How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm really conflicted on this one. There's so many individual elements I adored about the film: the breathtaking beauty of the animation and art design, Powell's epic yet sincere score, just everything with Hiccup and Astrid and how their relationship actually feels natural and real, just how charming and full of life all the side characters and landscapes are, and yet the whole never feels greater than the sum of its parts. 

Toothless and Hiccup's relationship has always been the greatest strength of this trilogy, and in concept the idea of Hiccup learning his value beyond just that bond, giving him the strength to let his friend go, prioritizing Toothless's happiness over his own, is an incredibly emotional way to cap off this trilogy. Additionally, in concept, introducing a bad guy who's essentially Hiccup if he did kill Toothless when he first met him, and who challenges whether or not Hiccup's choice to try and co-exist with the dragons is the right one is a really neat idea. In practice though, the two storylines don't ever really merge together. When the bad guy first meets Hiccup he talks about how humans are the "superior species" and how co-habitation with the dragons is abhorrent; on its own this isn't bad at all, but it seems...odd, if not contradictory, that a film who's bad guy states that "living with dragons is bad" ends with the heroes saying it's better if dragons go back to their own world and live separately from us. Especially when the narrative really only shows the dragons' desire to leave through Toothless' lens, and none of the other dragons. 

The film just also feels too quick, which undermines the significance of a lot of pivotal moments. Berk's destruction, the ultimate decision to leave, the few times Hiccup's statue as chief is challenged, these  moments don't feel as monumental as the story presents them as because they just move way too fast and don't give us time to pause and take in what's happening. When Hiccup arrives at the Hidden World and sees Toothless happy we cut to a flashback, and then the next thing we know Hiccup's flying back with Toothless, lands, and then tells him it's ok to go back. It feels like a whole confrontation scene between Hiccup and Toothless is missing here, and as a result their growing realization that they're drifting apart seems too brisk. This problem also arises at the movies climax where the villain captures Toothless and Hiccup has a moment of crisis before affirming that he's going to save Toothless. The whole thing lasts about 5 minutes and it's the entire resolution of the "you're nothing without your dragon" arc. The film calls back to the first movie here, and I'm reminded of just how devastating Stoic's capture of Toothless and "you're not my son" was, and there's just so little of that here. 

I know I'm coming off as overly negative; I don't dislike this movie, and the last ten minutes are undeniably emotionally cathartic, but for a franchise I like quite a bit I can't deny I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed at its conclusion.

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