It feels like a small miracle that Dreamworks Animation, purveyors of such ‘classics’ as Shrek the Third and the Penguins of Madagascar, has produced one of the finest film trilogies of all time, but the How to Train Your Dragon series is proof it happened. The first film, released in 2010, took CGI flying sequences to an entirely new level. Its sequel, released in 2014, built on the bond between boy and dragon, taking daring story risks along the way. The bold conclusion to this series has finally arrived, five years later, totally worth the wait.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a fitting end to the Dragon saga, landing every emotional beat in the relationship between young Viking Hiccup and his flying best friend, Toothless.The visuals remain stunning, with several sequences that could just be the animators showing off. Though it never gets as dark as its predecessor, the story is urgent and suits what is mean to be the grand finale.
A year after the events of the second chapter, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is growing more comfortable in his role as the chief of Berk, but not everything is going his way. The dragon situation on the island is growing untenable, his family and friends are pressuring him to marry his longtime girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera), and Toothless may have been enchanted by a white Night Fury, aka the Light Fury. Plus, a dangerous man known as Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is looking hunt the dragons into extinction. Their only hope may be the fabled Hidden World, a place where dragons can live in peace.
My only gripes have persisted through all three films. Some of the comic relief feels too forced, and Hiccup’s friends are increasingly redundant as the series goes on. Hiccup’s mother, Valka, is often sidelined as well, but that’s because this series is entirely about a boy and his dragon, and it always has been. Every moment between Hiccup and Toothless lands, and if you’ve been watching for this long, you will not be disappointed.
In a world of eternal franchises and reboots, a true ending is always appreciated. The story of Hiccup and Toothless gets the finale it deserves. And there’s nothing stopping you from sharing this trilogy with everyone craving adventure, action, heartbreak, and, of course, dragons.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
dir. Dean DeBlois
Opens everywhere Friday, 2/22 (though the Hassle recommends the Capitol or your local mom & pop cineplex)