By Ceara Kelly, Staff Writer
The debate on whether or not children’s movies that also indulge older generations are actually for kids is finally over. It was never a debate; they were always for kids, and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World doesn’t change that. In fact, it reaffirms the idea. That being said, the movie’s fast pace hinders its ability to tell a fulfilling story as its creators try to please older fans with massive battle scenes while still maintaining the adorable dragon fun for kids.
The How to Train Your Dragon franchise has been around for the better part of the decade, and with its extended relevancy, comes multiple age groups of fans. In the past, DreamWorks had no problem satisfying all of their fans, as the original two films deal with plenty of heavy themes and sneak in plenty of hidden humor. However, the third film feels like it can’t decide between being for older fans, who want edgier stories, or for kids, who just want to see the cute dragons.
This time around, Hiccup and Toothless are facing the biggest, baddest dragon hunter of all time: the person who hunted the Night Furies to near extinction. Hiccup decides it’s best to move all his Viking pals and their dragons to the legendary Hidden World, the origin of dragons, in order to flee the hunter. Unfortunately, this plot is shoved aside in order to share the spotlight with Toothless getting a girlfriend. Because of this, neither of the main plots feel like anything more than a rushed side plot, and side plots feel more like a poor attempt at hidden, mature jokes.
The lack of focus doesn’t help with the pacing either. The movie is nearly two hours long, but you leave the theater feeling like you watched an episode or two of the franchise’s Netflix series. The conflict is solved so easily that the resolution is completely unfulfilling because the plot development is sacrificed for some cool battle scenes (and they are cool). A two-hour movie should not feel like it lasted 45 minutes.
Fortunately, the movie has a saving grace, and it’s exactly what one would expect. The dragons are amazing. Toothless getting a girlfriend isn’t as annoying or forced as it looked like it would be in the commercials. It leads to interactions that could kill with cuteness and allows the movie to have some of the most visually stunning scenery in the franchise. The film’s villain possibly has the coolest dragons in the series, and every new species that is introduced has a sleek, stunning and unique design – even the dragons-in-crowd scenes are amazing. Honestly, in a single frame from the scenes with crowds of the creatures, it would be hard to find two dragons that are exactly alike.
In the end, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a fun and enjoyable movie, but falls short of expectations. It’s a disappointing end to a beloved franchise, as it can’t decide which fans it wants to appeal to. There’s nothing wrong with being a kids movie, and it’s a shame that How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World forgets and pushes a more violent plot with no payoff or real threat.
Watch the trailer here: