Thursday, February 21, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

2010's How to Train Your Dragon was a fun film about an awkward Viking prince and his unexpected relationship with the most dangerous creature possible: a dragon. An enjoyable coming-of-age tale featuring dragons and Vikings and centered around the awkward relationships between a boy and his father and that same boy's relationship to his dog (errr... dragon), the movie spawned a sequel, which was even better than the original, and a television show. With How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Dean DeBlois returns to write and direct the final chapter to Hiccup's (Jay Baruchel) story (at least for now).

After stepping up for his fallen father at the end of How to Train Your Dragon 2, the third film in the franchise focuses on Hiccup growing into his leadership role while facing a new threat in a deadly dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) and Toothless' fascination with another dragon (both of which threaten the status quo of Berk which Hiccup has worked so hard to achieve). Believing it's the best way to save the dragons and his people, Hiccup leads the Vikings on a search for the mythical hidden world where dragons come from and possibly the only place the Vikings and their dragons can live in peace.

All the familiar faces return for one more go around as we see Hiccup's contemporaries starting to grow into their adult lives as well (while still bringing plenty of the childish quirks along for the ride). Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) gets an amusing sequence as the script finds a way to take advantage of the twin's annoyance to maximum effect. Snotlout's (Jonah Hill) crush on Hiccup's mother (Cate Blanchett), while offering a couple of fun jokes, isn't quite as effective. Astrid (America Ferrera) continues to provide Hiccup support when he needs it most, and kick some serious ass too, while the "Light Fury" offers new and strange challenges for Toothless to overcome. And Gerard Butler returns to reprise his role as Stoick in flashbacks which focus on the fond memories Hiccup has for this father.

There's no doubt the series peaked with the previous film. That said, there's still quite a bit to enjoy here as both Hiccup and Toothless begin thinking seriously about romance for the first time. Grimmel works as your standard mustache-twirling villain (without the mustache), but the real focus here is on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. I have no doubt the film would work fine as a standalone for those who haven't seen the previous two films (vikings riding dragons is odd, but it's a pretty simple concept to grasp), but as a culmination of the series the film is even more successful as Hiccup is forced to consider life without the dragon who helped him achieve his dreams. It may lack the emotional punch of How to Train Your Dragon 2, but How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a fitting end to the series which should please fans.

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