“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is about the inevitable conclusion, when two young males finally take the leap into the adult world of love and then coupledom. Hiccup and Toothless much make some difficult decisions and both grow up in a way that is both emotionally satisfying and yet bittersweet. The sequel manages to remain thrilling, funny and ultimately uplifting.
In the original 2010 movie, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) was a 15-year-old genius inventor, sort of a pre-steampunk steampunk–too pre-Victorian to count, but his Viking mechanics are part of the charm of this series. His inventions don’t always work. He’s a skinny son of a Viking leader of a settlement called Berk, Stoick (Gerard Butler), who doesn’t look like he’ll grow up to lead himself but he’s apprenticing under the blacksmith, Stoick’s best bud Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Through one of his inventions, he captures the last Night Fury, Toothless, which he cannot bring himself to kill. Eventually, he tames Toothless and teaches others–Astrid (America Ferrera), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) to tame dragons and during a great battle where he and Toothless play a decisive role, loses part of his lower left leg.
The 2014 sequel, “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” takes place five years later. That would put Hiccup at 20. Unlike kings and queens, the Viking chief doesn’t have to die for the son to takeover and Stoick is pressuring his son to take on the mantel of chief, but Hiccup isn’t sure if he’s ready. Berk and its dragons come under attack by a conqueror, Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who has his own dragons. This sets off a showdown between not only Berk and Drago’s forces, but the dragons from a dragon nest that have been under the protection of Hiccup’s mother, Valka (Cate Blanchette), whom Hiccup and Stoick have believed to be dead. This leads to Toothless becoming the Alpha (yes, a horrific misuse of the alpha role in the animal world) of all dragon, but only after Stoick has sacrificed his life to save his son.
The Hidden World
“The Hidden World” begins only a year after the last movie. In the mist, there is a light and an armored figure that can walk through flames and has a flaming sword (The Viking equivalent to a light saber?). This is a raid and our Berkian gang of young dragon riders are freeing dragons, but the miss one that has turned herself invisible.
The Berkians’ life with dragons is far from tranquil. So many dragons are being saved that the village is overcrowded with dragons and the constant arrival of new dragons means some of the gigantic beasts don’t know how to behavior around buildings and people that can be destroyed by a flick of a tail.
Hiccup remembers his father’s stories about a Hidden World beyond the end of the earth where dragons live, but the world isn’t flat and it must be beyond one day’s journey by dragon. He and Astrid search for it, because others are searching for them and their dragons. Toothless’ mother, Valka, find a fleet of ships with cages for all of their dragons heading their way. Led by Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), this fleet also has dragons, kept under control by venoms that drugs them into submission. Grimmel has been given the dragon that turns invisible, a white Night Fury (possibly a subspecies), and because Furies mate for life, Grimmel uses her to lure Toothless.
Toothless finds what Astrid dubs the Light Fury in the wooded area outside of Berk, but when the Light Fury realizes Hiccup is around, she flees and Toothless cannot follow. Hiccup and Tuffnut (who has been giving Toothless advice on women) discover a trap set for Toothless. Grimmel has obviously been on Berk and Grimmel surprises Hiccup at night but is surprised himself. Yet as he escapes, without Toothless, Grimmel burns down Hiccup’s home and most of Berk. The Berkians must flee and they take to their dragons and leave Berk in search of the Hidden World.
Their first stop is an island, meant to be a temporary resting point, yet the Berkians are not nomads and begin to set down roots. While there, to help Toothless court the Light Fury, Hiccup builds an improved tail that is automatic and Toothless flies away with the Light Fury and doesn’t return.
In the first movie, Hiccup became a warrior who stood up to his father. In the second movie, Hiccup and Toothless became the leaders of their respective worlds. “How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World” has few technical surprises than “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and spends less time developing the other characters in Hiccup’s gang. In this third and last movie, Hiccup and Toothless must understand who they are without each other and this trilogy like the books that inspired it explains why dragons no longer exist in today’s human world. For fans of Hiccup and Toothless, this is heartbreaking, but there is a coda at the end which is heartwarming enough to leave you with a smile.
Director Dean DeBlois, who is also credited with the script (based on Cressida Cowell’s “How to Train Your Dragon”), has brought a beautiful family-oriented film series that deals with love, loss, death, friendship and adventure. The trilogy balances joy and sadness. We’ve seen this group of teens grow up and, despite each other’s faults, stick together and help each other grow up and survive in a world where not everyone does survive. It’s provided us with a hero who never grows up to be big and muscular and is even physically disabled, yet he leads his people and is loved by someone who is just as bold and brave and can sometimes help him see his own worth.
Certainly, this is a modern take of Viking life, but with my Toothless sticker on my laptop, I went to this preview screening with my Toothless hoodies and my Toothless Build-A-Bear and have already ordered my limited edition Toothless Night Fury and a Light Fury as well. My only regret is that Dreamworks hasn’t marketed Toothless and the whole How to Train Your Dragon series better.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” opens on 22 February 2019 in the US.