How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a thrilling and deeply satisfying conclusion to one of the best animated trilogies of all time. (Mild spoilers ahead)
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Synopsis
Hiccup and his dragon riders continue to enjoy success in their efforts to liberate dragons from warlords. In retaliation, the warlords team up and recruit Grimmel the Grisly, a dragon hunter obsessed with killing all Night Furies. In the face of this new threat, and with Berk overpopulated with dragons, Hiccup proposes an audacious idea. He suggests shifting the entire population of Berk to a mythical place known as the Hidden World, where dragons supposedly originated. Though he receives the support of his people, Hiccup’s move is quickly complicated by the appearance of a female Light Fury. Toothless falling hopeless in love with the Light Fury also makes Hiccup realises his time with his beloved dragon is reaching an end.
When I watched the first How to Train Your Dragon in 2010, I thought it would be another of those animated movies. Enjoyable, funny, but ultimately a one hit, one concept sort of thing. Soon to be permanently trapped in made for TV/streaming sequel-land.
The quality of the animated series convinced me otherwise. 2014’s thrilling sequel also made it clear the story is determined to be more than another cute franchise. Beneath the banter and exhilarating aerial sequences, this is a thoughtful Bildungsroman. It’s also an expository epic, one that depicts a young Viking’s growth from outcast to hero, to leader, and finally to legendary chieftain.
The Hidden World focuses on the last stage of this journey, and as befitting the responsibilities Hiccup now shoulders, the movie has a heavier air. (That doesn’t mean there’s a lack of humour, though) Throughout the story, there is also a discernible mood of conclusion. While he initially resists it, it is obvious that Hiccup himself knows it’s time to move on to the next phase of his life. He even knows, instinctively, that his time with his beloved dragon is coming to an end.
What then fulfils, and completes, is how stoically Hiccup embraces these changes. These changes, btw, metaphorically beginning with his decision to relocate Berk. He soon badly stumbles several times but no matter the setback, there is never any doubt he would survive the blunders. This is no longer the man-child from the first two movies, but a confident and resourceful leader.
Of note too is how Toothless’ role progressively dwindles. Everybody’s favourite animated dragon remains a central element of the plot but by mid-point, it is clear that Toothless’ tale has reached its finale too. The Night Fury has already moved on and is purely waiting for his bud. Everything then works hand-in-hand toward what is one of the most satisfying epilogue I had ever watched in a cinema. A magical conclusion for which I can only use the word cycle to describe. This reversion to starting point is at the same time, a magnificent full-stop of an epic journey, as well as the beginning note of another one.