The last installment of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ captivates through visuals but falters in plot
Dreamworks Animation had a lot of expectations to live up to with the third and final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon series, arguably the most critically acclaimed narrative in their history. Its end result, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, is probably the weakest in the trilogy, but it provides a satisfying conclusion to this heartwarming saga of dragons and Vikings.
Picking up once more on the Isle of Berk, franchise protagonist Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his loyal dragon pal Toothless have turned their little kingdom into a utopia for safe relations between humans and dragons. However, the appearance of a vicious army, as well as a female from Toothless’ species, brings immense chaos that uproots the stable lives they have finally settled into.
As is expected for the series, the 3-D animation is some of the finest the medium has offered yet. When the dragons soar above the ocean waves and into the cloudy sky, audiences witness breathtaking photorealistic vistas that highlight the progress animation has made over the years. The fantasy elements are equally impressive, with detailed character and environmental design that makes the world easy to believe.
The voice acting proves a bright spot, especially from the leads: Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera). Through their performances, the romantic relationship between these computer-generated images feels honest. Theirs is not the only captivating love story though. Toothless and his Light Fury companion are adorable in their courtship, which wordlessly provides both hilarious visual comedy and moving existential resonance.
That being said, the film does falter in more ways than one. For instance, the movie treats its plot, which should be epic, as a relatively inconsequential affair. This is partly due to the numerous supporting characters, many of whom seem to be there only because of their presence in the previous films. In addition, the movie’s villain is utterly forgettable and lazy comedy blankets the film. Many moments include misplaced, ill-timed jokes that seem designed to appeal to the film’s young audience; these are especially distracting due to the otherwise mature emotional intelligence of the film’s narrative.
For all these poorly-rendered segments though, the movie and thereby the series resolves itself poignantly. The events that unfold give closure to all that has come before and hold a dramatic weight that is bound to make long-time fans of the saga tear up. It is difficult to imagine its ending moments being executed more effectively than they are.
Overall, The Hidden World is a slightly disappointing yet ultimately rewarding conclusion to the How to Train Your Dragon saga. While its supporting cast is somewhat bothersome and its surface-level story rather minor, these flaws do not outweigh the greatness of the film’s high points. The series’ emotional through line holds true, and it concludes in a fittingly sentimental fashion.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World runs 104 minutes in length and will released in theaters nationwide Feb. 22.
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