The third film in the children’s fantasy series evokes wonder and melancholy with skill
This is the third film in a franchise (based on Cressida Cowell’s children’s books) that has also spawned a TV series and a computer game. The law of diminishing returns usually applies to any property that is milked with such ruthless efficiency. And yet How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a delight. I love the fact that the disability of the central character, Hiccup, is treated as a non-issue. And the animation is as adept at capturing sparkling worlds of wonder – a flight through voluptuous clouds, as inviting as overstuffed pillows, is utterly magical – as it is at tiny, telling details. In a flashback that shows Hiccup as a motherless child comforted by a father half-broken by his own sadness, the boy has a little scratch on his face. It’s such a minor element of a richly realised bigger picture, and yet I found it oddly poignant – an indication that childhood, even with a fearsome Viking warrior for a dad, will inevitably contain pain.
The story hits many of the same beats as earlier incarnations – the dragons, and the Vikings who tend to them, are threatened; Hiccup must draw upon his leadership skills and save the day. But there’s a new maturity both in the character and in the storytelling that makes this final film in the trilogy take wing.