How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the long awaited finale to the How to Train Your Dragon franchise. Although it never reached the heights of other movie franchises nor enter the cultural zeitgeist, it did get a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and a solid Netflix series. The movies have been solid pieces of film, though in my opinion not groundbreaking, but high quality films good for the whole family.
And I still think the first one was the best.
The saga focuses on the viking Hiccup, on his journey into adulthood and changing his village’s culture; in the first film, Hiccup is a skinny, weak outcast who unlike the rest of his village doesn’t enjoy hunting dragons. After coming across an elusive Night Fury, who he names Toothless, Hiccup learns that there’s a lot more to dragons.
The main focus of the franchise has always been the bond between Hiccup and Toothless. And that’s something I’ve always really loved. Despite never speaking, I always really had a solid sense of his character and personality.
I also really liked how the franchise dealt with its female characters; none of them were just ‘the girl.’ Astrid was the most prominent character but was never really relegated to the role of love interest while Valka was interesting and Ruffnut was mostly an expy of Lil from Rugrats, but it was fine.
They were allowed to be themselves and it was never one of those awkwardly inserted, “Let me show you what girls can do” kind of things that I despise.
And the franchise was never afraid to make sacrifices; in the first movie, Hiccup loses his leg and Toothless remains injured, in the second film Hiccup’s dad dies. Unlike in a lot of films where are there tons of fake-out deaths or resurrections, this franchise has never been afraid to go dark.
And I liked how the franchise had a pretty consistent balance between action and humor.
But the thing is…. I feel as though somehow, this film is so concerned with being a proper ending that it kind of misses that.
It’s been a year since the ending of the previous film; Berk has become overcrowded with dragons as the riders try to free the creatures captured the hunters. Unfortunately, this draws the attention of this movie’s villain Grimmel, who has also happened to kill all the Night Furies.
Naturally, he wants to kill Toothless.
He’s a decent villain but I feel like the directors really missed out on an opportunity here. Supposedly he killed all the Night Furies because he found them to be a threat and dangerous, but this is never expanded on.
I know we as the audience know this isn’t true, but I don’t think the villain is truly aware of this. I would have loved to see more about his motivations, rather than just turning him into a psychopath who hunts dragons for sport.
(Also his lips were strangely detailed and kind of creeped me out.)
Grimmel also brings the Light Fury into the mix, as one of the dragons he captured but because of her invisibility powers, the riders don’t notice her. And he uses her as unwitting bait.
Toothless falls in love with her and can only be with her because Night Furies mate for life. But she isn’t a night Fury, she’s a subspecies or related species according to the directors. But, that’s not an issue.
The riders realizing that the dragons are in danger set out for the Hidden World, the homeland of all dragons, which by its name may tell you that they aren’t sure it exists. Hiccup decides that’s where the Berkians and dragons should settle.
And so begins a race against time.
It’s not a bad plot, but there’s so much back and forth with traveling that I found myself very confused by distance. How far is the hidden world? How far are the armies? How long did they travel?
It seems to take place over three days at most, and it feels off.
It feels like we never spend enough time in one place enough to establish any of the new settings or to go with any character conflict. We’re in Berk, then traveling, then New Berk, then traveling more but with fewer characters, in the Hidden World, back to traveling and back to New Berk.
It’s a lot.
And there’s this small plot point where Hiccup and Astrid sneak into the Hidden World to bring Toothless back home, or something, and while he willingly rescues the two, he’s pissed on the way back, that he was taken away from the Light Fury and his new home.
It’s never really expanded on.
While Toothless is the leader, we don’t see much besides the beauty of the land to get him upset as to why he would need to leave. I understand he’s an animal, but surely it takes more than five minutes for a dragon with as much personality as toothless to become obsessed.
And he still forgives Hiccup and it’s just glossed over.
In the end, the villain being a human, is pretty easily defeated by the hoard of dragons and it feels very anti-climatic for finale battle in a franchise finale.
And the fact that all the dragons go to the Hidden World in the end didn’t feel like a satisfying emotional climax, mostly because it was expected. And only Toothless and Hiccup get a goodbye. All the other dragons just leave. It would have been more impactful if we could have seen the bonds with all the other riders and their dragons.
For me personally, I would have preferred if the ending was more ambiguous in the time skip. I get that it’s a kids’ movie, and they needed a finite conclusion, but it felt trite and unnecessary.
The whole finale felt more like they were just checking off boxes as to what needed to be done. Of course, since it’s a How to Train Your Dragon film, it’s still a pretty solid film all around and did what it needed to do.
And that’s the scoop!
Year of Release: 2019
Length: 104 minutes
Director/Writer: Dean DeBlois
If you liked this read: Adventure Time’s finale shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.