If there’s one thing that’s certain about How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World its that it is absolutely a successful conclusion to the franchise. Sure, it may not be a groundbreaking narrative, but the send-off and development of its lead characters is something to appreciate. So what does this film do differently that allows it to complete the trilogy with honor? Well, for starters, the development of this film’s core set of characters is where you see fresh ideas being explored beyond the first two films — while we all know who Hiccup is, what drives him, and what he fears, we don’t exactly know why. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World attempts to flesh out the inner fears and faults that Hiccup has, rather than sending him off on yet another generic mind-numbing heroic ending, instead we see our hero struggle like he never has before.
First and foremost, this is a film about letting go, being your own man, and being “good enough”. These strengths are played tremendously with its core characters, from Hiccup to his girlfriend Astrid. The further fleshing out of Astrid provides some glue to bind these messages together, as Astrid doesn’t just provide a powerful supporting role, but also a role of support that helps bring out Hiccups inner turmoil — this romantic relationship was fleshed out better than both of the first and second films combined. Though unfortunately the more minor supporting characters we’ve become accustomed to throughout this series don’t age like wine, rather a stale mead.
Voiced by Jonah Hill, T.J Miller, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse respectively – they hold about as much relevance to the story as had on day 1. While they may provide ample comedic relief for some, they do nothing to serve this finale in a beneficial way, consuming significant screen time that would have been better spent furthering relationships with the core characters. Though just as many laughs can be expected from Toothless as a comedic relief character, so if those supporting characters are not your cup of tea, you can expect a hearty chuckle or two regardless.
It is the villain of this film where issues are clear, as he offers little to no interesting parallels for audiences to take in, a strong villain the final of a trilogy would be expected to perhaps parallel our hero in a interesting way – and while something can be drawn with some further digging, it just wasn’t enough for me to recognise as significant. A strong trilogy needs a strong sendoff, the goodbye is undoubtedly the most vital aspect, and while the base story (especially the villain) provides little intrigue, we’re given an ending to remember.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World as always impressively provides strong cinematic lighting and visuals well within its day and age — gliding through the clouds with the gleaming sunset overhead is just as magical as it was in the first film and the action sequences provide similar thrills. Above all, it is the variety of lighting and environments we explore in this film that set it apart — from underground glowing caverns, to rocky clifftops, and the vast clouds up above. The score itself doesn’t roar a different tune, but plays similar beats to the previous films, we do of course see and feel an evolution in the films music as the characters themselves have changed. It is at those vital last moments where the music plays its most vital role in making audiences feel all the feelings — you’ll know the scene.
Is this the perfect trilogy? For some it may be. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World hits the notes where it counts, a sweet ending that provides an emotional barrel-roll for moviegoers as they leave the cinema. How To Train Your Dragon as a trilogy may have generic notes, but the heartfelt moments can be taken in, and the story is an emotional flight through the clouds that leave viewers with a warming sunset on the horizon. While not the most masterful finale in a trilogy, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World provides just enough satisfying dives to make the final ride with Hiccup and Toothless a memorable and heartfelt one.