So Dreamworks flagship goes the way of trilogy of Godfather, Robocop, and Back to the Future… where the third entry is definitely the weakest.
When a new threat to their pet dragons emerges, the vikings of Berk need to consider finding a new home. Meanwhile, love is in the air when Toothless meets a Lightfury.
The How to Train Your Dragon franchise exploded onto our screens back in 2010, a year that was extremely strong for movies, and it has created quite the name for itself with two sequels now and a host of spin-off features and shorts. Unlike other studios (besides the Disney Pixar giant) Dreamworks appears to enjoy giving their franchises time to develop, without releasing a film every two years or so. While the second film wasn’t quite as good as the first, it certainly held up against it and improved over time. The third film, The Hidden World, definitely feels cumbersome.
That isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable, or rammed with beautiful visuals and animation. Certainly, the writing of the characters is still peppy and quick as ever. It felt like Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut got a lot more screentime than in the previous movies, commanding entire scenes herself, with great effect. One of these scenes is perhaps the best one that our new villain features in! Surprisingly, Ruffnut’s twin Tuffnut (voiced by Justin Rupple) also gets a lot of time.
Of course though, the film makers know that Toothless is the most valuable character to the series, and he easily gets the best moments. Both in comedy and in visuals. The scene with him attempting to court the Lightfury is up there with some of the best scenes the series has previously had. The characters are all consistent with previous stories, so the emotions are still running high whenever something gets between the friendships we know and love; almost all of the franchise’s strengths lie in the heroes and their friendships.
Visually, the film is still as beautiful as its predecessors; they love to show off Hiccup’s fire sword (which was introduced in the second film) and incredible water effects. Later moments in the film hearken back to the lofty, gorgeous flights through the skies. But the titular Hidden World is perhaps the most memorable moment in terms of visuals.
But, for a lot of the positives here, there are some flaws.
Namely, the story. There really isn’t much here to qualify for a feature length movie; in fact, most of the best parts are the equivalent of skits and short animations. The series also has stories that contain real subversive moments, of course, it would spoil good movies to elaborate further, but Hidden World definitely does not have anything as impactful as the first two movies. In fact it is quite the opposite, you can see exactly where the story is going and it does not deviate or surprise you along the way.
On top of that, we have new characters from the second film who are just… there. Especially one that is quite important to our protagonist, who does virtually nothing. They feel like hangers-on, and this disappointing lack of development applies to most of the characters beyond the main three. Also, the villain. The flip-side of the franchise having such strong heroes, is that it really hasn’t had good villains. In fact, the first film did not have one and it was better for it. This villain is a massive hypocrite, and the film didn’t especially give him enough dreadful countenance; even the screaming Djimon Hounsou in HTTYD2 was given some atmospheric scenes, some establishment with the characters.
Of course, if you love Toothless and Hiccup (and you probably do, if you are going to see this film) you will be hard-pressed to not feel misty eyed towards the end… But unless you are of the softest-heart, you probably won’t actually cry; everything is too predictable, there isn’t the cleverly set-up gut-punches that the previous two films included.
It was a visual treat, with a lot of good comedy skits dotted randomly throughout. But it is a bit of a wet-noodle ending for such an emotion-filled franchise, as if the film-makers had no idea how to end it all.