‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Has Great Visuals, but the Same Old Story

The final film in the franchise does not live up to its acclaimed predecessors.

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“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is the third and final film in the DreamWorks franchise. (via Flickr)

By Fareid El Gafy , Staff Writer

As Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless solidify their place in film history with a complete trilogy, I have to say, let’s end the journey here. In terms of longevity and revenue, “How to Train Your Dragon” approaches DreamWorks’ other heavy-hitting series like “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” Unfortunately, the third installment of the series falls closer to the lackluster “Shrek the Third” than to the more well-received “Kung Fu Panda 3.”

The series has become a critical darling, landing among the highest rated films DreamWorks has to offer. The early praise that “The Hidden World” received was baffling. The first “How to Train Your Dragon” was a treat to watch. Seeing Hiccup and Toothless become a team capable of changing the hearts of hardened Vikings was exciting and the film was original and wonderfully directed. Two films later, it’s become fairly obvious that DreamWorks is rehashing the same story.

“The Hidden World” features a mystical dragon base, just as the first two did. It also features a drab, grey villain whose goal is undercooked and confused, just in like the second film. “How to Train Your Dragon 2’s” Drago (Djimon Hounsou) sought to steal all dragons, while this film’s Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) seeks to kill all dragons. Essentially, they pose the exact same threat to the Vikings — they will separate them from their dragons.

It feels very much like a film I’ve seen once already in this regard. Oftentimes, Grimmel seems to actively avoid his vicious goal only because he’s in a children’s film; even a child could see how odd his choices are.

The film crawls from beginning to end, severely bogged down by the biggest draw of the trailer — Toothless’ love interest. The Light and Night Furies spend about a fifth of the film preening and dancing around. It’s cute for about five minutes, and then it wears out its welcome. And then it keeps going.

Despite all of its narrative and pacing flaws, “The Hidden World” is undeniably drop-dead gorgeous. If DreamWorks hasn’t fully caught up to Pixar, it’s certainly nipping at its tail. The particle effects for sand are astoundingly realistic. The colors and lighting bring the world out of the screen. Grass, fire, electricity, water, saliva and venom are rendered superbly, as are the textured dragon scales and every strand of hair on the human characters. “The Hidden World” is a phenomenal tech demo for better films that DreamWorks could make with this software.

“The Hidden World” could be forgiven if it were at all funny, but its humor is often mediocre and lingers too long on gags. It’s oddly adult for a film marketed towards children, with heaps of humor dedicated to the romance between twenty-year-olds, and Snotlout’s (Jonah Hill) attraction to the main character’s mother.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” tries to build to an emotional climax, but its journey there is a slog, and it feels, on the whole, like an utter misfire. Uninspired and tired out, I feel it’s best that this remain a trilogy. Sad to say, I no longer believe in “Dragons.”

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