How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (aka How To Train Your Dragon 3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The trilogy closer for How to Train Your Dragon comes in for a landing so stumbling they had to give it the generic sequel title of The Hidden World. But, wait, wasn’t there already a hidden world of dragons? Didn’t we already deal with dragon trappers before? One could question these aspects but perhaps that’s why this story tries to weave in so many characters, arcs, and visual flair that by the end of the film I was more exhausted for all the emotions it wanted to muster rather than how they were presented.
Hiccup has certainly come a long way from the first film. Once he was a shrimpy blacksmith assistant. Now he’s the leader of his village of Burke, charging into battle dragon armor that makes him look like the ultimate warrior of an RPG, boasting a knight-style helmet, dragon wings to glide upon and a sword of flames. Running his kingdom isn’t easy, especially since he’s built it as a haven for rescued dragons to live. One wonders how such a small island could support what must be hundreds of dragons milling about.
Hiccup won’t relocate them, however, until the village is under attack from a new trapper and killer of dragons. This time the sinister human is Grimmel, a skinny and white-haired villain voiced by F. Murray Abraham. He doesn’t have much of a drive to enslave and kill all dragons, merely mentioning that’s just the way he was raised. He killed one, dug it, and decided to kill them all. He also works for an invading armada of ships but they’re so doltish and uninteresting I don’t think we even mention their names or clan, relegated to being forgettable fodder for the grand showdown. Grimmel’s whole deal is that he wants to kill another Night Fury and Hiccup’s best dragon pal Toothless just happens to be one of rare ones still in existence.
It sounds like Toothless should hightail it out of there but not before he discovers a white, female Night Fury. Awkward dances and displays of romance follow, going on for as long as the cuteness of dragons mimicking the behaviors of cats and bats can be funny. And, boy, does it wear thin fast. And then Hiccup must also get married but since there’s little time to develop that romance between him and Astrid, their wedding conclusion feels more obligatory than organic. Mind you, all of this is on top of Hiccup’s mother being courted, Tuffnut growing a beard, and Fishlegs taking care of a baby dragon.
All of this just makes the film feel like busy work to excuse its repurposing and doubling of the previous film. Yes, the animation is still stellar and features plenty of gorgeous locations, from the neon underground world of dragons to the towering towers of Burke. The flying sequences of dragons soaring and shooting fire also look good but there’s a severe lacking in those epic moments that made the first two films so notable. There’s no time for that when the film not only wants to bring the tale of Hiccup and Toothless to a tender end but carry it further in an elongated epilogue that honestly removes a lot of the impact of the climax.
The central theme of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World seems to fluctuate between trusting in others, embracing the future, and learning to let go. But in the film’s jumbled bouncing between all these stories and messages, the trilogy closer comes crashing in with too much tightly back into the film. By the time the credits roll and we’re treated to a montage of Hiccup and Toothless, I felt as though a proper goodbye wasn’t said in all the rush to resolve so much with a hurried bow. Perhaps the saga will continue in an animated series. There’s at least a full season worth of episodes in this one film.