I’ve always been very vocal about my love of DreamWorks Animation, and their willingness to take chances on creative ideas that companies like Pixar would never consider doing. Films like Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda are bizarre concepts you’d think would fail miserably. Yet, both were highly praised and financially successful.
DreamWork’s release of How to Train Your Dragon in 2010 was, to me, their “play it safe” idea. Something fun and cute that didn’t stray away from past family movie formulas. That was the first movie. How to Train your Dragon 2 completely changed the game, when suddenly everything got a lot more adult and the plot started taking unexpected twists and turns. We saw wars, death, and a whole new group of characters to the mix.
The Hidden World is the delightful conclusion to this beloved trilogy, where we see Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) leading the people of Berk to new, unexplored territory. After new threats surface that challenge their peaceful dragon utopia, Hiccup and Toothless must search out a mythical hidden world for dragons. Upon this journey their destinies change forever when Toothless falls in love with a Light Fury, and Hiccup contemplates a potential life without Toothless. As our character’s priorities alter, they begin to learn what is most important and precious in life.
The Hidden World seemed to lack the storytelling prowess of How to Train Your Dragon 2. The second film was pretty ambitious in terms of ramping up the plot and keeping you at the edge of your seat, whereas The Hidden World tends to meander about more and is less focused. The Hidden World still ends on a positively strong note, albeit not as exciting or ambitious as its predecessor.
The main protagonists like Hiccup, Toothless, and Astrid all come full circle in terms of characterization and story arc. I’d be hard-pressed to find someone discontent with the direction these characters are taken and watching them develop throughout the flick is like a parent watching their children grow up.
Sadly, most of the side characters (particularly Gobber and Snotlout) seemed to stall out for the finale. The previous film saw everyone get more serious and change as characters, whereas in The Hidden World they seemed only to regress to the sole role of comedic fodder. They say some quippy lines here and there, but nothing impactful really happens to these individuals, which was a real shame. Heck, even the new characters introduced (like the new dastardly villain Grimmel and the female Light Fury) received a more well-rounded conclusion than those we started the series with.
It’s fascinating to watch DreamWork’s skill as an animation company unfold right before my eyes. There’s only a nine-year gap between the first How to Train Your Dragon and The Hidden World, and the level of artistry and competence continues to reach new heights. The attention to details in the animation is getting more finely tuned, and the beautiful landscapes continue to take my breath away. There’s one particularly mind-blowing shot of a gigantic waterfall that was so visually impressive and vivid that it could’ve easily been a video of a real waterfall, and I wouldn’t have known the difference.
Yes, this knack for innovation, moving forward, great writing, and trying new ideas is what makes DreamWorks and How to Train Your Dragon so wonderful. We’ve fallen in love with these characters, and now we get to say goodbye to them in a meaningful way. Fans of How to Train Your Dragon won’t be getting any major surprises this time around, but they’re sure to find the series conclusion to be heartwarming, satisfying, and well worth the wait.
The Verdict: B