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Movie review: 'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World'

Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (12 votes)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) is the latest film in the HTTYD series, the first of which came out in 2010 and was followed by a second film in 2014. Now, after a four-and-a-half-year gap, we have a third one, presumably (?) the last, but even if DreamWorks decides to keep the film franchise going, The Hidden World feels like the completion of a trilogy, all of which have involved Dean DeBlois as screenwriter and director.

I'm going to try and avoid major spoilers, so I'll summarize the plot points introduced in the early part of the film. I won't be linking to trailers, because they give away some of the locations and scene gags that are better kept a surprise. I watched a 2D screening, and I haven't kept up with any of the franchise spinoffs or shorts. I'm not a fan of most of the dragon designs or of several secondary characters, but regardless, I've happily enjoyed Hiccup and Toothless' adventures together.

A little time has passed since the events of the second movie. Hiccup is now chief of the Vikings of Berk, and they've been leading raids to free as many captured dragons as possible. Their enemy from the previous film, Drago, is gone, but his secondary captains are still around and want to conquer the world with their huge armada of ships.

Their role in the film is minor, a background threat, and now that dragons are seen as a power-tipping resource, life on the seas is getting a bit complicated. As the dragon-riders of Berk free more dragons and bring them home, Berk is becoming an increasingly important target for anyone interested in conquest, and these are Vikings we're talking about. The island of Berk itself is getting pretty crowded with both its human and dragon populations, and Hiccup's team keeps bringing back more dragons.

Part of the film is about addressing how humans, dragons and power politics are going to work out in the long-term. The antagonist is a dragon hunter named Grimmel, hired by the armada captains to tip things in their favor. Grimmel is a tall, thin, calculating asshole with a vaguely eastern European accent, who fundamentally believes that dragons and humans can't co-exist. This is despite the fact that he keeps some dragons under his control, a breed not seen in the earlier films, nasty and very dangerous. Grimmel suggests that he's responsible for single-handedly wiping out almost all of the Night Fury dragons.

There is, however, at least one female left of the species, which the riders decide to call a Light Fury. She's not albino, she just happens to be white with blue accents. Unlike Toothless, she's quite wild and distrustful of humans. Toothless wants to court her, but has no idea how, as well as dealing with the problem of who he's going to hang out with.

Then of course we have our returning characters. With the death of Hiccup's father (Stoick), Hiccup receives a lot of unsolicited advice from Gobber, his dad's right-hand warrior. Eret, the dragon trapper from the second film, has joined the Vikings of Berk and acts as a source of knowledge and general handy-man. The gang of young dragon-riders is still around, and are mostly unchanged: the twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, the obese Fishlegs, and of course the very driven Astrid. She and Hiccup are a definite couple, both independently willful, and neither feel ready to get married.

Oh, and there's also the boastful Snotlout, who spends much of the film trying to flirt with Valka, Hiccup's mom. (Ew.) Even though she's a kick-ass warrior and source of useful advice, for much of the film her role is to tell Astrid to go say things to Hiccup when he's wrestling with decisions. This gets repetitive. Snotlout and Tuffnut are also repetitive and have two badly-written modes, "I'm so cool / Heyyy Valka" and "I have manly advice to share / I'm pretending I've grown a beard", respectively.

Anyway, all of these plot points are very obvious from the film's outset, so let the rest of the film remain a surprise. There are two beautiful flying scenes; I regret not watching the film in 3D, I imagine those would've looked even better. The music is good. The animation is good, as is the visual direction. The story beats and writing are pretty standard, no pushing of boundaries. If you liked the first two films, this is doing things at the same level. A difficult choice has to be made towards the end of the film - I don't know if everyone will be happy with it? But the film delivers a sense of closure, and that's important. It made me feel kind of mushy. (Not as strong as the ending to Toy Story 3, but I still had some emotions going on.)

I don't think there's anything at the end of the credits, but at the start of the credits there's a montage of scenes from the earlier films. What else - oh! The riders wear some neat-looking armor made from dragon scales. That's a nice touch. Overall, if you liked the earlier films, go see this one, you won't be disappointed. If you've not watched any of them, they're meant to be experienced as a set.

I can't really offer much more of a review without spoilers, but I'm curious to know what others thought of it. So I'm going to swerve to a different topic - the trailers before the film. I haven't kept up with what 2019's releases are going to be (I'll leave that to 2cross2affliction), and the trailers I saw were:

UglyDolls - A film about stuffed doll rejects trying to find acceptance from a bunch of kids, led by an elistist snob of a boy obsessed with perfection, and, I assume, conformity.

A Dog's Journey - This is a sequel to A Dog's Purpose, and looks just as vapid. More dog reincarnation built around snippets of people's lives.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 - The setup appears to be "City pets visit a farm". Max, the main character, is no longer being voiced by Louis C.K., following accusations of sexual misconduct. Now the character is voiced by Patton Oswalt. Ever since Robin Williams, North American animated films usually like to highlight celebrities in their advertizing. The trailer passed over the names really quickly!

Wonder Park - The animation community has given this a shrug. This is a different trailer than what was released a couple of months ago. For the first time, we have a suggestion of a source of conflict - little animal zombies? And the human girl's wacky talking animal sidekicks are a bear, a boar, two beavers, and a porcupine. Noticeably absent is the talking monkey seen in the earlier trailer and in promotional images. Maybe the marketing people felt it was best to avoid it.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

I agree that the humour was sometimes a bit... odd and detracted from the film but I actually enjoyed the "manly advice" bits. It might've been nice if the tone was a little more consistent though. Some parts feel like two different movies being forced to work together, e.g. the massive difference between Hiccup and most of the others during the opening raid.

