Since “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is not only the third installment in the “Dragon” film series but is also meant to be the last hurrah, you’d think it would be destined to become a lazy, apathetic sequel. While the majority of animated movies in the same position would simply go through the motions, this one stays true to its roots and delivers a gorgeous, heartwarming, and enchanting final bow for the dragon-loving gang of Vikings.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is all grown up now and is the chief of Berk, a land where dragons live peacefully with humans. His best buddy Toothless, the last of the Night Fury dragons, is also thriving in this utopia, along with human pals Astrid (America Ferrera), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), and Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Everything is fine until a female Light Fury dragon shows up in the woods. Toothless instantly falls in love, but infamous dragon killer Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) has plans to capture and kill both of the Furies. In a race against time, Hiccup and Toothless must leave their home and journey to a hidden (and possibly mythical) world to save the dragons by fighting together to save their loves and their home.
The plot is thin, but this film is all about the art of animation rather than the art of storytelling. Everything is gorgeously directed by Dean DeBlois, with impressive bird’s-eye (or is it dragon’s-eye?) flying scenes that will take your breath away. The action scenes are thrilling and, paired with some truly astonishing work by the army of animators who worked on this film, the end result is something magical. There’s a WALL-E” like quality in the beginning, with long, silent scenes of a budding love story between dragons that’s told only through visuals (with a big boost from John Powell‘s enchanting original score). The characters are authentic and lovable, and the message of treating animals with kindness and respect is something we should all applaud.
The coming-of-age story also stresses the importance of friendships and family with an emotional punch that will give audiences of all ages the warm and fuzzies. These are characters that some parents and other adults may not have known how much they cared for, and it’s a surprisingly mature adventure that kids can also enjoy, even if they don’t quite understand all of the story’s subtleties.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a bittersweet goodbye (for now), with sweeping visuals and a heartfelt ending to one of the best modern animated movie franchises.