“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is an unfitting title for the final film in Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon series. Instead, the title should be ‘How to Perfectly Conclude a Franchise,’ as that’s what the film does. The animated film encompases everything remarkable from the previous two films, while also exploring new ideas which propel the children’s tale into a new level of maturity.
In this installment, young viking warrior Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, rules alongside his pet dragon Toothless in the village of Berk where vikings and dragons coexist in harmony. When their home is threatened by dragon hunter Grimmel, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, Hiccup must lead his village to safety in the Hidden World, where dragons are rumored to have originated.
Hiccup’s entire character arc throughout the franchise is similar to that of Luke Skywalker’s from the original Star Wars Trilogy. He begins as an inexperienced youth who, over the course of time, comes into his own and becomes a leader people put their faith in.
The focus of the film is on detailing the friendship between Hiccup and Toothless as they find their destinies. Any interaction between the two is brilliant, especially considering how much emotion is expressed with minimal dialogue.
Other characters add color to the film and even deliver touching subject matter. Despite being deceased, Hiccup’s father Stoick, voiced by Gerard Butler, appears throughout the film via flashback to help Hiccup be a leader among his people. The flashbacks provide insight into Hiccup’s strong sense of character.
Hiccup’s girlfriend Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera, also proves to be essential by helping Hiccup realize who he is without his dragon. The two share great chemistry, both romantically and as fearsome warriors.
The most impressive aspect of the film is the animation. All three films of this series contain spectacular sequences of flight that make the viewer feel like they are part of the experience. The animation of every creature and human is especially lifelike; the animators captured every detail, even the almost clear vellus hairs on a person’s face or the moist scales of reptilian beasts.
Despite looking realistic, the characters are still very much animated, as opposed to films shot in motion capture such as 2004’s “The Polar Express,” whose characters look so human, it can be off-putting.
The best way to tell a good animated film from a bad one is how it addresses serious topics. This film’s narrative contains themes of moving on from adolescence into adulthood, something that, if done well, needs to be introduced to children. The film’s theme never feels the need to talk down to the audience but instead carefully explains the point with heart-to-heart conversations that can bring a tear to the eye. The film’s ending is one of both loss and growth and is sure to make any viewer feel complete by the time the credits roll across the silver screen.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is perfect for both casual viewers and loving fans. There have been great stories about children and pets but none as delightfully strange as the one about a boy and his fire-breathing dragon.