This March saw the release of the third and apparently final instalment in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise in the form of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This franchise, which started in 2010 with the release of the first film and continued with a sequel and a number of television spinoffs, follows the story of Berk where young Viking Hiccup, son of the reputed chief Stoic, as he sets out to befriend the dragons, the vikings’ mortal enemy. In this film, Hiccup, now the chief of the settlement, looks desperately for a place to relocate the Berk as the integration of Berkians with dragons has made them a target for the rest of the world. Starring Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera among others, the film has been received well by long standing fans of the franchise as a fitting end to the tale.
I was so incredibly excited to see this film. I am, firstly, the most nostalgically sufferable individual you’ve ever met. Secondly, I absolutely love How to Train Your Dragon. The first film was a massive deal in my life (though as most who know me would tell you almost everything I watched at that time in my life was a big deal in my life). I liked the second film, a lot, and I even enjoyed what I saw of the TV series on Cartoon Network. Hiccup and Toothless are important to me, so when I heard that not only was there going to be a third film, but that the third film was supposed to be good, I was ready to go on opening day. I think my reaction could best be described as mild disappointment. It’s decent. It pays the appropriate amount of homage to the first film, but comes slightly short of being great on its own.
The humor falls flat a little too often, but when it lands it lands hard. There are some solid, top notch comic motifs (I’m looking at the beard jokes and I’m looking at Snotlout and Eret’s competition over Hiccup’s mom) which deserve credit where credit is due. The remaining, more moment to moment funnys are a little weak. It stems from some lazy writing at times, not up to DreamWorks’ high standards. One of the things that’s so incredible about these movies we watched as kids is how legitimately good they were. It was never screenplays for four year olds. Not that the writing on this film is anywhere near that bad, but it was flat to the point of neglect at times and that was just a little sad to see. The character development, in terms of the extrapolation over the four films, is quality. The internal struggle with Hiccup is very uncomfortable to watch, but that was entirely the point so fair play to them. I didn’t personally love the thing they did with Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship; the lack of belief was a little undercooked (more on that later).
The film’s villain, Grimmel, starts off as a charismatic, spooky antagonist that weaves really well into the main idea of the film. There’s a line of Hiccup’s, “Grimmel is just a sign of the times,” which puts well the link to this quest for the new world that obsesses Hiccup. Unfortunately, they tried to do too much. There was a really interesting dynamic with Hiccup and Grimmel, where Grimmel was essentially the anti-Hiccup who made the opposite choice when presented with the same situation of a Nightfury in the woods. That’s an interesting idea which they chose not to build on, and by the end of the film Grimmel was little more than a villain who had a lot of potential and was finally taken down way too easily.
I loved the last half hour though. Absolutely wonderful. The last half hour of this film pretty much makes up for the shortcomings of the first hour or so, paying sweet sweet homage and rounding the franchise off in exactly the way it deserves to. I might be driving the knife deeper than need be, okay I probably am, but I felt it could’ve been more heart-tugging. Touching though it was, I really expected to come out of this with tears in my eyes and I did not by any means. Once again, however, credit where credit it due for rounding the franchise off appropriately, lord knows a lot of others have fallen short on that count.
All in all, I’d say it was fine. I personally think this was probably the least good film of the franchise. It tried to do too much; it juggled too many dynamics and subplots, so much so that none of them felt especially potent. From Hiccup’s self belief to Toohtless’ question of loyalty to the actual quest to the hidden world, most everything in the film felt undercooked. A lot of potential, but lacking finesse in the execution. That having been said, this is a great franchise. My personal thanks to the cast and crew for a great ride that meant everything and more to a little boy who wished dragons were real.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 67/100 Aryamaan’s Score –