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Review: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Posted on 3rd February, 2019 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. A bittersweet tale that keeps Toothless, Hiccup and the gang soaring high!
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World manages to deliver a strong and satisfying finale to one of the greatest animated trilogies of all time.
This… is Berk!
Based on the children’s book series by Cressida Cowell, the first movie instalment in the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy is my personal favourite. Not just out of the HTTYD trio, but out of all animated movies I’ve ever seen – and yes, that includes Toy Story!
As my son (a.k.a the GoneFullGeek apprentice) and I walked home along the snowy streets, we talked about our favourite moments and discussed where this entry ranked against the other two.
So, strap in and hold tight, as we swoop down into the depths of the unknown and unearth everything How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World has to offer…
Review: Rundown & Verdict
To find a film predominantly aimed at children that doesn’t pander to utter stupidity and vulgarity is quite refreshing in today’s Hollywood.
With the exception of the mouse house (Disney), the vast majority of kids movies are shallow, and usually resort to loud and annoying voice actors doing appalling impersonations.
Beloved characters – I’m look at you James Cordon and the awful Peter Rabbit movie – where a lack of respect or understanding for the source material is shown.
Thankfully, DreamWorks hit the ground running with their interpretation of the source material.
Although there are elements from the books that remain, there was quite a lot changed for the movies – and all for the better!
Gone is the gross necessity to make the Viking boys belch and pass wind like in the books, and instead they become likeable characters, yet still keep their main traits.
Given the main star of the books is Toothless, DreamWorks and the creative team responsible for bringing How To Train Your Dragon to the big-screen took a HUGE risk with the character.
Gone was the tiny, nasty and vindictive Toothless of the books – that Hiccup couldn’t ride; as he was more akin to the tiny Terrible Terror, rather than the sleek and sweet Night Fury.
In fact, there’s a scene in the first movie that I am certain is there as a subtle way of saying goodbye to the old, here is the new Toothless – to stay:
Thankfully, this decision to stray from the books, losing the vulgar habits and upgrading Toothless was a master stroke of pure genius.
As a result, three films later, several TV series, a handful of animated shorts, video games (although all a bit meh!) and a ton of merchandise – the move really paid off.
So, does this final entry in the trilogy meet this fan’s high expectations?
Although I will try and avoid specifics, be warned; there may be slight SPOILERS ahead!
Still here? Great! Let’s dive in.
A new threat sails along the horizon for Hiccup, Astrid and the gang. A threat not only to the families of the small Viking island of Berk.
You know the one: “Twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It’s located solidly on the Meridian of Misery.”
An armada of pain and danger about to turn the tide on Hiccup and his beloved family and dragons.
This threat comes in the form of Grimmel the Grisly, a tyrant hired to capture Toothless – the last Night Fury – but Grimmel has other plans.
Add into the mix the discovery of another Night Fury?… Bright Fury?… no, Light Fury! and there is a lot for Hiccup and gang to contend with.
I won’t delve any further into the story elements, suffice it to say that The Hidden World gives Hiccup an ultimatum. This brings a real fresh maturity to the character and the storytelling, keeping the series flying high.
All the old gang return, from Jay Baruchel (as Hiccup) and Cate Blanchett (Hiccup‘s mum) and the beloved Gobber the Belch (voiced to hilarious perfection by Craig Ferguson); to Hiccup‘s love interest Astrid (America Ferrera), the arrogant Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and the villainous newcomer; Grimmel the Grisly (voiced by F. Murray Abraham).
As expected, the voice acting is on point, with all the old favourites coming back in their respective roles.
Although the gang; Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout and the twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut are all present and get bits of screen time throughout the movie, they do take much more of a supporting role. After all, this is very much Hiccup and Toothless‘ story.
The film doesn’t lack because of this though, as they’re not absent. If anything, this helps cement the more mature nature of the story and the seriousness Hiccup has to face.
The danger our lovable Berkians face comes in the form of the dragon hunting/killing villain; Grimmel, brought to life with venom by the fantastic F. Murray Abraham.
Although his character wasn’t the main focal point I was expecting, the scenes he features in are all the better for it – as he never outstays his welcome. A good villain worthy of the nickname… the Grisly.
But, Hiccup and Toothless aside, my all time favourite character across all three movies has to be Gobber.
Brought to life by Craig Ferguson, Gobber the Belch always brings a great dollop of humour, even to the tensest of situations.