I saw the film in 3D. I don't remember it standing out much but I guess that's a good thing. The focus should be on the stories, not the technical aspects. When I did watch a clip on Youtube, it did seem less exciting but that could be the size of the screen as well.

Darn spoilers... I wanna talk about the ending... I will just say that I did not expect them to go through with the ending and I think it was a very mature decision that not many films would actually take. That said, I felt they kind of lowered the impact with the final scene and I would've rather seen that cut or replace. (I won't say with what because... spoilers.)

I really enjoyed it and found it quite emotional. I'm not sure how much of that was left over from HTTYD2, which had a real emotional blow. I also loved the credit flashbacks.

I do want to share this promo clip which I found after the movie and is just adorable!

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Jurassic Park reference? lol.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

Hmm? I didn't make one intentionally. I don't recall one in the video either.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

Where he reaches his hand to touch Toothless's head and gets a face full of sneeze.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dopyU7HthvM

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

Ah! Of course. I suppose it could be that but it's also copying the proper touching Toothless scene from the movie itself. A sneeze is the obvious way to mess up such an action. That's not to say it's definitely not a reference but it could easily be coincidence.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

An inconsistent tone is like the hallmark of family movies lately. Or at least the ones I've been paying attention to...

Your rating: None Average: 1 (5 votes)

More adorable, than say, that long-suffering Pokèmon plush toy of yours?

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

Best thing about the movie, paws down: Toothless and the Light Fury. Worst thing about the movie? Hiccup's young adult friends and their "humorous banter". Oy...

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

It felt like they were obligated to include them because of the earlier films, but didn't quite know how to fit them in, it felt a bit forced.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

One thing I disliked about the film is that they kind of upped Toothless's dog-like qualities, and toned down his cat-like qualities, so that they could make the Light Fury just explicitly catlike without being similar to Toothless/continue the kind of polarization they had with their "romance". There wasn't even like an "opposites attract" kind of plot line, not really at least, so I'm not sure why they did that. I didn't like her visual design at all, either.

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

I enjoyed this one. I don't know that it broke any new ground, but it did tell the story and the flying scenes were great.

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (6 votes)

Found both the first and second films to be rather toothless, so to speak. Maybe I'll enjoy this one though.

Especially if it helps beat Captain Marvel at the box office. Lol.

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

Okay, so I just saw this this week, and avoided reading this review to now (not because of spoilers; I trust dronon when he says he'll avoid them, and I don't really care anyway, but just wanted my own perspective before tackling what everyone else thought).

So, first of all, thanks for the shout-out!

Second of all, I'm kinda going to do this in reverse and talk about the trailers first; Wonder Park probably has enough talking animals and such I should review, but you know what, screw it, I don't care (and doubt anyone else does), though interesting tidbit, it has no credited director. Here's a video that vaguely explains why (it sounds like about the same reason Louis CK was replaced by Patton Oswalt in SLoP 2), and, just in case you really, really, really need a review of Wonder Park, will serve.

Speaking of Patton Oswalt replacing Louis CK, they made no effort whatsoever to pick someone who sounds like who they're replacing, did they? Which they did in How to Train Your Dragon 3; TJ Miller used to voice Tuffnut, and he was replaced for exactly the same reason Louis CK was. However, the replacement basically did a vocal impression of Miller to the point it wasn't until the credit scroll that I figured out they had actually gotten rid of Miller (despite, thanks to the "manly advice" scenes, having the most lines for the character in the trilogy, his voice actor was not listed in the "featured" actor credits). I thought for a while the replacement voice actor must have been the voice actor for the direct-to-Netflix spinoffs or whatever, but IMDB says no.

I'm going to disagree with you that one of the flying scenes (if I'm guessing right) should have been seen in 3D; half that scene was color, and wearing shaded/colorized lenses would have hurt it. But, otherwise, yeah, this franchise is maybe one where 3D isn't entirely pointless. (Of course, I didn't see it in 3D, and was so late getting to it I didn't even have the option.)

I kind of found it amusing that the ending is basically the same as the new Doctor Who's episodes reintroducing the Silurians. Also, I now regret not seeing this as a double feature with Us, as there ended up being a bizarre confluence of themes/plot points in the two movies.

I'm coming to realize that the shot of Toothless finally letting Hiccup touch him is becoming something of an iconic shot; the filmmakers obviously think so, as they self-plagiarized it on two separate occasions this movie.

Your rating: None

I was hiding in a grotto under the sea because I love you?

Oh wait, Us, not Up. I need to go to bed earlier. :P

Your rating: None

This movie trilogy gave me so much joy growing up. Our school held a movie night when the first movie came out, then I saw the trailer a few years later for the second and saw it when it came out. Then seeing the third trailer gave me so much hype I'm surprised I didn't cry waiting for it. Then my friend took me out to see it (im responsible for making him a HTTYD fan uwu) and we just about cried. I'm sad it ended, that ending struck me hard because it wasn't the Iconic "This is Berk" and "We have dragons". I left the cinema whether or not crying was the right thing to do. As tribute, I gave my sonas dragon side a Night Fury design, even with my own spin on the prosthetic tailfin to always remember this trilogy. I legit love this trilogy to pieces.

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