Nine years after the original first introduced us to the misfit viking boy Hiccup and his dragon Toothless, Dean DeBlois concludes his trilogy with a final chapter that is both definitive and emotionally resonant. It is such a breath of fresh air to have a series finish its story, and not end with a tease or promise of more to come – particularly in our contemporary world of never-ending cinematic universes, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World harks back to simpler times when stories actually, you know, ended.
And what an ending! The Hidden World has just about everything I wanted from the final entry as a fan of the series. The gang is all here, with few new major players save for the villain Grimmel, a kind of anti-Hiccup who shows us the sort of person Hiccup could have become if he had killed Toothless in the first film rather than freed him. Grimmel, his delicious accent courtesy of F Murray Abraham, has hunted down all of the Night Furies bar Toothless – and so sets his sight on the one that got away.
Hiccup meanwhile, having become chief of Berk at the end of the last movie, must make difficult decisions to ensure the survival of both his people and dragonkind, even as he contends with his growing affection for Astrid and Toothless’ burgeoning romance with a newly discovered ‘Light Fury’.
It’s all deftly handed and remarkably balanced, with strong arcs that round off these characters and their journeys. The supporting cast might get short shrift, but it’s understandable as the trilogy’s focus has almost always been on Hiccup, Astrid and Toothless. Only the various supplementary television shows have really given more time to the likes of Fishlegs, Snotlout, Tuffnut and Ruffnut. This might be disappointing for some, but is the right decision for this movie (which, like the previous two, still fits in some fun beats and threads featuring the ‘Defenders of Berk’).
John Powell’s score returns and again elevates the story and visuals, the latter of which are without doubt better than ever. There are laughs to be had and tearful moments to be sure, and it all leads to a wonderfully touching denouement that puts into sharp relief how far the characters and world have come since Hiccup became the first viking in 300 years who wouldn’t kill a dragon. Who knew what an adventure awaited us back then!