An animated film with a lengthy name with a word ‘dragon’ in it. Still, not that attention-capturing, isn’t it? Unless, if it’s a live action dragon movie, then, perhaps the film would be raved long before it’s release. Nonetheless, if you’re already a fan of the “How to Train Your Dragon” film series, then, there’s something exiting about the release of the final film. Which, irregardless of your age, it’s in my thoughts that you should be.
To those who are new to this animated film series, The Hidden World is the third and final installment of the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy. It started with the first film in 2010, where Vikings and dragons still couldn’t see eye-to-eye, until a young Viking, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) bumped into a mysterious and elusive dragon breed nicknamed the Night Fury. He kept the dragon as a secret pet to ensure that his father, Viking Chieftain Stoick (Gerard Butler) wouldn’t kill the dragon and make a black blanket out of its skin. And to avoid the dragon from breathing fire at Stoick and turn him into a giant roasted Viking, too. By the way, Hiccup named the dragon Toothless.
After a series of events, the Vikings at Berk could then share their space and live together with their ex-arch enemies. That was where the first film left the plot, until the second installment emerged in 2014. In How To Train Your Dragon 2, the story revolves around how Toothless rise up to become an alpha of the dragons. In a series of unfortunate (and fortunate) mishaps, Hiccup lost his beloved father, but was reunited with his long lost mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett). Hence, you won’t see Stoick in The Hidden World anymore, other than in a string of flashbacks.
In The Hidden World, Berk has now evolved into a full blown dragon sanctuary, with the Vikings quickly running out of living space to accommodate for the freshly rescued dragons. Hiccup, now the new Chieftain of Berk, views the increased number of dragons to be a vulnerability, but I view that as an advantage. Who wouldn’t want an endless army of dragons under Toothless’ command?
Anyway, Hiccup is determined to find a way so that humans and dragons can live together in perpetual peace, and the appearance of a new, powerful villain just makes his quest that much harder. Well, again, I view those as great opportunities for the crew behind the film to showcase their artistic crafts. Once again, the imagination and world building aspects are stretched far for this installment. Berk’s architecture looks vastly different now since the massive influx of dragons. The hidden world and the entrance to it are impressively visualized. There’s a lot more variety to the dragons featured throughout the story. And to pull-off dragon rescue ops against dragon poachers, Hiccup and his young Viking gang are now even more fused with the scaly creatures, featuring suits built from dragon scales. On top of that, he wields a burning sword, which draws so much similarity with his fire-breathing friends.
All those aspects really got me wondering, is the crew behind the film not just great filmmakers, but is a group of equally capable game-creators too? All the former touches to the movie hint ‘final chapter’ of a game. Advanced civilization, legendary armor and weapons. But it is not until the moment that Toothless gains his final ‘special ability’ that the idea above struck me in the head. Yes, Toothless definitely has ‘leveled up’ tremendously since the first movie.
And yet, from a gamer or a movie-goer’s perspective, the baddie certainly doesn’t look the part as the final villain in this last chapter of a story. Or game. If I have to be completely honest, the cartoon-ish villain might be the biggest factor that keeps on reminding you that you’re seeing an animated film, other than the overly juvenile dialogue scripts that can pop-up once in a while. Something along the line like, when disaster strikes, one of the characters has to comply with the childish routine and ask, “What we’re going to do now?”. Back to the villain, though The Hidden World tried to mould him to be the most cunning and dangerous antagonist that Berk has ever faced, none of that actually worked. Even with a fleet of savage dragons under his command, he is yawn-inducing at best, and I don’t even have to mention how far he is from being ‘terrorizing’.
It’s also fair to mention that before the climax, the narrative does get a little clumsy and nervous, with the villain gradually losing his edge, and all of his mysterious, secretly plotted, mastermind plans suddenly become a shameful case of Captain Obvious. And yes, even a film with a solid story progression like The Hidden World suffers from cinema sins exploitation once in a while. Why would any dragon coincidentally make a return in a dreaded time after being freed into a sanctuary is beyond me. The cinema sin strikes again during the climax, when dragons which are put into (unlocked) cages walk out effortlessly. Those were pretty hilarious to observe, but, at least to me, that didn’t put a dent into the whole movie experience nevertheless.
Overall, The Hidden World simply has so much more to offer to place itself as a fascinating film package. It is still an epic swashbuckling animated movie by large. It’s very Pirates of The Caribbean-ish, and packs a similar taste of enjoyment. Which is actually not a bad thing at all. I did not realize that I have been craving so much for such nature of fun, until I have seen The Hidden World. Perhaps there is a growing absence of swashbuckling action in recently released movies, and The Hidden World perfectly filled that void.
Though the characters are more grown up now, the young Viking’s tendency to generate loads of laughter is not left behind. There are still plenty of hilarious moments in Berk, which similarly made the first two films humor-filled rides at the first place. Though what I can say now is, it got even more hilarious by a huge margin thanks to the character development of Hiccup’s friends, where each of them gained deeper personalities and habits that either tickle you or annoy you immensely. And scenes like when Night Fury meets Light Fury, present a huge opportunity for the film to amp up the tickling even more. Sometimes, Toothless’ silly gestures are simply enough to make the audience laugh.
Apart from that, what makes the script even better is the addition of somber, nostalgic moments to contrast greatly with the comedic drills. With that, I am referring mainly to Hiccup’s flashbacks of the past with his father, Stoick. It’s a neat touch and adds emotional detours within the story’s timeline.
Having said that, the award of the most emotive scenes still goes to the ones that unfold after the climax. It is by far the most soul-provoking, sincere and unpretentious closure I’ve ever seen in an animated film. It’s deeply touching where it needs to be, sprinkled with a surprising follow-up in the end. Definitely far, far away from a generic hook-up closure which shouts “stay tuned for more coming movies, we are coming after your pockets”. The latter is unfortunately rampant in movies nowadays. Even if (a big IF) How to Train Your Dragon is to release a new installment in the future, I won’t be, at the slightest degree, feel offended. Instead, I will be delighted to subscribe.
Addict Verdict, AV:
As always, in line with the animated franchise that never disappoints, The Hidden World is a deserving closure to How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. The presence of an uninspiring villain and some juvenile dialogues hardly scratched the great foundation established by the film, thriving on a great story, amusing characters and stunning world building. It is an animated film on steroids worth your watch, even if you have not touched the first two films. And yes, here is where the Vikings and dragons are sealed as legends which will always be remembered, as with the film trilogy.–The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict