How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review — A Hidden Gem of a Sequel
While I admit to being a stan for the original Dreamworks feature, scheduling issues prevented me from seeing How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World before the second‐to‐last day that it was available in my local theater, and I wish I’d tried harder to work it in sooner. Even having already known what to expect, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the flick.
Likely in large part due to the fact that it’s a sequel, without even mentioning the big‐name movies shoving it out of the limelight, this movie slipped under most people’s radars during its theater run. But the presence of the other flicks definitely put the final nail in the coffin of any public discourse of this fine film. And that is a damn shame.
If you walk into a sequel — or any movie for that matter — expecting novelty and the revolutionary every time, you will be disappointed. A lot. This is a topic I’ve already covered in my review of Hitman’s Bodyguard — popcorn flicks are A‐okay, folks, and there is no shame in liking them! The issue with sequels comes in when a profit‐hungry studio resuscitates a long‐used‐and‐dried‐up storyline because it made them a lot of money once, and they hope the old hype will make them more. Thankfully, HTTYD3 does not suffer from sequel‐itis; in fact, for a sequel, it’s very very good. Mostly because the story was treated with exactly the respect it was due. Nothing more, nothing less.
This movie doesn’t do anything super novel — it doesn’t try to mess with a working formula, neither by overly pushing it to be something different, nor cheapening it for profit. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The villain is a bit one‐note but this is fine as he primarily exists to highlight the greater moral dilemma of the plot. He needn’t be complex, in fact in this case, it’s better that he isn’t (but he is well enough written as a crafty Xanatos‐type!).
The moral issues and lessons are there in the background to be discovered and analyzed, but they’re not used to bash you over head — a perfect balance. Of course there’s epic animation (dragon mating dances, omfgggggggg) and the music and battle scenes we know and love. This is a movie that knows and embraces what it is: a great action‐adventure entertainment popcorn film for kids of all ages with a hefty dash of cute and soulful to boot!
The best part, however, is the story itself. Unlike what many online fans in the forums feared, a new ending was written in contrast to the source material, but it was still incredibly bittersweet. I sobbed like a baby in the mercifully empty theater.
This third How To Train Your Dragon film is an example of actually passably good writing. There’s no last minute ass‐pulls for cheap entertainment; everything is logical and phlebotinum‐free, and even telegraphed for those who are trope‐savvy! There is no Mary‐Sueing of the plot so that Everything Magically Works Out. The writing treats us with respect, like adults. Not everything will end perfectly all the time, but as the last scene shows (without completely spoiling!), friendships still last forever and we can still revisit them on occasion.
Considering that quite a few of us grew up with this franchise, it’s very much like saying goodbye to our childhood… and this aspect is a wonderful allegory for coming of age. The protagonist, Hiccup, has to morally “grow up” and face hard irreversible truths and losses, as we all do when we transition into adulthood. But we never lose the old happy memories. This was a very meaningful way to close the trilogy, with a heartfelt message to its loyal fanbase.
It is a crying shame that this hidden gem was overshadowed by other films and controversies such as the one surrounding Captain Marvel. I’m not going to go deep into that particular controversy, as that’s better left to people more versed in the material than I am (such as our podcast Graded 0.5!). But it is sad to me that a movie with poor writing, which has been twisted beyond its pay grade into such a bastion of social issues that were barely touched on in its plot, has taken over theaters and the forum of public opinion for good or ill. Captain Marvel discussion has been blown up to such a point that people aren’t even talking about about beautiful works like this.
A shame indeed.
If you expect every movie ever to push the envelope and be avant‐garde, then you’re the one missing out. This movie was none of those things, but that by no means takes away from it being an excellent send off to a wonderful story and to a chapter of (in my case late) childhood, and it deserved far more attention than it has gotten.
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- How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review — A Hidden Gem of a Sequel — March 22, 2019
- Hitman’s Bodyguard – Triple‐A‐Rated Action Goodness — October 17, 2017
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