'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' (2019) Movie Review
The End of an Era
So here it is, finally after all of the complications and production hell that Dreamworks has gone through for the last few years, we finally get our conclusion to the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy after nine long years since its debut upon the world. Does it live up to the other two films? To start off, I’d like to say what I thought about the first two installments, both of which written and directed by Dean DeBlois who returns for the third movie as well.
I really love the first two How to Train Your Dragon flicks, it’s been five years though since I have last watched them, but I really did dig them quite a bit. Toothless the dragon is absolutely adorable and his chemistry with Hiccup is heartwarming. I thought the first two were some of the most perfect family movies as it balanced the “cutesy” elements along with mature themes very well. There are fantastic lifelong lessons to be learned, as well as plenty of entertainment to be had. They were funny, sweet, and emotionally powerful at times.
For anyone wondering though, I have not seen any of the television shows that have spun off from the films. I have only seen the theatrical releases of this franchise, nothing more. So I apologize if you are curious how these movies link together with the series, I haven’t the slightest idea. I haven’t seen a single episode of any of the shows. Anyone else that is curious about if I will be comparing this to the books, you may also drop those hopes because I haven’t read a page of those either. I know, I know. I’m a major disappointment, join the club along with my parents.
Now we have come to the third installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I liked it. I thought it was alright. I didn’t love it, but I thought that it was perfectly fine for children and even the whole family to have a decent enough time with. It has a satisfying conclusion, there were some suspenseful action sequences, the voice acting was all solid, and the animation was gorgeous. Overall though, there was always something that held me back from absolutely adoring it; the two biggest things that come to mind that hinder the movie are the comic relief characters and some of the unfocused nature of the narrative’s themes. I don’t think that this is a bad film, not at all. Like I said before though, it’s just fine. Compared to the other two movies, this is easily the weakest.
Some years have gone by since the events of the gang’s last cinematic adventure; Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has become the leader of Berk and overtime, Berk has become a place where the population now coexists with dragons. In a way, the dragons are the people’s personal companions. However, upon Hiccup’s last quest to free more dragons from imprisonment, they run across a new enemy named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) that has vowed to kill all of the Night Fury dragons like Toothless. Now there is a deadly rivalry between Grimmel and the people of Berk as he declares that he will take all of their dragons away. Resulting in the people coming to no other options than to flee to what is known as the “Hidden World” where dragons remain safe from the outside world. Along this journey, however, Toothless discovers that he is not the last of his kind as he meets a female of his species. Immediately falling in love with her and so he longs to woo her affections.
There is a lot to enjoy about The Hidden World, I really did have an enjoyable enough time at this. The story actually takes its time; with a lot of sequels they try too hard in ‘one-upping’ their predecessors so they go for bigger action set pieces to the point where the movie become too overblown. Luckily in the case for The Hidden World, it feels fairly natural and keeps the pace brisk yet leaving room for the audience to breathe. The action really is pretty cool to watch, even intense in certain sequences since this series has firmly established that anyone can die at any time. No one feels truly safe when the danger starts to ramp up, resulting in my heart pounding on an occasion or two. The animation is top-notch here, it really is. This is possibly Dreamworks’ best looking film with the character and creature animations, plus the all of the lighting effects that went into it, all look spectacular.
The best part of the whole film though, as it is the heart of all three of these movies, that being Hiccup and Toothless. Their relationship together has always been endearing, the arcs that they are going through this time around as they have to learn to grow up and not solely depend on one another to live as they may have to start their own families now is sweet and relatively emotional. Towards the end, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tear or two fighting their way out to the surface… you know… man tears of men. Manly men that cry tears of sheer adrenaline and… football. Yeah. I’m a b*tch, there’s no denying this as fact. So yeah, I was very much so invested in their personal stories going on. Toothless is simply adorable in this too, as usual. Toothless has always been adorable to me, but seeing him fawn over this Light Fury just melts my heart. It is ridiculously cute. Toothless and the Light Fury are simply a couple of giant cats that can fly and it’s awesome.
