By Thom Ernst
Wrapping up this triumvirate tale of a boy and his dragon is the suitably entertaining but somewhat indulgent How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
How to Train Your Dragon (as a series) suffers from a title that predisposes a happy ending. If the goal of H2TYD #1 was to train to the dragon (and if we chose to be philosophical, we’ll recognize that the dragon is a metaphor for calming the beast inside us) then it might as well have stopped there. But success demands sequels, and writing an ending to a franchise these days is something of a gift.
And so, we’ve reached the final chapter in a tale that spans almost a decade. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World sticks to brand, but it doesn’t flinch from a promise that The Hidden World will retire the series into the comfortable zone where myth becomes legend. What more can a story-teller hope for?
In H2TYD: The Hidden World, the protagonist Hiccup, (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a few years older, with the understated confidence and demeanor of a man deserving of his post. He’s far from perfect, but it’s his imperfections that make him worthy of his command; a man whose gentle conscience kept him from being the fierce dragon warrior his father had hoped for him, transforming him instead into a fierce champion of dragons.
Now, comfortable in his role as a Viking leader, Hiccup continues to lead raids against cruel dragon slave owners who have yet to see dragons as anything but vermin. But with each successful raid, the tiny village of Berk becomes increasingly more over crowded with dragons.
No one is likely to feel short-changed by the film, certainly not if dragons are what they came to see. The film is swarming with dragons, so much so that any given screen shot looks like a page from a Richard Scarry children’s picture book. When it comes to dragons, Berk is busier than Busytown.
The plot is really a dual love story that occurs between both beasts (Toothless and a Light Fury, long thought to be extinct) and humans (Hiccup and the equally capable warrior, Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera).
There’s an action tale here too, with a perfect villain voiced by F. Murray Abraham, who channels Adam Sandler’s take on Dracula from the Hotel Transylvania series. Abraham is delightfully sinister in his attempt to destroy all dragons everywhere, and his seemingly in ability to recognise the trail of distain and hate he leaves behind him.
Audiences will experience “the hidden world,” which is beautifully realized in computerized images so meticulously imagined as to distract from the story. The same can be said of the digital vitality given to the main characters via constant refinements to CGI. It’s reached the point where they move, flinch, cringe, flutter and sigh with such great affect that no actor’s voice could possibly do justice to the infallible articulation. Their animated perfection is both fascinating and disturbing.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Directed/written by Dean DeBlois. Starring (voices): Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham. Opens wide Friday, February 24.