IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 104 mins
REVIEWED BY: DR Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Hiccup continues to rescue dragons with his fellow dragon riders and friends in order to bring them back to Berk and create a bustling dragon and human utopia. Unfortunately, his efforts have also resulted in the island becoming severely overpopulated with dragons, so Hiccup decides to find the “Hidden World”, a safe haven for dragons that his late father Stoick told him about. Meanwhile, infamous dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly is determined to rid the world of all such creatures, and sets out to capture Toothless to use as an alpha, with a female Night Fury as bait….
At the end of my review for How To Train Your Dragon 2 I wrote that the third film in this trilogy couldn’t come quick enough. In fact us lovers of this series had to wait five darn years for its conclusion, but it was certainly worth the wait, even if the Hidden World of the title is only shown for about five minutes and is otherwise – well – hidden for the rest of the film. There’s less of the epic sweep of the last chapter, instead going for a more intimate approach, though maybe that’s in keeping with the way this trilogy has allowed us to watch its characters grow. We’ve had childhood with the first film being a boy-befriending-animal movie full of wonder and awe, then we’ve had adolescence concerning itself with maturation and legacy, and now we have a bittersweet look at how adulthood means both meeting new horizons and having to leave things, and ways of thinking, behind. But that’s not to say this episode skimps on the thrills, with some stunning aerial battles that any live action offering this year will struggle to beat in terms of visceral excitement. And there’s still room for some humour, from Tuffnut becoming a supposed romantic advisor for Hiccup who should possibly be getting engaged to Astrid, to Ruggnut being so irritating when the bad guy captures her that he’s actually driven to letting her go, though much of the emphasis is on Toothless, as he makes a lot of the decisions in this movie that Hiccup might have made in the first two films.
The lengthy sequences between Toothless and his potential mate, silent except for John Powell’s evocative scoring which is fantastic throughout, would have probably been drastically cut down if this were another movie, but here they’re allowed to play on and manage to be both funny and beautiful at the same time. And the variety of dragons is even bigger than in film number two, Grimmel’s chief slave monster being one of the most fearsome looking creatures seen on screen in a while, while again the temptation to anthropomorphise Toothless and co. has been avoided – they behave like proper animals even if you can’t help but love them. There’s no major technological upgrade this time unlike in the second film, but there’s still a vivid texture to some of the scenes, particularly when we [briefly] visit this Hidden World where my god it almost looks like we’re watching hand drawn animations in a few shots. The running time in general flies by despite there being no shortage of believable character development [though some material concerning our rather thinly written bad guy seems to be missing] and genuine heart, with the finale guaranteed to chug the heart strings of those who’ve fallen in love with this well thought out and well crafted world, yet stopping short of sappiness because it’s been so well earned. As the last few minutes guide everything into legend, the only real irritant that nags at the brain is the thought they might do a fourth one [as with Toy Story and Shrek]. They shouldn’t, because it would render much of the thematic nature of this one redundant. In any case, this marvellous trio of films, as fulfilling for adults as well as children, should be regarded as one of the great screen fantasy epics as a whole.