'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' a heartwarming farewell

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 4:57 PM

Based on the novel series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” turned out to be another thrilling addition to the trilogy and a pleasant conclusion to a franchise started almost a decade ago. Again, we follow Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), his dragon Toothless and the comical characters from their village. The film takes place roughly a year after the events of the second film, in which Hiccup discovers his mother is still alive, Toothless becomes the dragon alpha and Hiccup becomes chief of his village.

We’re treated to a whimsical opening where Hiccup and the supporting cast from the last two features do what they do best, rescue dragons. Hilarity ensues when what begins as a stealth mission takes a drastic turn, and the characters somehow manage to accomplish their goal and fail at the same time. When they return to their home of Berk, we learn just how much they have come to rely on dragons in the short amount of time since they were dragon hunters.

F. Murray Abraham voices the villainous Grimmel the Grisly, a down-to-earth antagonist in this fantastical world. There is no larger-than-life plan for this bad guy. His specialty is killing dragons, and he has his eyes set on Toothless and the rest of the dragons that live in the viking village of Berk. A breath of fresh air in a fantasy movie, Grimmel provides the cover for the real story hiding beneath the action.

Grimmel introduces another dragon to our narrative, a female, and of course, our dragon hero must fall in love with her. Toothless spends most of the film separated from Hiccup in his own adventure with his female companion. Meanwhile, Hiccup tries to overcome obstacle after obstacle in his attempts to save both the dragons and humans from the villain. His struggle to locate the hidden dragon world and bring his people there really hits the character hard. Between “The Hidden World” and the original “How to Train Your Dragon,” six years have passed, and our heroes have not particularly developed.

That’s where the central theme of the film comes from. We’re not watching a simple, good overcomes evil plot unfold before us, instead we’re seeing two characters struggle to develop into their own by themselves.

“You’re nothing without your dragon,” Grimmel says to Hiccup at one moment in the story. This line captures the journey our hero takes.
Hiccup spends the majority of the film trying to prove Grimmel wrong, attempting to foil his plans while protecting Toothless and his home, developing into the leader his people know he can be. Though his first few endeavors end up playing right into Grimmel’s hands, ultimately it’s the connection the two heroes (Hiccup and Toothless) share that ends up being important.

The conclusion is a heartwarming farewell to the franchise for the fans who grew up watching the series on the big and small screens, while offering hope to the younger crowd of more to come. Unfortunately, for those looking for more, at least on the silver screen, director Dean DeBlois has been adamant that “The Hidden World” will be the end to the story. And what a wonderful ending it is.

“The Hidden World” is an excellent piece of cinema and a clear must-see for fans of the franchise. There are some questionable creative liberties taken with the film that seem hit and miss. Throughout the movie, we’re presented flashbacks that give fantastic backstory to our hero Hiccup and his late father, though they seem very convenient and out of character for the latter.

The hidden dragon world itself is alluded to dozens of times by the story, but is only shown for a handful of minutes. A magnificent spectacle while on screen, it establishes the mythical nature of the location. We’re shown something that humans in this world aren’t supposed to witness, escorted out just as quick as the characters never to return.

The animation and special effects are astounding — a visual feast for the eyes. There’s plenty of humor and wit that allows even the most skeptical to have a good time in the theater.

Jason Hurst | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

Tags: movie review

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