Note: This review originally appeared on Kingfisher’s blog. You can find the original here.
“I’ve just been thinking about what I needed. I never stopped to think about what you needed.” -Hiccup
I am going to put this right out there: I hate endings. I know these are fake characters in a fake world, but there’s something about this series that really hit me. These characters are so real. We’ve seen them as kids, and now, in The Hidden World, we see them fully become adults. It’s been a great ride, and now it’s over.
I’ve reviewed the first two movies (here, and here), and had the opportunity to go see The Hidden World as it screened three weeks early. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I will try my best to keep this review major spoiler free, however, it obviously will not be completely spoiler free. I will attempt to warn of major spoilers as we go (you have been warned!).
So how does The Hidden World rank, not only as the third chapter of a trilogy but as the ending to the story of Hiccup and Toothless? Let’s look at how it stacks up.
From the trailers (and there are three of them) you think you know what’s going to happen in this story: Toothless meets a girl, Grimmel the villain wants the Night Furies, Hiccup will not give him the Night Furies, and so to keep away from Grimmel, Hiccup, Toothless, all the dragons, and people from Berk have to find and flee to the Hidden World, the ancestral home of the dragons. Obviously, things happen, Grimmel puts up a fight, blah blah.
Pretty straight forward right?
That’s what the trailers want you to think is going to happen. Well… I’m here to tell you that the people who did this trailer are GENIUS. See this?
Oh and remember this part in the trailer?
and remember hearing something like this from Stoick? “I believe it’s your destiny to find the Hidden World.”
Or Hiccup telling Toothless “It’s you and me bud, always.”
Yeah. NONE of that is in the actual movie. I mean, some of it is, but not in the way shot and presented in the trailer.
This story was kept secret in the most beautiful way. You go in expecting to get this epic movie with epic battles and a very “this is really going to be the end of the dragons if we don’t fight,” and… it’s not. Not really. I honestly felt more was at stake with Drago and his dragon army, and I can’t really explain why. That being said, you do get the idea that the world is shifting and that while Berk has changed and embraced their way of life with their dragons, the rest of the world still hasn’t – in fact, they’ve gotten even more gung-ho about destroying them.
What the trailer does present that is true is Hiccup’s search for the Hidden World and his idea that they all have to “disappear” if they want to keep their way of life. (And for the record, as I’m writing this and watching Hulu in the background, they’re now doing TV spots that are much more in tune with the truth of the story!)
What is also true is the focus on the movie between the romance between Toothless and the Light Fury. One of the first surprises in the movie is exactly how he meets up with her. Let’s just put it this way – she’s more a part of the story than I ever thought she could be.
Another big chunk of the story is the relationship between Astrid and Hiccup. It is very much welcomed and extremely well done, so much so that I would watch this movie over and over again strictly to watch their interactions. Their relationship has always been so real, and in this movie, it really shines.
Between balancing these two focuses and the presence of our villain, Grimmel (who we’ll get to near the end), there’s really not much room for anything else. It runs at an hour forty-five minutes, and to be honest it flew by.
This movie may not be what the trailers made it out to be, but this story is what it had to be. It’s a story about growing up, protecting those you love, and being who you need to be. It’s a story about relying on those around you to keep you safe and those who have your back for eternity. It is a goodbye, but it is the most perfect goodbye that Hiccup and Toothless could have given us.
I could watch the last 10 minutes for the rest of my life.
I’m sort of going backward in my review this time, because… well, you’ll get it.
I’ve always touted how great the animation is in these movies, and this one does not disappoint. It’s a noticeable step up from even the last movie, and if you watch the first one and then this one, I’m sure the improvement would be astounding.
I mean, I was sitting in the fourth row of the theater and I could see the hair on Hiccup’s face. The light hairs – we’re not even talking about a five o’ clock shadow here!
The Hidden World itself is a visual treat. The colors, shapes, and movements that take place during this scene are gorgeous.
And it wouldn’t be a How to Train Your Dragon movie without introducing at least a few new dragons. There’s really only a few, but again, I would have loved to be on the design team for these guys, because it still blows my mind how they can make so many different kinds of dragons.
Apart from the dragon design, the kids got an upgrade too. They all wear dragon scale armor now, and the effects are quite impressive. I love how they’ve also taken Hiccup’s sword and flight suit and improved it movie by movie. It’s really impressive, and in this movie is actually extremely important.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the characters in this movie are very special to me. I’m going to save an entire section for Toothless, Hiccup, and Astrid, but let’s look at the other characters here, see how they shape up, and how their story comes to an end.
