When the first “How to Train Your Dragon” film came out in March of 2010, it was a bit of a wild card. The movie was based off a book series of the same name, but the source material wasn’t of Harry Potter-level popularity. The main character was named Hiccup, and didn’t exactly have hero potential written all over him. He was awkward, a little all over the place and had much more brain than brawn. He also decided to name a powerful, last-of-its-kind dragon Toothless.
Now, nine years, three feature films, several short films and a television series later, the final film in the trilogy is upon us; and it presents a fitting end that might even cause the most stoic viking to shed some tears.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” takes place one year after the events of the previous film, “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” In “Hidden World,” Hiccup, his girlfriend Astrid and their gang of friends seek out dragons, rescuing them from dragon hunters if necessary and bringing them back to their home of Berk. After the death of Hiccup’s father, Stolc, in the previous film, Hiccup has assumed the position as chief. But, of course, things can’t just be smooth sailing in the newly christened human and dragon utopia. A new villain is out to squash Berk’s way of life, and Hiccup is forced to make some very difficult decisions.
The first two films coasted on a skillfully balanced mix of action, coming of age plot, gorgeous animation and worldbuilding. The animation in “Hidden World” is just as good, if not better, than earlier films. Thanks to a mix of improved technology and the tendency to embrace the ethereal vibe of the film, shots often feel like they’re being done from a real camera placed in this fantastical world. Dragons dancing in the clouds, glowing in caves and skimming over water and mystical islands dominate the screen.
This is not to say that the dragon battles and high stakes are lost from this film; they’re definitely still there. In this film, though, they’re obviously just a means to an end, to force Hiccup to grow up and make the hard choices that come with adulthood. There are choices about how he’s going to lead his people, protect his dragons and where he’s going to take his ever-deepening relationship with Astrid. It’s equal parts sad and hopeful, heartbreaking and fulfilling.
This isn’t a film just for kids walking into theaters today, although they likely will enjoy it a great deal. This movie is for the kids that walked into the theater nine years ago to see a film based on a series not many people had heard of, and walked out in love with a boy and his dragon. This is for those kids who are now almost adults, or are adults, and have grown up with that boy and his dragon. And now they’re having to say goodbye and, like Hiccup, figure out how to make their own way in the world.
To give away anything too specific about the film would be a disservice. Suffice to say, if it hasn’t been summed up already, “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a wonderful and faithful end to the trilogy. Gorgeously told and animated, it leaves that spark of hope that seems to say, even though the door might have be shut now, there’s still a chance to go back. It’ll be waiting, out in the wild, waiting to be discovered again.