I’m going to get the obvious out of the way and I will admit that I understand this is not the strongest written antagonist ever created. I realize that Grimmel is a two-dimensional character with very little in the way of motivation, literally his only goal is to kill Night Furies because he doesn’t like them. That is far from being anything remotely complex or even all that interesting, I get it. I really do… I still liked the villain. I thought that the vocal performance given from Abraham combined with the character animation really boosted the entertainment value up on this guy. For me, this villain was quite a bit of fun to watch. You can tell that he truly relishes being an asshole. I personally had a good time and found him to be a decent baddie strictly on superficial reasons alone.
The Comic Relief
If memory serves me right, I remember the comic relief characters being alright in the first two movies. Even though it has been a very long time since I’ve seen those movies, I’m pretty sure that I got some laughs out of the supporting cast and I felt that they were written well enough along with what was going on narratively. In The Hidden World though, I couldn’t stand them. I actually found them all quite annoying. With the exception of Craig Ferguson as Gobber; I’m particularly meaning Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple, previously voiced by T.J. Miller). Every time they popped up in a scene, the pace dropped dead to me. I didn’t find them the least bit funny or enjoyable. Any sort of schtick that they had going on, I wasn’t having any of it. I wanted them all to get out from the movie so bad. Now it wasn’t to the terrible degree of the comic relief that can be found in 2013’s Epic. Now that completely destroyed the movie, in this case though it’s just simply an nuisance that would come about every now and again. At least The Hidden World allowed mood and tone to sink in for the most part, Epic would obliterate its own with a couple of annoying slugs that would swallow their eyeballs for no reason. Still, these characters really did drag things down and they were in the movie way more than they needed to be. If they were funny, that would be one thing, but they were relatively irritating so it somewhat killed the mood.
In terms of the other supporting characters, I feel like some were actually wasted a little bit because of how much screen time the comic reliefs ate up. Astrid (America Ferrera) comes out alright, but there could have been much more development between her and her romance with Hiccup. I do find them to be a cute couple and I root for them, but they really aren’t given a whole lot of time to share together. Same goes for anything with Hiccup’s mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett). For a character that was such a major point in the second movie, she barely has anything to do with what is going on here. There were times I legitimately forgot that she was even in the movie until she would randomly show back up twenty minutes later. So because the “funny” characters took up so much time that would have been way better utilized with Astrid or Valka instead, that really irritated me. Especially since this is clearly the conclusion of the film series. The movie does end on a note that wraps up everything in a tight bow for these characters, so it’s disappointing that there couldn’t have been more focus in the right places for their last venture on the big screen.
In the first act, it was rather unclear as to what the focus of the themes for this story were going to be. In some scenes it seemed like it wanted to focus on Hiccup learning how to be a strong leader for his people, other times it was how the younger characters needed to learn how to work together as a team, sometimes it was about Hiccup needing to learn how to function on his own without Toothless yet at the same time needed to learn how to rely on others, sometimes it was about love concurs all, and sometimes it was the comic reliefs making dumb jokes that fell flat. It was a bit on the messy side with its writing, after a while in the second act it became a little more focused, but it still remained relatively cluttered in what it was trying to say and where the story’s direction was supposed to lead.
The Movie is Fine, Just Not Great
Even with the problems I have with The Hidden World, it’s still perfectly fine entertainment that probably the whole family can sit down and have a good time with. There is plenty to keep the attention of the little ones while the grownups can sit down and probably not regret seeing it. Some of the supporting characters may annoy you, other than that it won’t be anything to ruin one’s evening either. The third act really does provide a fitting end for these characters that we have all grown to love and it does become somewhat emotional if you have invested yourself in the leads of Hiccup and Toothless in the last nine years. Out of the three movies, this is the weakest, but it is worth checking out at least once. Just so you can say that you’ve completed the trilogy I suppose. Take that for what it is worth and I hope that if you check it out that you enjoy!
That’s All Folks!
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, what did you think of the movie? Did you like or dislike my review? Agree or disagree? Wish someone would set me on fire? Comment down below and let me know! And if you so happened to enjoy my review, please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a fiery day! Well that sounds hellish…
© 2019 John Plocar