SP Review: 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' wraps up an amazing trilogy

Arts and culture reporter Brandon King gives 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' 9/10 stars

Dreamworks sometimes gets a bad reputation for being "Diet Pixar," and frankly, that's undeserved. While it has certainly had its share of lazily odd misfires over the years, Dreamworks has more consistently than not put out largely entertaining and unique animated properties. 

That point can be driven home with two of their franchises that, at first glance seem simple, but have evolved into giants of the genre: The Kung-Fu Panda series and the one we're talking about today, the How To Train Your Dragon series. 

After two Oscar-nominated films and a surprising eight seasons of the Dreamworks "Dragons: Rider of Berk" TV series, the film trilogy is supposedly at its conclusion with this third entry. I can simply say "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" really impressed me, thanks to a mix of stunning animation, intimate stakes, emotional payoff and a sense of folktale storytelling that brings the trilogy together. 

Picking up one year after the events of "How To Train Your Dragon 2," Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is now the chief of the viking home of Berk, and his dragon, Toothless, is the "Alpha" of the dragons.

Along with their circle of friends, they work to release dragons captured by poachers. As a result, their home has become increasingly overpopulated and exposed to the outside world. This includes Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), a dragon hunter obsessed with the Night Fury, Toothless's species.

After an attack by Grimmel, Hiccup decides the only way to save both his people and the dragons is to move somewhere new — more specifically, the ancestral homeland of the dragons, called The Hidden World, that Hiccup's late father, Stoic (voiced by Gerard Butler) was obsessed with finding. Things get more complicated when a female Night Fury dragon (affectionately named the "Light Fury" by Hiccup) appears, and Toothless begins to find independence. 

This film is much more intimate than I originally thought it would be. There are still big action sequences and dark implications, but the crux of this movie is in its relationships between the characters. The films have always explored the idea of letting go, even when it's difficult, and this theme is most distinct in this film. 

Hiccup and Toothless have grown in the years since the first film and have come to rely on each other. When their lives are pulled toward different responsibilities, we relate to that potential of losing things, both because we as an audience can relate to it and because we've seen their camaraderie grow. 

As the most love-focused movie in the series, both romantic relationships worked for me in different ways. Hiccup and Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) get time to develop their relationship and recognize that they've done more for each other than they realize. 

There's also the relationship between Toothless and the Light Fury, who both get a bit goofy and embody the "should we trust humans" cliche, but the film shows us fun the dynamic between the two.

The film is gorgeous, with a few scenes in particular that had my jaw on the floor. The combination of the colors and shapes the world presents, along with composer John Powell rounding out his trilogy of musical scores, give the world a sense of natural grandness. 

As difficult as it is, I will be fair and pick out some negatives. The film gives enough background so you won't be lost if you missed the other two, but certain elements and emotional beats may seem lost if you haven't been invested. 

I will also say that, while some of humor is very funny, the jokes seem to grow more prevalent in the middle of the film. I suppose you could contribute that to some messy pacing, but I saw it more as giving an effort to add some more levity to some truly dark times the characters face. That said, the film could afford to cut back on the jokes just a little bit. 

I shouldn't be surprised at how good this film is as the other two have set a high precedent. A pretty by-the-numbers concept suddenly feels at home in the conversation for best trilogies of all time, and no, I'm not exaggerating. 

"How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" feels like the ending of a childhood bedtime story: lessons learned, memorable characters and a sense of wonder and emotion to it. That may sound simple, but so did this series, and it has grown into something complex, engaging and unique, and hopefully the kinds of stories we revisit for years to come. 

Overall, I give "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" a rating of 9/10 stars.


Reach the reporter at brandon.D.King@asu.edu or follow @TheMovieKing45 on Twitter.

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