Third ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ soars above other animated offerings

March 2, 2019

The “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy really snuck up on me. Perhaps it was not as thoroughly lauded as Pixar releases, and it didn’t seem to seep into the collective consciousness as much as those damn Minions. 

But here we are, almost a decade after the original was released, and writer-director Dean DeBlois draws his trilogy to a thrilling, lushly animated, and touching conclusion with the third installment, “The Hidden World.” Throughout, the film has created striking visuals, heartfelt characterizations and action sequences that carry depth and consequence. 

In this installment, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) has graduated to chief of his Viking island of Berk, and he and his buddies often carry out raids on the nefarious dragon traders to release the captive beasts and bring them to his dragon-human utopia. 

One particular hunter, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) proves a formidable foe for Hiccup and his crew, so the young leader enlists the help of his girlfriend/first officer Astrid (America Ferrera) to move their village to the safety of a mythical hidden world to elude their enemy. 

Grimmel has a secret weapon – a rare light fury – that distracts Hiccup’s faithful night fury companion Toothless. Grimmel views dragons as a threat to people and believes that bringing the species to extinction is the only way for humanity to survive.

And while the clan of regular comic relief returns with Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snoutlout (Jonah Hill), and Gobber (Craig Ferguson), the real magic of the series is in its animation and epic score. The minute level of detail added to the screen is captivating, giving texture to a world and inhabitants completely cobbled together by computers. 

The dragon flights alone are worth the trip, from the swirling cloud trails behind the dragon wings to the movements of the dragons themselves, which travel with the gravity and fluidity of weighted objects. Combined with the film’s score, it’s easy for viewers to feel the exhilaration of each and every leap off the land. 

The film does not succumb to the bigger-and-louder metrics that befall so many sequels of this nature, animated or live action. It also does not pander to its audience, aiming strictly for the young ones. For “The Hidden World” brings up complex emotional narratives that veer off the course of the traditional blockbuster and instead focus on more poignant matters without ever feeling preachy or forced. 

The “How to Train Your Dragon” series may have flown just a tad under the radar when compared to other animated offerings (“Shrek,” “Secret Life of Pets,” “Despicable Me”), but it soars above them in all respects and concludes on a stirring, sentimental swan song. 

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. Email him at