There’s something quite inspiring and comforting about a film series that maintains cohesion from one entry to another. Continuing to showcase the same heart, soul and humour as its predecessors, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – the second sequel to 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon – still manages to evoke a sense of freshness and adventure.
A film very much for devoted audiences of the previous entries, The Hidden World expands on the relationships its central characters have formed with their respective dragons. No longer the dreaded animals they were once considered, this film’s main plot arc – in keeping with the other features – is once again based around young Viking chief Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon companion Toothless.
Fulfilling his dream of creating a dragon utopia, Hiccup believes his destiny is somewhat contented and he can now settle down with longtime partner Astrid (America Ferrera). A satisfied hero so early on in the piece wouldn’t be remotely satisfying though, so when Toothless is lured away by a female mate, it sets in motion a plan that will test both Hiccup’s relationship with Toothless and his own sense of bravery in ruling his people.
The Hidden World of the film’s subtitle is a visually glorious and expansive universe that is believed only to exist in myth (want to bet if it’s real?), and when the appropriately villainous Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a dragon slayer intent on wiping out their race entirely, slithers his way into the story, it propels Hiccup to take charge of a clan that still doubt his abilities to lead; Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington and Christopher Mintz-Plasse just a slew of the familiar names lending their vocal talents to the various viking crew members.
The bond between Toothless and Hiccup really is the driving force behind The Hidden World, and as cliched as it sounds, the manner in which writer/director Dean DeBlois (who helmed both of the previous films) has nurtured this relationship is quite beautiful in its ability to discuss how friendships expand over time without it appearing overtly preachy. It also helps that Baruchel really sounds invested in the character, and its his mix of sternness and vulnerability that proves most relatable.
Beautifully rendered and, at times, immaculately entertaining (A sequence involving Toothless testing out his mating ritual techniques is one for the books) How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the perfect summation of a surprisingly robust series that’s far more captivating and emotionally rousing than it has any right to be – I dare you not to swell a tear during the film’s climax. Whilst younger audiences may be surprised at the scarcity of obvious visual humour, those who have either grown up with the previous films or discovered them after the fact should be more than satisfied with this closing chapter that treats its viewers with the same dignity and respect it shows its characters.