Fans of Toothless the Night Fury, rejoice! Our favourite dragon is back for one more adventure – and, boy, does he go out in style!
For this last instalment – writer/director Dean DeBlois is adamant this is his last How To Train Your Dragon film – Hiccup now rules a people who happily live alongside dragons and he’s the protector of the winged creatures. But he comes up against the most ruthless dragon catcher of all, Grimmel (voiced by F Murray Abraham), and it puts his relationship with Toothless in danger. He’s hell bent on capturing and killing the last remaining Night Fury – we all know who he means – and sets his bait in the form of a Light Fury. Toothless is, inevitably, smitten and, with Grimmel after both him and all the people of Berk, the island is evacuated in the hope of finding The Hidden World, a utopia where men and dragons can be safe and live happily together.
It’s nine years since we first met the residents of the Isle of Berk – especially young Hiccup, the boy destined to be the chieftain, and his faithful dragon, Toothless. But the boy is now a young man, the leader of his people and Toothless has grown into his right hand dragon, a courageous one but still with that goofy charm intact. And, as the characters have matured, so have the films themselves, becoming increasingly emotional, emphasising relationships – particularly family and friendship – and continuously reaching new heights when it comes to the quality of their animation.
Grimmel doesn’t just threaten dragons as a whole: for Toothless, it’s deeply personal, having to choose between his loyalty to Hiccup and his new love – Night Furies mate for life, after all. His dilemma gives the film an air of Toy Story 3, all about growing up, learning to let go and moving on to new challenges and new relationships. There’s a glimpse of that when we’re shown the older Hiccup, now sporting a beard that makes him look remarkably like Jake Gyllenhaal. Not that the DeBlois and co have gone down the familiar road of making the characters resemble their respective voiceovers: Jay Baruchel is still the voice of Hiccup and looks nothing like Jake.
The animation for this episode is a case of saving the best until last: the landscapes are vibrantly lush and colourful, Berk is as wonderfully chaotic as ever ….. well, you get the picture. It’s a visual feast and that extends to the action, including the thrilling flying sequences, which done at lightning speed. This time round we have some romance as well – actually, more of it, because on top of Hiccup and Astrid’s slow-mo relationship, we also have Toothless and his white lady Light Fury, with him going full goofball in an effort to impress her. Not that he needs to really, but she makes him work at it nonetheless. He’s funny, adorable and utterly irresistible – but even more than ever. And yet his heroic streak is still there, so the relationship between man and dragon remains deeply touching.
Visually spectacular, with a narrative that will make you alternate between gasps, laughter and tears, the film joyfully disproves the theory that making a threquel can be risky and doomed to failure. There aren’t many that have done it successfully but How To Train Your Dragon:The Hidden World has done it in spades. Nobody wants to say goodbye to their favourite dragon, but he’s left us on a high and that’s the only way to do it.
Freda Cooper | [rating=4]
Animation, Adventure, Family | UK, 1 February (2019) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Dean DeBlois | The voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, F Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and America Ferrera.