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“Dragon 3” Delivers Family Fun but Never Matches Dramatic Weight of Predecessors

Written by: Patrick Howard | February 22nd, 2019

Film poster: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Dean DeBlois, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

Dean DeBlois, director of Dragons 1 and 2, draws the velvet curtain on the newly formed How to Train Your Dragon trilogy with its final installment, The Hidden World. Several years after events of the second installment, Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, is the chief of the newly reformed Viking and dragon utopia Burke. To Hiccup, his village is thriving more than ever, with new species of dragons starting prosperous lives every day, but his girlfriend, Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera, and the rest of his friends say differently. With space for new dragons dwindling fast and the threat of a highly trained dragon killer, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, approaching more swiftly, Hiccup and his clan must test the validity of a legendary hidden world of dragons before it is too late.

How to Train Your Dragon 3 is a final installment that effortlessly retains the same eye-catching animation and refreshing maturity in its storytelling as seen in its two predecessors. With every Dragon film, Dean DeBlois and his team push the technological limits of CGI animations, supply a great deal of confidence to DreamWorks Studios as they continue to impressively bump elbows with Disney Studios. The design of the dragons are meticulously creative and are distracting in the best possible definition of the word. Scenes of Hiccup and his friends talking in Burke are nerfed by the detailed commotion of villagers and dragons in the background. This comment sounds like a back-handed compliment but this critic is in utter awe of their work, and it will go down as a beneficial push in its medium.

Toothless and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD ©DreamWorks Animation

The first Dragon film told the story of a boy finding the confidence in who he is; the second film told the story of a young man stepping up to specific responsibilities, and The Hidden World tells the story of a man learning to let go of what he loves the most. DeBlois juggles this story well enough with a subplot of Hiccup’s dragon Toothless meeting the love of his life, but neither of these stories generates the dramatic heft that they need in all three acts of the film. Both plots instead decide to pick and choose when to have their emotional climaxes. Luckily, the emotional climax of Hiccup’s arc is given a chance to breathe in the film’s final 15 minutes instead of being forced to share time with a hair-raising action sequence.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World offers a great deal of closure to the How to Train Your Dragon series and its dedicated fans. On its own, Dragon 3 struggles to prioritize its A-plot over its B-plot effectively. Dean DeBlois has still managed to craft a mature and touching story of letting go of what you love most and learning why it is for the best.

Astrid (America Ferrera) and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD ©DreamWorks Animation

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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