I am going to say it. How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World is the most cinematic and most genuinely heartfelt film of 2019, and their dragons are way better than anything on Game of Thrones.
“Perfect performances, mind-blowing animation, and a narrative that tugs at your heartstrings”
When I first saw the original How to Train Your Dragon in 2014, I fell in love. Yes, it is technically a kid’s film, but I was a kid then. Years later, as a quasi-adult, I have found that my love has only increased for this series, which is to be expected when you are met with perfect performances, mind-blowing animation, and a narrative that tugs at your heartstrings and puts a smile on your face. You are never too old to appreciate the artistry of these kind of films, and sometimes it is nice to sit back and watch something that makes you feel fuzzy inside. As The Hidden World shows, you can still create a film aimed at a younger audience which can truly wow older film goers.
The series, loosely based on the Cressida Cowell books, is about a young Viking boy named Hiccup, who finds and befriends a Night Fury, a rare dragon, who he names Toothless. The films follow their adventures over the years, tracking Hiccup and Toothless, and a whole host of other characters, and are absolutely charming.
“Multiple subplots are woven throughout, each of which are addressed and concluded”
Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, who also wrote and directed the 2014 sequel, The Hidden World finds an older Hiccup coming face-to-face with dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly, who seeks to kill Toothless and sell all the dragons Hiccup has protected to viscous warlords. A little lighter compared to the comparatively dark sequel, the narrative of The Hidden World is a simple one on the surface, but multiple subplots are woven throughout, each of which are addressed and concluded, and which contribute greatly to the wider story at hand.
“The story culminates in a beautifully written and performed ending”
The film has plenty of jokes and thrills for kids and adults alike. It is about more than dragons and Vikings (though the premise is as alluring for me as it was when I was eleven). It is a film about love, growing up, and facing your enemies. It teaches valuable lessons about believing in yourself and letting go of the things that deserve to be free, and at this point in my life, it is these kinds of lessons I need. The story culminates in a beautifully written and performed ending, which calls back to the previous films in a way that really, truly sticks with you. I am unashamed to admit that I shed a tear as the final scenes played out.
“It currently has a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes”
DeBlois’ direction and writing is heartfelt and poignant, and given that he co-wrote and co-directed the classic Lilo & Stitch (2002), it’s unsurprising that he has enabled the trilogy to succeed at a time when so often, sequels and remakes are mediocre at best. It was perhaps daring for there to be three films, but Dream Works has definitely delivered. After multiple release date shifts, I am glad that the film has finally been released so that the world can see it in all its splendour, and am completely unsurprised that it currently has a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The stellar cast includes Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, and Craig Ferguson, who all bring charm and real emotion to their characters. John Powell, returning for the third time, brings his A-game with a score that gives you goosebumps. The music too calls back throughout the series, tying it together with emotive, powerful tracks that complement the scenes perfectly.
“Above all, [the animation] captures the thrill of what it would be to fly on the back of a dragon”
Above all, what really blew me away was the cinematic quality of the animation. The original 2010 film was ground-breaking then, and the films have been critically acclaimed for the sheer aesthetic beauty presented on screen, but The Hidden World truly stunned me.
On multiple occasions my jaw dropped at what I was seeing. Everything is meticulously designed, never sloppy or lazy, allowing for realistic characters and a weighted world. You can tell that great care has been taken in designing the dragons themselves, and the ‘Hidden World’ itself is reminiscent of Avatar (2009), imaginative and otherworldly. Whether it is pages flipping, clouds rolling over the water, or water shedding off the wing of a dragon, the animation is absolutely magnificent. Above all, it captures the thrill of what it would be to fly on the back of a dragon.
The Hidden World, in a word, is a marvel. It is a fantastic end to the trilogy, and a film that is enjoyable for all ages, unafraid to be genuine in its emotion and easily the most beautiful film I have seen in a long time.
Featured Image courtesy of Dream Works Animation and Mad Hatter Entertainment via IMDb.