How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the third and supposedly final installment in the animated film series that began back in 2010. Dean DeBlois is back in the chair as the director along with the same voice cast we have all enjoyed through nearly this last decade. At this point, Jay Baruchel probably deserves to be one of those everlasting animated heroes. This time around our characters, who are now all adults, seek safety from an aggressive yet silver-tongued antagonist with F. Murray Abraham behind the mic (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Amadeus). Can Hiccup and Toothless lead their people and dragons to a new world that will accept them and their principles?
Just as Strong: HTTYD3 does not fall into the trilogy curse. Just like with the previous films, the beginning, end, and everything in between are captivating and entertaining. There is something to be said about how the writers made the conscious decision to have these characters age in real-time over the past 9 years. Along with that decision, the third film continues to highlight current events that may relate to the audience, which has also aged and matured. It is not difficult to decipher the thematic focus of HTTYD3. And no matter your position on the recent refugee and migrant crisis throughout the world, Dean DeBlois and Cressida Cowell deliver an emotional message that has the potential to resonate with the last decade of filmgoers who have been drawn into this world of coexisting humans and dragons. Acceptance, acceptance, and acceptance is the repeated message but somehow it never ceases to take new form and become dull.
Mature and Full of Consequences: As stated before this film does a fantastic job of keeping up with the audience. HTTYD3 is the darkest of the three films hands down. Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) oozes through the screen. He glides with demonic grace as he hunts and raises the stakes to a level of danger like we have never seen in an animated “children’s” film. The second installment of this series had the same type of villain. With a continued expectancy of what a children's animated film can be in tone, there must be a question of how immature should we allow these types of films to be anymore? HTTYD3 works with younger audiences while keeping the eyes of their parents, millennials, and veteran film critics. Dean DeBlois has thrown down the gauntlet. Who will pick it up and meet the new challenge for animated film storytelling?
Perfect Ending: Now time to scale back down to just HTTYD3 as its own film. There are still plenty of silly moments that will get a chuckle or full belly laugh. Animation technology continues to excel. The stakes are as high as the emotions in the film and the act transitions go at ease, creating a flow of storytelling that may surpass the first and second film. And as the third film, the ending is satisfying and has the closure a fan of this series needs.