To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by how little some of the more prominent characters were in the movie, most notably Valka, Gobber, and Eret. They were such an important part of the second movie, it’s a bit of a shame we don’t see that much of them in this one. That being said, they still serve their purpose. Eret’s knowledge as a former dragon trapper helps in dealing with Grimmel, and without Gobber, one of Hiccup’s conflicts would be nonexistent. As for Valka, let’s just say she gives a bit of advice to Astrid on how to deal with being involved with the Chief.
Hiccup’s dragon-riding gang makes their appearance here right at the beginning, in an opening scene that is much different than the previous two movies, and quite honestly one of the best scenes hands down. We’re re-introduced to our gang and their dragons and their new moves, new armor, and new abilities. As always, they’re pretty much there for the laughs, but in this movie, the humor really outdoes itself.
Snotlout, who has spent the last two movies pining over women (Astrid in the first movie, Ruffnut in the second) has found a new target, which is…weird. But Snotlout maintains his larger than life ego. I am sad to say there is not enough Hookfang in this movie.
Fishlegs is sporting a new mustache and Meatlug’s baby, Fishmeat. He’s still relied on for being the go-to person on new dragons (of which there are a few in this movie), but short of this, he’s not in this movie much. Meatlug is even less in it, but her baby is adorable and steals the few scenes she’s in.
Now there’s Ruffnut and Tuffnut. The twins are probably my least favorite of the gang, but I do have to admit that through the Netflix series Race to the Edge, I have grown to appreciate their specific type of humor. In the Hidden World, it is front and center, and you see more of the twins (especially Tuffnut) than you did in probably both other movies combined. A specific scene with Ruffnut made our entire theater laugh out loud. While these two have been known to be somewhat annoying, in this movie they resort to just being kooky and well, themselves. I think it pays off.
Hiccup & Astrid
I’m upping Astrid’s status to main character for this movie, because she’s an incredibly important aspect of this movie, and to be honest she deserves it. While the movie mostly focuses on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless (which it should), Astrid and the Light Fury come in close seconds. Astrid is as we’ve always known her: tough, rough, able to beat Hiccup with the turn of a hand, smart and resourceful. In this movie, we see a bit of her soft side as she laments how adorable it is that Toothless has fallen in love, and, most importantly, she is there to teach Hiccup that he doesn’t have to make decisions alone, that he can rely on her, and that he can be a good leader, even when Toothless is off courting his girl.
There is a beautiful callback scene to the very first movie between Hiccup and Astrid that is done so wonderfully in this one. Remember this?
That’s the scene from the first movie where Hiccup is upset because his dad just took Toothless to find the Red Death. He’s moping, and Astrid talks him into realizing he has to do something “crazy and stupid” to get him back. This scene is done again in this movie, almost word for word, when Hiccup has given up. He’s done everything “by the book” as his father would have done, and (spoiler) it hasn’t gone too well. It’s almost like Astrid is talking him back into being himself. It’s a scene that’s a nice callback but also shows just how important she is, how much she loves him for him, and how much he really needs her. Astrid is awesome.
While we’re on the subject, let’s switch to Hiccup. Now only a year has passed between the second movie and this one, and in that time Hiccup seems to have grown into his leadership role quite nicely. He’s “established the first dragon/person Utopia,” which is true, but also a little crowded. To him, this is the first step in the greater world accepting and befriending dragons. But…that’s not what happens.
Hiccup, in this movie, learns to let go. He learns to let go of his belief that he can change the world. He learns to be less selfish. He learns to let go of his best friend and let him go off to court his girl. He learns and accepts that the world isn’t ready for dragons like Berkians are. If the second movie was about him growing and accepting his job as Chief, this one is about him stepping into that position and really understanding what it means. He’s still Hiccup: he’s still sarcastic and clumsy, but sweet, thoughtful, and caring. He’s always seemed to have this chip on his shoulder and that’s still there. But he learns to accept it and let Astrid take part of that chip because they’re in this together.
Toothless & the Light Fury
Toothless. Oh, Toothless. This dragon, much like Hiccup, never really changes, but instead grows up. We saw him at the end of the second movie become the Alpha of the dragons – they obey him. I’m happy that they actually took that aspect into account in this movie. We see him showing newcomers how to behave in Berk, and later the fact he’s an Alpha comes very much into play.
On the other side, we still have a very playful dragon who is still very much attached to Hiccup. That is… until he gets the scent of the Light Fury.
