If you’ve not seen the first and second instalment of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, do not fear. The story is solid enough that you won’t be wondering what happened before. After seeing this one, however, you may just want to see the others. Adults, this is not just a kid’s flick.
The story opens with young Viking, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), Toothless, his loyal dragon, and a league of Dragon Riders storming a ship to rescue dragons imprisoned by humans. Where they were heading is not clear, but this group (there really should be a collective noun) of dragons is bound for the protective shores of Berk to join their kin. The other dragons already living there exhibit signs of domestication that have made them playful, rather than threatening.
Berk is bursting at the seams; it can’t handle any more number or size of dragons that crash through its tiny homes. They must expand – impossible – or look elsewhere. Hiccup taking counsel from mother, Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett) and friend Astrid (voiced by America Ferrara) acknowledges they are sitting prey to dragon poachers.
The decision to leave comes soon enough. Berk comes under attack from Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) who sees dragons as vermin and he must rid them all. Hiccup must lead his people and dragons towards the Hidden World – the birthplace of all dragons – a place his father long believed existed but never found.
After leaving Berk, the travellers rest overnight. Ever-playful Toothless breaks from the herd and stumbles upon a pleasant discovery – another Night Fury just like him, all believed to be extinct – and he is immediately besotted. This Night Fury, a brilliant white, is female and so named Light Fury by Astrid. Toothless’ attempt to befriend her is comical and heart-warming; it bears an innocence of children.
Light Fury is wild, has not been tamed within the embrace of humans. Toothless wants to follow her but his loyalty to Hiccup compounds his natural instincts. Here begins one of the many themes of love, loss and learning when to let go, that plays throughout the film. Hiccup and Toothless’ bond will be tested as both human and animal realise they must take their rightful place in the world to preserve the future of their pack.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is so beautiful to watch and hits a high emotional note. The magicians at Dreamworks have peaked the artform with animal characters that can make a viewer immediately feel and empathise with just a look or a gesture.
Sharing the theatre with hundreds of young children was anticipated to be a distracting and an interruptive experience. So surprising was it that silence fell as soon as it started. Seriously, Mums and Dads, you’ll really enjoy it too.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World open nationally on 3 January 2019.
About How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Written and Directed by: Dean DeBlois
Based on the books of: Cressida Cowell
Produced by: Brad Lewis, Bonnie Arnold
Stars: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrara, Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler, Kit Harington, Craig Ferguson, F. Murray Abraham