The How To Train Your Dragon franchise is one of our family favorites, but it’s also a personal favorite of mine. When the first film came out I knew next to nothing about it, except that it was made by Dreamworks which did not instill me with a desire to go and see it. Mrs. Hatter was significantly more interested, and so she convinced me to go see it with her on date night, leaving the kids behind.
As it turns out, I was absolutely blown away by the film and pretty much everything about it.
Fast forward nearly nine years to last night, when Mrs. Hatter and I decided to go to a Thursday evening preview showing of Hidden World , the third installment and glorious conclusion of the franchise. Once again, we were not disappointed. In short, the movie is a rare finale that both continues and builds upon the thematic ideas of the previous films, and brings everything to a pitch-perfect conclusion.
And make no doubt, it is most clearly the conclusion of the story. Refreshingly, in this era of seemingly endless franchises, director Dean DuBois has told a complete story over the course of three films that well and truly ends. To make things even better, the How To Train Your Dragon films are as close to animated film perfection as it’s possible to get. For that matter, they’re pretty close to the top of my list of favorite films animated or otherwise.
Granted, there are a few small missteps. The new villain is, as in the previous films, a one dimensional caricature. The brief hint we’re given of his backstory is uninteresting at best, and as a result it’s difficult to entirely buy into the threat that he poses to our heroes. Likewise the banter among Hiccup’s friends gets annoying at times. There are some genuinely funny moments, but it doesn’t do much to deepen the story.
But really these aren’t huge problems, because as in the previous two films the relationship between Hiccup and his dragon Toothless is at the heart of the story. Over the course of their adventures together, their friendship has deepened as has their reliance upon each other. But also like the previous films, Hidden World is about change and growth, and more importantly loss and self-doubt.
It’s precisely these sort of themes, examined in a deep and very real way that makes the HTTYD movies work so well. While including their fair share of silliness, the storytelling is mature and nuanced. Actions have real consequences, and the initial solutions to the problems Hiccup and his fellow vikings encounter lead to even more severe problems further down the line. And in Hidden World, the consequences of previous actions are felt more acutely than ever, and the stakes are even higher.
I could go on for a lot longer about what I liked about Hidden World, but I don’t want to inadvertently get into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that I loved the film, especially its willingness to tell a deep and emotionally complex tale. Kids deserve storytelling that takes them and their intellect seriously, and the How To Train Your Dragon franchise delivers like no other.
So if your family has enjoyed the previous two films you’ll almost certainly like this one as well. There’s plenty of silly humor and lots of action to keep younger kids satisfied, but also a deep and emotional story that will make Hidden World a movie that we’ll return to again and again.