“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
Release date: February 21, 2019
Runtime: 104 mins
Directed by: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is the finale to DreamWorks Animation’s trilogy of the same name. It was almost nine years ago that the first film was released to praise from critics, audiences and nearly half a billion dollars worldwide. The sequel, released five years later, accomplished all of those things and more.
Despite this track record, I was not entirely convinced DreamWorks would pull through with a third installment capable of reaching the heights of the last two films. They completely choked the last, and only other time, they were in a similar position. Since this resulted in the abomination that is “Shrek the Third,” I kept my expectations low as I stepped into the theater and walked to my seat.
I soon realized I had nothing to worry about. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is just as good as the first film and a little better than the second.
This has to be the most beautiful animated film I have ever seen. The sandy beaches, clear blue skies, menacing armadas upon moonlit seas and dense green woods are insanely realistic and visually astonishing. This is not to mention the sequences for which this series is most well-known: the airborne dragon-riding scenes. Taking full advantage of the technological improvements made in the four years since “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was released, these scenes, and everything else for that matter, look better than ever before.
The dragons, which are the main attraction in this series, are just as cute, charming and well-designed as ever. The attention to detail on their scales and varying personalities is endlessly impressive. There were several moments in the film when I could tell the animators had spent hours upon hours observing the movements of certain animals and implementing those movements naturally into the movements of the dragons.
The characters, dragons and even buildings, which make up the Viking land of Berk, look and feel like they have grown and evolved over the four years since the last movie. This development is completely believable and creative. An early example is found in the way society and the characters have adapted in a way to accommodate the dragons, which are now an integral aspect of both.
World-building is not limited to the period between films, however. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” follows in the footsteps of all good sequels and builds further upon what came before. We get to learn more about where dragons come from, and we are also introduced to the world’s remaining dragon hunters. Perhaps the largest addition, though, is the introduction of a female Night Fury, a rare species of dragon, who acts as the romantic interest for Toothless, our main character’s loyal dragon friend. All of these additions and changes feel necessary and natural to this story and the world in which it takes place.
The final arc of our main character Hiccup does a great job of building things toward a place where they can end in a satisfactory manner. The themes of love and leadership, which are thoughtfully incorporated into multiple areas of the story and handled in a mature fashion, do this as well. Hiccup completes his hero’s journey and has grown from the timid outcast he was in the first film. Yet, in a way, the series ends almost exactly as it began. Not in a tired and repetitive fashion, but an intentional, mirroring way.
The score to the first “How to Train Your Dragon” film is my favorite film score of all time. Not only does some of that excellent music return at points in this film, but the new music composed especially for “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” enhances the feeling of adventure flawlessly.
There are several moments in the story at which I felt characters unnecessarily stopped and basically told the audience what was happening. It is a family film, and I understand children may have a difficult time following longer stories. However, I believe the film should have been more confident in itself and the intelligence of children by leaving these moments out. It does not happen often and when it does, it can be easily forgiven, but it was rather irritating for this story. There are prolonged scenes in this movie of dragons interacting without any dialogue, and none of the multiple children in the audience got bored and started making noise. They were able to understand what was going on here, and I am fairly certain they were more than capable of understanding what was going on in these other moments as well.
I had a smile on my face throughout a majority of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” If you go into it without having seen the previous films, I am confident you will still enjoy it, but maybe not as much as someone who has. With this film capping it off, the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy stands as one of the only consistently great trilogies in film history. It joins the likes of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Before” trilogies among the few who can confidently make that claim.
Drew Eckhart is a sophomore history and pre-law major from Edmond, OK. He has loved movies for as long as he can remember but thinks his passion really began when he watched “The Dark Knight” for the first time in theaters. His favorite type of movie blends comedy and drama seamlessly, and he loves great action films. In Drew’s free time, he enjoys reading and playing video games, as well as watching TV and movies. His favorite TV show is “BoJack Horseman” and his favorite movie is “Whiplash.”