How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World (2019)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham
Synopsis: When Hiccup discovers Toothless isn't the only Night Fury, he must seek "The Hidden World", a secret Dragon Utopia before a hired tyrant named Grimmel finds him first.
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG (for adventure action and some mild rude humor)
Runtime: 1 hr 44 min
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Few animated films have dealt with the nature of friendship as poignantly and profoundly as DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon series. Besides delivering some truly mesmerizing cinematography and animation, the dragon-world based films touched on the power, joy, and hardship that arises from friendships, especially those formed with individuals (or shall we say species) outside of our own society. Beyond that, the films also dealt with themes of destiny--that we are capable of changing our life's path, of being someone different than society or family thinks we should be. All of these ideas came through the moving lens of a would-be dragon-slaying Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his relationship with his beloved Night Fury dragon, Toothless.
The first film dealt with the origins of this forbidden relationship and entailing internal struggles between Hiccup and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), while the second focused on an external threat in the form of an aspiring conqueror named Drago (Djimon Hounsou). The third and (most likely) final film in the franchise focuses on another external threat in the form of Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a dragon hunter who seeks to exterminate the species for good.
The first word of praise for this film, just like its predecessors, has to be its cinematography and animation. The world of dragons is once again brought to life in vivid detail--full of rich color, glistening shorelines and beautiful aerial shots. The sense of wonder that encompassed the first two films isn't lost here--even though the joyous slower moments are abbreviated more than they were in the previous films.
The story for the third installment also carries more weight and poignancy than How to Train Your Dragon 2, as Hiccup has to (albeit predictably) come to terms with the finite nature of his close friendship with Toothless, as the dragon meets his mate in Light Fury--a white Night Fury. These tough but invaluable friendship themes are in the vein of last year's Ralph Breaks the Internet, with both protagonists having to put their own interests aside in favor of what's best for their friend.
Just like its predecessors, the film balances its heartfelt moments with fun-loving humor, highlighted by its returning cast of colorful characters. Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) in particular is allowed more screen time this time around, with humorous results. The only character that was a small let down was the antagonist, Grimmel, who isn't as dark or complex of a character as the trailers for the film let on. Nevertheless, he still presents a hefty challenge for Hiccup and the Vikings, with his actions ultimately forcing Hiccup to make a tough decision.
Just like the previous entries, the third film is briskly and satisfyingly paced, delivering the story with no wasted scenes. As an added bonus, while certainly not skimping on the action, the film manages to keep it more contained than the previous entry's occasional bloated feel.
How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World is a satisfying conclusion to one of DreamWorks' best franchises, delivering the eye-popping visuals, light-hearted humor, and emotionally driven story that defined the first two films. Like any good sequel, it further advances and develops its characters, all the while sending us out of the theater pondering the value and cost of friendships in our own lives. It's a fitting end, and one to a franchise that'll surely be remembered years down the road.
Written by Anthony Watkins, March 3, 2019