HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD

★★★★

FLY INTO A FANTASTIC FRANCHISE FINALE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Charlie David Page
3rd January 2019

There are few film franchises which are as beloved to me as ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. The initial film captured a magical quality and heartwarming story that was both a great surprise from the usually mediocre Dreamworks Animation and a great critical success. Its sequel was equally as touching, giving a respectable follow-up that resonated with fans of the original. Now, Australian audiences are lucky enough to take in the third and final instalment months before the U.S. - so is ‘The Hidden World’ a worthy conclusion in the series?

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now the chief in the village of Berk, which has embraced its dragon occupants wholeheartedly. When a new threat - Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), a hunter intent on wiping out the world’s Night Furies - sets his sights on Berk, the entire village is forced to flee. They head off in search of the mystical Hidden World, where dragons have long been rumoured to have originated from. But can Hiccup, Toothless and his friends evade the unstoppable Grimmel and find a new home for the villagers?

SWITCH: 'HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD' TRAILER 2

Going in with high expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by ‘How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’. Although not quite to the calibre of the first two films, it’s definitely a worthy addition to the franchise. It’s full of cute creatures, moving moments and great laughs. There’s also a fancy new dragon - who acts as both a love interest for Toothless and undoubtedly a merchandise opportunity for Dreamworks - who will be sure to enamour many of the youngest audience members. Their courting process is also one of the funniest parts of the film, with Toothless’ ridiculous dance moves sure to have you giggling.

However, this love story is one of the downfalls of the film. It takes over a considerable portion of the film, and unnecessarily blows out the running time. There’s also too much back-and-forth between Grimmel and Hiccup and co. - there are an excessive number of mini-confrontations as the goodies and baddies constantly try to outsmart each other.

It’s a visual feast, full of colour and movement to make even the biggest kid’s jaw drop.

This means it’s way too late in the film before we arrive at the titular Hidden World - but when we do, it’s truly worth it. It’s a visual feast, full of colour and movement to make even the biggest kid’s jaw drop. It’s also a shame that we didn’t spend more time here, as it’s an awe-inspiring place to explore, with the kind of magic you felt when you first soared through the skies along with Toothless and Hiccup in the original film.

As has been the trend with the ‘Dragon’ franchise, there’s a slew of celebrity names attached. Regulars America Ferrera, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Cate Blanchett and even Gerard Butler are back, and everyone makes a memorable impact in a film packed with different characters. Yet this is Jay Baruchel’s film; he’s the one who’s brought empathy to a relationship between a boy and a dragon, and still manages to make you (and me) both laugh and cry.

The ‘Dragon’ franchise has been nothing short of magical. It’s taken us on a journey high above the clouds, and deep into our hearts. Now that it’s coming to its conclusion, nine years after the first film hit the big screen, it’s a bittersweet moment - though it’s the end of a visually stunning, surprisingly moving series, it’s a conclusion that will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and a smile on your face. You and the whole family will love flying high again.

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