FILM REVIEW: "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" Gives the Audience a Memorable Farewell to the franchise
As I walked into the pre-screening for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World at Event Cinemas Innaloo, the walkway was lit up and decked out with images of all our favourite characters. It was a lovely way to set the mood for the film that would bring an end to this franchise. And, as I passed between cardboard cut-outs of Toothless and friends, I felt ready to once again dive into a world where Vikings and dragons live in harmony.
The cinema itself was filled with children experiencing some form of sugar rush (courtesy of the complimentary donuts and fairy floss outside). I could tell this wasn’t going to be a dull morning. And so, as the lights dimmed and the movie began, I took a deep breath…
How to Train Your Dragon has grown over the years. Not just the franchise, but the characters. Leading man, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is no longer the awkward, gangly youth striving to fit in; he has become a (sometimes) confident leader of his clan. Similarly, his teenage crush on Ingrid (America Ferrara) has grown into a true partnership, complete with the pressures of marriage. His friends, admittedly, are still a band of lovable idiots. But The Hidden World contains relatable themes of relationship pressures, sibling rivalry, and romance that will reach viewers of all ages. The aging of the characters is fitting, considering the audience has grown over the past 9 years. It feels good to see that they’ve grown with us (unlike everlasting animated phenomenon, The Simpsons).
The friendship between Hiccup and Toothless remains the focus of this film. And yet again, it’s one that will leave most viewers wishing they had the last ever Night Fury for a best friend. Ah, but is he REALLY the last ever Night Fury?
No spoilers: it’s all over the trailers and posters. Toothless has a love interest in this film; a pale doppelganger named the “Light Fury”. Their relationship is a source of conflict as Hiccup must adjust to his friend (and the town’s security guard) no longer being around 24/7. And to make matters worse, there’s a new bad guy in town (F. Murray Abraham) who has his sights set on Toothless. Looking for a way to keep all their dragon friends safe, Hiccup attempts to follow in his father’s (Gerard Butler) footsteps and find the ‘Hidden World’ of dragons.
The Hidden World continues to demonstrate how far CGI has come over the past decade. The opening scene includes a fight set in a misty area which, for a moment, I genuinely thought was real. Obviously this was before the dragons were on screen. But some grass and sand effects are improbably realistic, notably in one scene where Toothless tries to communicate his interest to the Light Fury on a beach. I’d love to see a side by side of this film with the first in order to compare the technical growth we’ve seen in this medium. As spectacular as the visuals are, however, they are sometimes undermined by the spectacle: the fight scenes are so frenetic that they’re hard to follow or appreciate. Which is a shame, because they seemed exciting.
When I wrote my review for Coco last year, I emphasized the hush that came over the children in the audience once the film started. This did not happen during The Hidden World. Instead, a general white-noise of chatter persisted in the crowd. And this makes sense: this film was no Coco. Does that mean that it isn’t a fun film? Not at all. Does it mean that I wouldn’t tear up like I frequently do during Pixar films? Definitely not. I certainly haven’t forgotten that gut punch that How to Train Your Dragon 2 gave me.
The Hidden World manages to perfectly execute the formula that made the previous two film such successes: dragons + friendship = fun and adventure. Five years after How to Train Your Dragon 2 and nine years after the original, this film carries the same hopeful tone aloft and gives its audience an ending that concludes the franchise without sacrificing any of the heart that made it so special.
3.5 out of 5 Hobgobblers