The third, and supposedly final, entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was released in February 2019. Although series writer-director Dean DeBlois returned for the final third of the trilogy, the finale lacks the heart and charm of its predecessors. Apparently, cat-like dragons and their cute Viking owners are a gimmick that only has the staying power of two movies.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and fiancée Astrid (America Ferrera) continue to rescue and retrieve dragons captured by pirates, hunters, and others hostile toward the species. The dragons are brought back to their Viking community of Berk, where the friendly pets seem to outnumber humans. With overcrowding becoming a factor, Hiccup takes his dragon, Toothless, in search of a mystical dragon utopia that his father (Gerard Butler) described, where humans and dragons can co-exist in peace.
Toothless, the last known Night Fury, finds a female dragon of his species, or Light Fury, to continue his lineage. Hiccup allows Toothless to court the Light Fury, but little do they know that the Light Fury is a tool of vicious dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), who hopes to end human and dragon cohabitation once and for all. Hiccup, Astrid, and their dragons must fight to discover the hidden world and stop Grimmel.
With Hiccup adjusting to his role as village leader, the series looks to generate drama through introspection, the fortitude to maintain and strengthen relationships, and the balance between community and personal wants. As much of a coming-of-age tale as the original and its sequel, The Hidden World also takes time to acknowledge the teenage challenge of maintaining friendships when you get a girlfriend. Sadly, like much of the rest of the movie, the plotline featuring Toothless’ relationship with the (tellingly nameless) Light Fury fails to compel.
Kit Harrington was a meta addition to an already impressive cast, but DreamWorks, the animation studio behind the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, is still searching for its next signature series. The production house boasts Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, but neither comes close to its tentpole Shrek series. While How To Train Your Dragon has been the closest thing to a Shrek successor, The Hidden World fails to stick the landing.
Trilogies follow natural storytelling structure with a beginning, middle, and end, or first, second, and third act. The Hidden World eventually reaches a fitting conclusion to How to Train Your Dragon franchise; however, the process of getting there is plodding and repetitive. The Hidden World is an unnecessary stain on one of the decade’s most recognizable and beloved animated franchises.