set, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. Enjoyable, fun and moving when it really wants to be, which is enough for me to give it an overall recommendation.

Watch the trailer for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!

'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' - Ah, Toothless [REVIEW]
  • 'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' - Ah, Toothless [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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