Starring (voice cast): Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler
Few franchises, animated or live-action, have seen the same growth as How To Train Your Dragon. It feels like the animated equivalent of Harry Potter – in almost a decade, we’ve seen Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) come of age right before our very eyes. He’s almost unrecognisable from the scrawny character first introduced, save for the distinctive sound of Baruchel’s timbre. The films have matured as he has, making How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World a rewarding experience for young children and longtime fans alike.
The series had established a formula by the end of the 2014 sequel, and it would’ve been easy for the grand finale to use collective nostalgia as a crutch. But The Hidden World departs from that comfortable routine, opening with a thrilling rescue mission lit only by shades of amber flames. The franchise isn’t afraid to take new risks, three films in – and it pays off tremendously.
Berk isn’t the same island it used to be. John Powell’s reliably majestic score brings us back to the viking haven. Hiccup has taken over as chief from his late father Stoick (Gerard Butler), and the village has blossomed into a full-blown dragon utopia under his leadership. The dragons are safe, but Hiccup’s operations have painted a target on his back for dragon slayer Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) who has wiped out every Night Fury except Hiccup’s beloved companion Toothless.
Toothless meets his match in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
But the villain takes a backseat to the real threat: the discovery of a Light Fury, a variation of Toothless’ species. The courtship between Toothless and the Light Fury plays out in a series of almost silent encounters, a fresh change of pace for a family-friendly genre that so often drowns in excess. We’ve rarely seen Toothless exist without Hiccup, and it’s this burgeoning romance that hits Hiccup with the frightening realisation that Toothless can live a life without him.
Director Dean DeBlois envisioned the series as a Star Wars-like trilogy, with a definitive ending that explains why dragons no longer live amongst us. In that respect, How To Train Your Dragon offers classic storytelling, so far removed from other episodic narratives that seem to stretch on with no end in sight. Bittersweet melancholy permeates the touching finale, with the tough lesson that we must eventually let go of what we love. ‘With love comes loss’, Stoick tells an infant Hiccup in a flashback. It seems fitting for the trilogy too.
The franchise has always maintained a careful balancing act: humour and levity paired with the kind of epic fantasy Tolkien would be proud of – and The Hidden World is no different. The titular world, a kaleidoscopic cavern washed in bright neon hues, is one of the most enchanting locations the series has conjured. Like its predecessors, The Hidden World is a visual treasure. Shadow and light dance with spellbinding realism, as the flicker of a single flame feels as tangible as a roaring dragon fire.
It’s tough to say goodbye to one of the greatest trilogies animation has to offer – but How To Train Your Dragon knows better than to overstay its welcome. This loveable series ends as it begins: soaring and flying high.
|What||How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World review|
01 Feb 19 – 01 Feb 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
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