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Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

February 22, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been nine years since the first How to Train Your Dragon came out and blew audiences away with its soaring visuals and emotionally resonant story. The film received a sequel in 2014 that took the story in an even deeper and darker direction, drastically raising the emotional stakes for its characters.

Now, nearly a decade later, DreamWorks Animation is completing the saga with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, which serves as an entertaining and touching end to the series from writer-director Dean DeBlois.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now the chief of Berk, and has turned the island into a utopia where humans and dragons live peacefully together, with the rare Night Fury Toothless remaining faithfully by his side as his closest companion.

When the creatures are threatened by a legendary dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who is determined to take down a Night Fury, Hiccup sets out on a journey to take them to the Hidden World that his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) used to tell him about as a child. Along the way, Toothless discovers that he is not actually the last of his kind when he meets a white female Night Fury – a “Light Fury” – and falls in love with her, forcing Hiccup to reevaluate his own relationship with the dragon.

The film opens with a big set-piece that finds Hiccup working with Astrid (America Ferrera), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), as well as his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), to rescue dragons from trappers and bring them back to the island. From here, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World hits the ground running to offer an action-packed end to the series, that also has a genuine emotional pull to it.

There are a lot of delightful character moments between Toothless and his new girlfriend, including a courting sequence that is both incredibly sweet and adorable. The animation is once again beautiful to look at, with the visually stunning scenery providing breathtaking backdrops to the action. Composer John Powell provides another lovely musical score, building upon his unforgettable theme from the first film, and bringing it back in at key points in a way that really ups the emotional impact.

While How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World lacks some of the thematic weight of the second chapter, which remains the darkest film in the series, it’s still a thoroughly satisfying and often touching end to this saga. Similar to Toy Story 3, this is very much a film about moving on and learning to let go, with Hiccup needing to give Toothless more independence and learn how to survive without him. This allows for moments that nicely mirror elements of the first film.

DeBlois has done something wholly impressive with the How to Train Your Dragon series in terms of world-building and grand scale storytelling. Every film in this series feels like its own chapter in a much larger story, with them all complimenting each other quite nicely. Together they add up to an enthralling and emotionally resonant animated trilogy with a compelling story arc that builds over the course of the three films.

The finale of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World brings the series to an emotional and natural conclusion, culminating with a moving and bittersweet epilogue that is sure to tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has grown connected to these characters over the years.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is now playing in theatres across Canada.

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