As expected, this is a children’s fantasy series, and as a result there are a lot of fantastical moments that evoke pure wonder and provide that perfect gateway for escapism.
But in addition to that, there are many sad and heartfelt moments too. That’s not to say that the first two movies weren’t emotionally engaging – because they were!
It’s just that How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World has a much more grown-up story to tell. A story where a young boy turned Viking leader has to make the decisions that his father would have once had to make.
These decisions are difficult to make and leave Hiccup with little choice. Risk everyone he loves, or give up his best friend and – what he feels – is his one true purpose in life; Toothless and the dragons.
As Hiccup reflects on his past to steer his future, it becomes clear that his father – Stoick the Vast – had faced many difficult decisions himself. As well as suffering from losing his wife (or so he thought) to a dragon; he also had to raise his boy without his mother. His father was a broken man in many ways, clouded by sadness and also needing direction.
Much like it’s two predecessors, the third entry in the How To Train Your Dragon series shines it’s brightest in the visuals department.
As expected when you reach new heights, it’s breathtaking – as are the visuals here.
From the opening scenes – which includes my favourite scene from the trailer – encapsulating how truly badass Hiccup and Toothless are as a duo…
…to the beautiful colours and gentle wonder of The Hidden World itself, HTTYD3 never disappoints.
Returning franchise director Dean DeBlois and the creative team behind this final chapter in Hiccup‘s journey really deserve a standing-ovation.
The action on-screen is as engaging as ever before. From flights through electrifying storm clouds, to battles across the ocean and beyond. Watching this movie is a true feast for the eyes.
Lastly, there are the scenes that pay homage or mimic those from the first film. The characters – CGI models – manage to show a real emotional depth and make you truly feel for their predicament. Enough so to even make the audience collect teardrops within their eyes – well, I did at least.
If this movie doesn’t emotionally engage you to the point of tears, then you are either a cyborg that lacks the ability to cry, or you are an emotionless monster!
Having returned home from the cinema, myself and my son sat listening to the How To Train Your Dragon score on Spotify. Oh, our podcast series can be found there too.
As we listened to the epic score, it was immediately obvious how much emotion and audience engagement is achieved through the music alone.
John Powell returns once again as composer for the third and final entry in the series; having worked on the first two instalments previously.
Mr Powell has provided superb musical scores for many films of various genres. Everything from Face/Off and The Bourne Ultimatum to Kung Fu Panda and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Now the music is as emotionally engaging as ever, complimenting each scene to pure perfection. From the wonders of The Hidden World itself, to the more melancholy approach of the storytelling itself; the music provides a strong foundation on which each scene and overall story rests upon.
Although there are plenty of tense and action-packed moments where the soundtrack really gets to let loose, there are also the soft and gentle moments between Toothless and the mystery vixen Light Fury.
As a result, I feel that the soundtrack for How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the; not weakest, but gentlest of the trilogy.
That said, the musical moments that worked best for me, were where the third instalment revisits scenes from the original movie, with the score subtly calling back to the very first soundtrack.
Not only did I get goosebumps on several occasions, but with what I was seeing on-screen combined with the music; I’m not ashamed to say that I was a little teary-eyed on more than one occasion.
It’s Time To Say Goodbye. Dry Your Eyes…
Although it doesn’t take the trilogy to new heights, the wings glide strong in this third and final instalment. This third outing takes Hiccup and Toothless‘ story soaring gently into the sunset.
A heartfelt take on a tale of a young man and his dragon; with a bittersweet ending that will emotionally engage audiences both young and old.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a must-see movie for all the family; so what are you waiting for?! Grab your popcorn and get to the cinema.
For me, the first movie is still the best, with the second and third movies coming-in 2nd and 3rd place; respectively.
But that said, they are all so very close together in terms of quality, storytelling and pure enjoyment; that the placement is purely to suit my habit of having to rank things.
After all, the journey Hiccup, Toothless and co. take is one much bigger story, simply told across three separate movies.
If you haven’t seen any of the How To Train Your Dragon movies, then I strongly urge you to add these to your list.
These aren’t just perfect family films, these are films perfect for all audiences, young and old. You don’t need to have a child to justify watching these movies. They are a pure joy and I promise will end up on your “most favourite” list too.
Podcast: Listen in as we Predict the Movie Tops & Flops of 2019
Do you love How To Train Your Dragon as much as I do? Have you seen The Hidden World?
Drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the third instalment. Do you think it’s a fitting end to a tale well-told, or would you like to see a fourth? Let me know…
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