How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World movie director: Dean DeBlois
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World voice cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World movie rating: 2 stars
Pursued by the bad guys, a group of Vikings and their dragons decide to abandon their home of seven generations for “a hidden world” where they will be safe. Particularly after Christchurch, it may not be the best of times for a storyline such as this, given how sensitive Hollywood is to nuances like that. But this is just one misstep by How To Train Your Dragon. Into Part 3, the story of Hiccup and his Night Fury called Toothless seems stretched and contrived, full of noisy battles, and stuffed with just too many fire-breathing giants.
What made this story, based on a book series by Cressida Cowell, special to start with was how it depicted the friendship between two misfits and how, in finding each other, they made each other whole. The second part where that friendship soared and fought off some villains was still essentially about Hiccup (Baruchel) and Toothless. The Hidden World starts with a premise that seems promising — how many dragons can the pair save from hunters before they overstay their welcome in ‘Berk’, the land of which Hiccup is the Viking chief. Already, it is bursting at the seams, and with more and more dragons coming in, there is chaos, especially at meal times. But rather than go somewhere with that idea, we have a middling villain with a reputation of capturing and controlling dragons, Grimmel (voiced suitably menacingly by Abraham). As he steals a march over Hiccup, the latter decides to lead his Vikings and their friendly dragons to what is the promised land.
That DreamWorks still knows how to spin magic is evident from the scenes of Toothless finding a mate in another Night Fury. She is a complete contrast to him — white as the clouds she keeps disappearing into — and hence they dub her the Light Fury. Their courtship, tip-toeing their way around each other, or soaring into the skies, is a delight.
On the ground though, things stagnate. The jokes are not that funny, the chatter ranges between incoherent and insistent, the Grimmel-Hiccup confrontation takes too long happening and then is over in no time, the women (voiced by the talented Ferrera and Blanchett) are little but background noise, the hidden world is a complete Avatar rip-off, while many father-son moments are unfortunately too much like The Lion King.
Still, The Hidden World takes you to a point where Hiccup and Toothless both find a closure. The tale can go anyway from here — any sequel plans will depend on how Part 3 fares — but even if it ends here, it would have been a mostly fun journey.