Review: How to Train Your Dragon – The Hidden World (Plot Spoiler Free)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • Premise - 90%
  • Plot - 60%
  • Cast (Voice Actors/Actresses) - 80%
  • Audio - 100%
  • Visuals - 90%

Fly on Your Own

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is nothing like its predecessors. It starts differently. It’s paced differently. The lead role has changed. And it isn’t starting or continuing a story, it’s ending one. It’s a fitting way to bid farewell to the franchise.

Right from the outset, How to Train Your Dragon 3 is different to its predecessors: for one it has a subtitle, The Hidden World. But a few other things are markedly different.

The first two films in the franchise feature Toothless, in some way or another, during the DreamWorks logo animation right at the start of the film; be it flying around the back, as with the first film; or flying past over the water on which the logo is reflecting, only for the shot to then fade to daylight and pan upwards for a view of Berk. This one has no such scene.

A third noticeable difference is the lack of an immediate intro from Hiccup. At the start of each of the first two films, Hiccup gives us narration that sounds almost like he is trying to convince the audience to move to Berk. The third film doesn’t start this way.

It starts with a raid…

Hiccup and the gang are rescuing a few dragons from some dragon trappers. It seems like they have a whole routine planned out, almost as if for theatric effect, to get the point across to the trappers that the dragons on and around Berk are protected. Of course, when you have teammates like Snotlout, Ruffnut and Tuffnut, things don’t always go according to plan. Only after this, while taking these newly rescued dragons back to Berk, do we get Hiccup’s opening sales pitch.

The change in intro should tell you one key thing – this film is not like its predecessors.

Something I mentioned in my first impressions video on my Instagram story (here is me plugging my Instagram) is the pace of this film, which I’m honestly still not sure of. The film doesn’t really have major pacing issues, the only one anyone really seemed to complain about was the somewhat odd pacing for the second half of the film.

The overall themes in this movie are also different. The franchise grew up with its audience (much like Harry Potter), and the themes have become rather mature. This makes for an odd combination with the humour – the only real problem that I had with the movie. While the characters may be in their early to mid-twenties, they retain their childlike humour. It makes sense considering the wide target audience, but for the older viewer, it feels forced. To add to that, one of the best jokes in the movie was spoiled in the trailers, and didn’t really hold much comedic weight after seeing it for the how many-eth time, even though I was seeing it on the big screen for the first time.

The lead in this sequel has also shifted slightly. While Hiccup and Astrid remain important protagonists, the actual lead is Toothless – this is his story, encapsulated by an extended, dialogue-free scene featuring him interacting with the Light Fury (who has yet to be given an actual name of any sort, from either the directors or the Internet). Running alongside this are a couple of contrasting subplots: one is a running joke featuring Snotlout and the other is actually a rather serious one which receives a resolution that could, unfortunately, be seen from a mile away.

Then we have the villain, Grimmel. Who’s name I honestly thought was ‘Grimlow’ until about halfway through the movie. If Drago was the ‘I want to take over the world’ villain, Grimmel is the ‘I kill simply because I find it fun’ villain. While there were attempts to get us to sympathise with Drago, revealing to us that he lost an arm to a dragon long ago, there is no such element with Grimmel.

Sidenote: Thinking about it after writing the above paragraph, his belief that humans and dragons cannot coexist peacefully might just be a hint at his past. Maybe he tried what Hiccup and the Berkians are doing with their dragons? Maybe it didn’t work out? If that’s the case, did he lose someone he loved to a dragon? It would be the perfect motivation.

When you ignore , the subplots, the villain, the protagonists and the lead… you’re left with two things. An amazing soundtrack and some absolutely fantastic animation.

We still hear some familiar musical pieces from the first film and even a few from the second, seemingly (could be wrong though, might just be me hearing something; although I’m not the only person to notice music from the first film in The Hidden World, so I know I’m at least half right). The soundtrack is stellar – I didn’t really think it could get any better, but it just keeps doing so. ‘Fly On Your Own’? The name of the song appeared in the trailer as a sort of cue for what the story would entail – and it really is just that, a hint at the story to come; I can’t really say more than that.

Then there are the stunning visuals. The overall art style has had a few tweaks here and there, but the actual animation – how characters and dragons move around their environment, the look of the environment, everything from the scales of a dragon to the grass on the ground, to the water, all the way over to the hair on the human character’s heads and faces – the animation somehow finds a way to continually look better, more crisp, and more realistic.

It starts differently. It’s paced differently. The lead role has changed. And it isn’t starting or continuing a story, it’s ending one.

While writing this review, on which I have now spent a little over an hour, I have been listening to the soundtrack of the first How to Train Your Dragon, and I have reached a track by the name of ‘Coming Back Around’, the piece used to end the first movie, with one of the most beautiful musical cues in the entire soundtrack. This one piece, to me, encapsulates the entirety of the series perfectly – along with the part of my childhood that it occupies.
This franchise saw me through some dark and painful times, often reminding me of my love of dragons (which won’t be going away any time soon) and why I loved them to begin with. For quite a time this franchise was the brightest light I had, and now that it has ended, I realise that the main theme of the third film is , I think I’ve learned to ‘fly on my own’ but I guess we’ll see in time.

A fitting way to end the franchise. Three films, just over one hundred episodes spread over two and one very emotional payoff.

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