TO YOU BY:
I’m sorry to say that I’ve only had the privilege of seeing the first and second How to Train Your Dragon films one time each. After a bumpy start, the same as the other two, the character connections I once had are regained, and everything I love about the series came flooding back.
Returning for the third (and final) installment in the franchise comes director Dean DeBlois— the man who brought the How to Train Your Dragon films to life. With astonishing technique and wonderful animation, this film is a visual marvel. DeBlois’ beautiful use of the atmosphere and world around the characters is one big reason why this series works so well for myself, other than the main characters once you get to know them. From the glorious Hidden World, to the skies the dragons fly through, the visuals leave the audience breathless and it’s easy to see why. The film feels as realistic as you can get. When Toothless is flying with Hiccup on his back, you feel as though you are soaring alongside them. It feels as though the audience is apart of this world, and once the story truly begins it’s hard to pull yourself back into the real world before the picture fades to black, the credits begin to roll, and you’re trying to rid yourself of any sign of tears.
I won’t shy away from saying that while this is a phenomenal conclusion to the trilogy, just like the other two in the series, the build up (AKA the first act) isn’t brilliant. Muddled and littered with typical animation cliches, it’s not until the second act kicks up that things get going in the right direction for Hiccup, Toothless, and all the Dragon/Viking companions. From then on out we follow our heroes escaping from their home, trying to save the dragons from a potential threat, and seeking a place they’ve only heard about in myths, the Hidden World. As the story progresses and we move into the final moments of the film, it’s difficult not to get emotional for the ride the filmmakers have taken us on; this is especially true when the ending is as close to perfection as you can possibly get for the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Almost the entire cast reunited for this final adventure to send off for their wonderfully goofy, yet successfully charming characters. The only noticeable missing element is TJ Miller, who has been replaced by a similar voice actor, and while this doesn’t eliminate from the fun of the over the top character, it’s a bit odd for people who are aware of the change. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrera) have developed their relationship towards long-lasting, with the help of peace and the return of Hiccup’s mother from the previous film. However, their relationship is no match for the adorable new one established by Toothless and the (nameless) light fury; their love is captivating to see and quickly evolves with cute gestures and acts. Beyond the returning members, the newest villain for the series leaves a lasting impression. Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is the perfect villain to close out the series, as he is partially the reason Hiccup was united with Toothless, and his evil plans to rid the planet of dragons is more vile for it.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composer John Powell flies to great height with his score that improves upon his score for the previous film, just as the second improved on the first. Powell progressively adds a little something extra each time he composes for a new How to Train Your Dragon, however the key elements that we all loved in the original remain and are built upon in this final chapter. The fights, the flights, the newly found world, and everything in between are all beautifully composed, and the sounds associated with the many great parts being composed over are just as fantastic. Each new and old dragon have their own distinct sound, with Toothless once more taking center stage when he communicates with the others and with the light fury, and you understand in ways what may be happening between who’s conversing. Everything is remarkably top notch and improved upon in this final outing.
Visually, this film is absolutely stunning. The world is enormous and easy to get lost in. The islands, the dragons, the clouds, and most importantly the oceans, look like footage shot on a beautiful day on the coast, not at all computer generated. As your mind wanders into the possibilities of this magnificent world that the animators have manufactured, we finally get a glimpse at the title location, The Hidden World, which makes all else look dull and withdrawn of color. The Hidden World brings up the conversation of why a gorgeous film like this can’t be honored with a nomination in visual effects, as the effects are equally worthy of recognition as any other nominated.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World unfortunately suffers from an unsuccessful start. However, once the second act drops into place, the record plays without skipping a beat. Fueled with emotion and gorgeous visuals, this nine year journey has been well worth the wait. With the third How to Train Your Dragon, this series cements itself as one of the greatest animated franchises of our lifetime.