How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The third and supposedly final entry of this series,  How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors. With that being said, it’s still a solid family-friendly film that will definitely warm the heart at times while continuing to deliver one of the most loveable animal characters in recent movie memory. Still, for a franchise that I have nothing but fond memories for, this film took a while to pull me back into its world…and it left me wanting a little more.

The Hidden World doesn’t offer anything new, but is gorgeous and still has heart.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon best friend Toothless, who has become the alpha that all other dragons follow, have continued to free any captured dragons. While it’s great on the surface, Berk (not mem, but the Island that they all live on) has become overrun with dragons. Other Vikings have recruited Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a hunter who believed he had killed all the night furies, to help them get their own dragons back by getting rid of the new alpha. The overpopulation of dragons – along with this new enemy – pushes Hiccup to search for the Hidden World, a mythical place his father once told him the dragons came from.

Grimmel is probably one of the worst elements of the story. As a character, Grimmel is interesting, and he has his own brainwashed dragons that look like they’ve been crossed with scorpions. They’re really cool, and he is a strong adversary to Hiccup. However, he feels mostly generic and crammed into this film, as he is a new entry in what should feel like a cohesive end. Imagine if the Emperor had not to be introduced early in the Star Wars Trilogy. While he doesn’t show him up in the flesh until Return of the Jedi, he was an evil force that we’d always been aware of. Here, Grimmel should have been a figure that had always loomed in the background, or a friend-turned-foe when ideologies finally conflict. Instead, he represents the opposite of Hiccup’s views – but the film has to do so much to get its point across, that he just feels like another bad guy.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World spends significant time focusing on Toothless and his new love interest; a “light fury”, as she’ll be dubbed. She represents much for Toothless, with the biggest element being that he’s no longer the last of his species. He has to learn to fly solo – something he’s not been able to do in the franchise, as a result of the missing half of his tail. The dynamic between him and Hiccup also changes, and there is a duality in the story as Hiccup and Astrid’s (America Ferrera) relationship is looking to mature as they grow into their respective roles. Still, there is so much time dedicated to Toothless wooing his female counterpart that the movie gets a little awkward, and the cat-like sounds that the two dragons toss at each other aren’t exactly music to one’s ears.

I have some overall issues with a number of the characters, as well as a few of the choices pertaining to where the characters are with regard to their skills and maturity. The opening scene is a great example of where I don’t feel the characters are where they should be at this point in the story. Hiccup leads Astrid, Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple) on a stealth mission to free dragons trapped on a ship. We are soon told after this raid, that this group has found success on multiple occasions and the proof is all of the dragons currently living in Berk. However, the mission is disastrous, and while still a “success” as they do free the dragons, they bumble and stumble their way through it. To me, this performance conflicts with the evidence of success. At this point, it seems as though the teamwork theme is going to be a major story aspect – but it really never becomes developed. Hiccup shows off this cool fire sword in this scene, but he basically never does anything with it throughout the movie. In essence, it becomes a great metaphor for the movie itself. It looks great, but it doesn’t really do anything.

Final thoughts…

There isn’t anything truly wrong with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, but it just wasn’t the finale I was hoping for. I walked out feeling relatively happy, and that is mostly because I find it impossible not to love Toothless. However, this film could have been so much more, and I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with many of the choices. The Hidden World made us wait five years for this ending, and to me, it only earns A Decent Watch rating.

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