Original plans included the return of Drago Bludvist, the second film’s antagonist. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)
With the completion of the franchise with “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the “How to Train Your Dragon” series can take its rightful place among other great film trilogies, such as the original “Star Wars” films and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.”
One year after the events of “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” a new enemy threatens Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Berk, forcing them to flee from harm’s way in search of a new home: the hidden dragon world.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is the weakest of the trilogy, but that is meant as more of a compliment to the first two films than it is as an insult to this film. The story is a little bit weaker this time around and there are some minor issues here and there, but it is an overall fantastic and sufficient end to an underrated and magnificent trilogy.
The first thing that must be complimented is the animation. DreamWorks’ animation has come a long way since the first “How to Train Your Dragon” from 2010, and it definitely shows. The animation team takes full advantage of the skills and abilities they now have at their disposal, resulting in a beautifully animated film with a lot of impressive visuals.
Now, good aesthetics are essentially meaningless if there is not a good story to base them around. While “How to Train Your Dragon 3” has the weakest story in the trilogy, that in no way means it is bad. It has its own unique story to tell, it has some strong character arcs and it brings about a satisfying conclusion to the series.
The weak aspects are few, but they do stand out. There is a part in the movie where one of the main characters ends up getting captured by the new villain (F. Murray Abraham), and it feels like it was done just to keep the plot going. Alongside this, the start of the third act feels like a repeat of what happened in “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
Putting that aside, the rest of the story works quite well. There are several character arcs juggled in a movie that is ultimately about growth and change, and each arc is given the perfect amount of screen time and works to develop the characters further. When these arcs reach their conclusion, everything ends appropriately and satisfactory. In all honesty, the last five minutes of the movie could not be any more perfect.
The most prominent story arcs in “How to Train Your Dragon 3” are the relationships, and these are handled superbly. The two relationships that are focused on are that of Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera), and Toothless and another dragon called a Light Fury. After two films of build-up, it is nice to get to see Hiccup and Astrid’s dynamic as a couple more fleshed out, and they play off each other very well. Toothless and the Light Fury’s relationship is also wonderful and cute, and it is extra creative since neither can talk so it has to all be done visually. It is on par with the romantic relationship between Wall-E and Eve from Pixar’s “Wall-E” in terms of quality.
The chemistry between Hiccup and Astrid is strong thanks not only to the writing and fantastic understanding of these characters, but also because of the voice acting. Everyone in this movie is great in their role, especially Baruchel and Ferrera. Another standout is Justin Rupple, who replaced T.J. Miller as the male twin, Tuffnut, in this film, and it is hard to tell the difference between the two.
While “How to Train Your Dragon 3” succeeds as a film, the question that remains is if it succeeds as a family film. The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. A good family film has to appeal to every age range, and this movie does this to a stellar degree. Younger audiences will enjoy the action, adventure and humor while older audiences can appreciate the deeper themes that add so much weight to these other elements and find personal connections with the characters.
When the most glaring issue about a film is that the title does not necessarily work because no dragons were actually trained in the film, that is a good sign.
Final Grade: A