Arts movie review

‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ sets out for a dazzling, dragon-filled voyage

The Hidden World might be Hiccup’s and Toothless’s last stop, but Berk lives on forever in our hearts

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Hiccup pets Toothless the dragon in "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World."
Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World
Directed by Dean DeBlois
Screenplay by Dean DeBlois
Starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, and Gerard Butler
Rated PG, Now Playing

In The Hidden World, Hiccup and Toothless, the lovable duo, return for the final installment of the How to Train your Dragon trilogy, which began a full nine years ago. It looks like time hasn’t stopped for the citizens of Berk, and the story picks up one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, as our two protagonists enter early adulthood. Love is in the air, but while romance has a pivotal role in advancing the plot, Hiccup and Toothless’s ever-evolving friendship remains the soul of the story.

The narrative itself is relatively straightforward and unsurprising. Anyone who has seen the trailer can likely anticipate much of the story, but what the film lacks in plot it more than makes up for in color and animation. The spunky, playful design of dragon-filled Berk swallows the silver screen and simply dazzles the eyes, and the spectacularly imaginative dragon species are refreshing and fun. The promise of an amazing Hidden World is upheld; the dragon’s realm is kaleidoscopic eye-candy — a fantastical Great Barrier Reef.

As the title suggests, the dragons, and Toothless specifically, receive a lot of screen time in this movie, and this shift in focus pays off big. The Hidden World is incredibly effective at communicating their varied emotions through body language, and Toothless’s vibrant personality feels as real as any human characters’. He is the center of a number of the film’s strongest scenes, which often contain no dialogue at all.

Several of these moments are remarkably poignant, and both younger and older dragon fans will appreciate the film’s emotional core. A wide array of human and dragon emotions permeate the story, elevating the film from genre-typical action to bigger thoughts. The relationship between Hiccup and his father, in particular, will resonate with parents and children alike. Auditory and visual callbacks to earlier films will be sure to trigger deep-buried nostalgia, and you might incidentally find yourself catching “the feels.”

While some might find the story wrapped up too neatly, it stands to be said that at least Dreamworks found a good place to end the How To Train Your Dragon series. The Hidden World had laughs, tears, gasps, and awwws, and is a must-see for long-time fans.