I was pretty excited to be invited to the advance screening of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World at SM Cinema’s IMAX by my friends from ComCo Southeast Asia. My relationship with the franchise started off a bit tepidly with my lukewarm reaction to the first movie but I was converted completely when I watched How to Train Your Dragon 2 because it was absolutely awesome. The trailer for the third installment promised to build on the strength of the second movie to send off this trilogy in a big way.
Synopsis: Its been a year since Hiccup’s (Jay Baruchel) father died and he is now the young chief of Berk. Under his leadership, dragons thrive in their island as much as the people, but having dragons around has made them a target of dragon poachers from all directions. Dragon killer Grimmel takes a particular interest in Toothless and makes a deal with the dragon poachers to bring them the dragons once he gets dibs on the night fury. In order to do so, he uses a female light fury to bait Toothless into submission. Meanwhile, Hiccup leads the Berkians in a quest to find the Hidden World where dragons and humans can live safely and in peace, away from the greed of the dragon poachers who are after them.
I was completely blown away by development of this franchise from its first movie up until this trilogy. While the first movie seemed unsure and a bit clunky, the third one has ironed out all of the issues from the story up to the CGI that everything felt organic and simply beautiful to watch. Personally, The Hidden World made me sentimental because it made me recall how young the characters were when the series started and now, they’re all grown up. It made me feel like a mom sending her child off to college, much like what Hiccup was feeling for his best buddy Toothless when he starts to fall in love.
I loved the evolution of Hiccup’s role as Toothless’ best friend to become somewhat of a father figure. I loved how supportive he was as he cheered on Toothless as he wooed the light fury and coached him behind the scenes to help him impress his chick. I adored how he immediately came to Toothless’ aid and made him a prosthetic so he could go after her. It was also quite parental to see him wrestling between his feelings of wanting Toothless to be happy and yet suspecting something awry about his soon to be daughter in law. It was funny because it was so relatable.
In coming to terms with his role as chief, I loved the continuity that the film presented with its use of flashbacks from Hiccup’s childhood to his journey to becoming the head of his family and his people. Yet, at his core, he remained unchanged from the first movie. He was still purehearted and innocent, and led his people with his heart, something that the they responded to with fierce loyalty.
I was a big fan of the consistency of the characters in all of the movies. While none of the gang are particularly skilled fighters, except for Eret (Kit Harrington) and Astrid (America Ferrera), they have such huge personalities that each scene is so entertaining to watch. Overconfident twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple) had more screen time and just killed every one of their scenes. Snotlout’s (Jonah Hill) crush on Hiccup’s mom Valka (Cate Blanchett) was equally funny and creepy. Combined with Fishlegs’ (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) dorkiness, it was like a neverending a volley of witty comments, burns and jokes. There’s really no dull moment with these fools around.
The CGI was also quite stunning and it actually reminded me of the epic magnificence of Avatar and Game of Thrones. There were also very subtle developments in the animation that added more detail and texture to the characters that made them stand out more and feel more real.
Storywise, I do not think that the writer-director Dean DeBlois could have come up with a more beautiful story to send off the trilogy like The Hidden World. Everything came full circle and the exploration of the depth of the exploration of Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship was masterfully done. I don’t think I could remember their final scenes without tearing up. The moment that he makes his final decision about the dragons perfectly depict the Berkians’ love for their dragons as well. It delivered a sense of community, and love and family.
All in all, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World had everything going for it — an amazing adventure, a love story, an excitement brought on by a threat of imminent danger, an exploration of friendship, family and self reflection — it was the ultimate tale of growing up and fulfilling one’s destiny. Its an epic conclusion to Hiccup and Toothless’ parallel journeys, one that they deserve, and one that fans have waited for since 2010. It was the perfect sendoff to this wonderful franchise. Bring your hankies, its bound to be a tearful goodbye.
Catch it on SM Cinemas starting Feb. 20. Take it from me. Its not to be missed.