I LOVE that this series has always gone very much into the biology of these animals. it makes it that much more believable as a world. In the first movie, we learned basics, like how many strikes a Gronckle has, blind spots, etc. In the second we learned more about their social structure and abilities, and in this one, we learn about their mating rituals. Like how Night Furies mate for life, and apparently most dragons mimic birds in terms of courtship.
In that aspect, Toothless is about as clumsy as Hiccup, evidenced by the BEST scene with him in the movie (which has been plastered all over trailers. Believe me, it’s better in the movie!). But this doesn’t stop him from trying and doesn’t stop Hiccup from helping him try to impress her (they are, after all, the last two Night Furies believed in existence.)
I love the scenes with him and the Light Fury, because it’s almost like he really found his place, and we get very much that he cares about her. At the same time, you can’t help but get a little sad, because you see the bond he and Hiccup had beginning to change, and nothing is going to ever make it the same again.
As for the Light Fury, she’s never given a name, which I think suits her.
She doesn’t trust humans (and for good reason), including Hiccup and Astrid. I viewed her much more of a “wild” dragon that couldn’t and probably shouldn’t be tamed. I love that she almost has to teach Toothless things about being a night fury that probably would have come second nature to him had he had a dragon family to be with.
Once they get to the Hidden World (I promise that’s not a spoiler) it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place for any of the dragons or Toothless to be.
That’s where our Villain steps in.
Grimmel the Grisly
As far as I was concerned, they could have made this movie without a villain, just watching how Toothless and Hiccup are dealing with growing up and dealing with pulls in different directions. Of course, that’s not how movies work.
Going into this, I wasn’t that excited about the villain. We didn’t learn much about him from the trailers, and given that I’m not a huge fan of either of the other villains, I was very “meh” about the whole thing.
Holy freaking heck was I wrong. Grimmel is an awesome villain! He’s SMART. He’s a hunter. He LOVES the hunt. He’s always thinking three steps ahead of what he’s hunting (in this case it’s the Berkians and Toothless). His traps are incredible and just his whole idea for capturing Toothless is brilliant. You realize very quickly meeting this man that HE WILL EVENTUALLY GET TOOTHLESS. This man will not stop until he gets what he wants, and he’s not afraid of any person or any stupid dragon gets in his way. To be honest, I was quite impressed with not only him, but likewise how smart Hiccup and the gang had to be able to deal with him. But like I said, Grimmel was always two steps ahead. He’s THAT good.
Oh and he also has those awesome dragons that don’t listen to the Alpha because he’s poisoning them with their own venom. What?!?! I would have loved them to delve more into that or have Hiccup realize and try to save them, but that would have just been a subplot that wouldn’t have mattered. But they were cool!
I think the best part is that you think Grimmel is going to be so much more important than he really is. I mean, he is don’t get me wrong. But to me, he wasn’t the focus of the movie.
Hiccup & Toothless (SPOILERS)
These two are the focus of this movie, no matter how many times you try to tell me otherwise. I will always say it is them. They love each other. They will die to save each other, and no matter what happens, no matter how many times Toothless goes off with his girl, that would never change.
We’ve seen them grow together, and in this movie, Hiccup really does want what’s best for his friend. That’s why he fashions a tail that Toothless can use without a rider because the Light Fury is afraid/angry at people, but he needs to fly to continue his courtship:
It’s an extremely hard thing for Hiccup to do: watch his dragon fly off on his own. He even wonders if he’ll ever come back. He second guesses everything about their relationship. It’s hard to watch, but it’s so relatable. He just wants his friend to be happy and sees that he’s not when he’s not with her. He begins to understand that now, she’s more important to Toothless than he is. That is a hard pill to swallow.
They’ve learned so much from each other in six years. They’ve become who they need to be because of each other. They have a friendship that can withstand anything.
Even saying goodbye.
I knew it was coming from the moment I saw the trailer, and I still wasn’t prepared. As soon as Grimmel was gone, I knew it was coming, and I still wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for any of them to say goodbye. But they did. All of them. And this is how everyone, including me, was left feeling:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, is as good as critics are saying. It is worth that 98% or whatever it is on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s easy to follow, it’s smart and witty, it’s full of heart, and it’s REAL.
It’s taken us nine years, but we’ve finally said goodbye to Toothless and the gang. You can tell the people who made this movie loved them just as much as we did. They gave them the best farewell they could, and for me, they hit it out of the park. You’ll leave the theater crying, but you won’t be able to figure out if they’re happy or sad tears.