Delivering a satisfying conclusion to one of cinema’s most touching and genuine friendships, “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” sees Hiccup and Toothless take their place alongside Buzz & Woody at the pinnacle of animated movie history.
As Hiccup nears achieving his dream of a peaceful dragon and Viking utopia, he realises that his success risks turning Berk into a bigger target than ever. Tiring of Hiccup’s constant raids, the dragon hunters have turned to lifelong Night Fury killer Grimmel (F Murray Abraham) to capture Toothless, believing that without the alpha, the dragon will be easy pickings and Hiccup will be faced with an impossible choice.
Rewatching the first two films in the run-up to this one, two things occurred to me: the films stand as milestones of animation progress, each more visually sophisticated and spectacular than the last. The second thing was, measure for measure, I think the “How To Train Your Dragon” series tells a more satisfying and emotionally resonant and cohesive story than “Game Of Thrones”. It’s particularly satisfying that this third and deliberately final instalment doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to go bigger and instead aims to go deeper into the characters emotional stakes instead. It completes a rich character arc for Hiccup as he moves from boy to idealistic young man to wise chief, and the heart of the story is his friendship with Toothless. This time, of course, the friendship is threatened, as all friendships must be, by love as Toothless encounters a female Night Fury.
The vocal performances are terrific but it’s in the animation – especially of Toothless – that the film really astonishes. Despite being in a cartoon, the dragon approaches “Paddington” levels of realness, so genuine and nuanced are his movements and emotions. It’s a genuine work of art and some of the best animation I’ve ever seen.
Moving, emotional and hugely rewarding, “The Hidden World” caps off a tremendously diverse and inclusive story of courage, friendship and kindness which is destined to become an all-time classic.