Hiccup and Toothless have had a massive success on screen since the first How To Train Your Dragon film launched 9 years ago to widespread audience acclaim, box office success and a critical darling. Since then we have had a sequel that was just as good, if not better than the first, it also spawned several Netflix TV series and catapulted the books back to create one of the biggest franchises for Dreamworks Animation.It’s been 5 years since the last film and while this may seem like a long time for a trilogy to be completed, the good news is that the filmmakers have taken their time to craft the crown jewel in this film, delivering one of the best finales in franchise history.
We are returned to the village of Berk, where Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now mayor and has created the perfect dragon paradise where residents and their dragon live side by side. It is as hilarious and chaotic as you can imagine. Creating the perfect balance between man and beast is proving to thrust Berk into the spotlight in the wider world, enter villainous Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham) who has killed every Night Fury apart from Hiccup. Hiccup and his friends Astrid (America Ferrera) Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) travel around freeing trapped dragons from bandits and come across Grimmel and his guardian dragons he controls with their own poison. Desperate to capture Toothless, he unleashes his Light Fury (the female version of a Night Fury) to distract Toothless to kill him and destroy the dragon utopia that Berk has become. After a few attacks on the village, Hiccup has to man up and decide to move the villagers on a quest with their dragons to find the Hidden World which is said to be at the end of the world. Legend tells about it being a place where dragons and humans can co-exist without interference from the outside world. Once Grimmel learns of their plans, an all out assault follows the residents of Berk as they race to find the hidden world and save their dragons.
The animation in this film is nothing short of perfect. Not only does the world of Berk and surrounds look amazing, but the dragons themselves have come in leaps and bounds since the last instalment. There are several breath taking flight scenes where you have to look twice as both the water and clouds look real. The characters themselves are so photo realistic you can see the huge advancement in animation at Dreamworks since their last film. The action scenes are intense and blend between thick and fast and then transition to smooth flying on the clouds and in the water. There are quite a few scenes at night, and in particular ones involving battle which are some of the best in recent memory. The animation on the Light Fury is phenomenal, the silver and shimmering scales provide a beautiful contract to the black smooth features on Toothless.
While the animation does stand out, the story is on par as equally spectacular. The attention to each character and their development since the last film (the TV series aren’t counted as continuation of this story) highlights the struggle that Hiccup faces trying to live up to his Dad’s expectations while being able to win the respect of the other villagers while also developing a romantic relationship with Astrid. Similarly Astrid is figuring out her place in the village and what she wants to do. The only character who seemed a little in the background was Valka (Cate Blanchett) particularly after having such an explosive introduction in the second film, it was odd to see her put on the back burner in this installment. However this is a very minor quibble in the perfect casting and story of the film.
The cast have revealed that they believe fans will be upset and happy with the satisfying finale, which is very true. It is a bold move to complete a trilogy closing all storylines to hinder any future installments with these characters. While I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, I was crying nay sobbing at the end of this and is a cinematic memory that will stay with me. Every character is given their moment, their closure and after all the journeys we have been on with Hiccup, Toothless and the town of Berk, it solidifies this installment as the perfect finale.
Finishing out a trilogy, particularly when it comes to family films is no easy task. Commendation has to be given to Dreamworks and Universal for taking their time to craft the perfect finale. How To Train Your Dragon : The Hidden World is a feat of animation and storytelling. Every character has their moment, every moment is maticulously detailed delivering the best film Dreamworks have made to date. Even if you have no history with this franchise or characters, you won’t feel out of place or lost with this movie. How To Train Your Dragon : The Hidden World is a masterpiece and needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It is our first movie review for 2019 and I am so happy to give it a full 5 stars.
How To Train Your Dragon : The Hidden World is in cinemas today.
Review by Alaisdair “Leithal” Leith