ShareThis Page
Review: Third ‘Dragon’ doesn’t fly as high as previous installments |

Review: Third ‘Dragon’ doesn’t fly as high as previous installments

With an adorable (albeit fire-breathing) star and a formidable villain, the animated adventure “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” has a lot going for it.

In this third installment of the series of films about Vikings and their dragons — based on books by Cressida Cowell — returning writer-director Dean DeBlois neatly ties up the threads of broken families that have dogged the franchise’s characters, delivering a message of hope and togetherness.

So why doesn’t this sequel fly as high as the other films in the trilogy?

When we last met our reluctant young hero, the dragon trainer Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), he had been reunited with his mother (Cate Blanchett), lost his father (Gerard Butler) and resolved the age-old conflict between humans and dragons.

Or had he?

New evil looms

“The Hidden World” opens on the Norse island of Berk, where Vikings live in harmony with gigantic flying lizards that have eyes like cats — and, like felines, are fond of nuzzling their human masters. Yet a new evil looms in the person of Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), a long-faced, blond-haired dragon trapper who is seeking fresh recruits for his winged army.

When Grimmel learns of Hiccup’s black dragon Toothless — a member of the ferocious Night Fury species with which Grimmel has a vendetta — he sets out to exterminate the creature.

And what better way to bait a young male dragon than with the lure of a young female dragon? Grimmel sends out a second Night Fury — quickly dubbed “Light Fury,” for her albino coloration — to enchant Toothless. Soon, love turns the flying warrior to mush.

The trouble with the film is that this animal love story also saps some of the franchise’s main strength, which has always been the almost pet-like relationship between humans and dragons.

At first, it’s kind of sweet to watch Toothless (whose CGI eyes have grown more expressive with each film) swoon over Light Fury, a prancing, snow-white version of himself. But that sweetness doesn’t quite match the joy, in the previous installments, of seeing Hiccup and Toothless grow up together before our eyes.

The courtship of two dragons, which is all part of Grimmel’s strategy, is wordless, awkward — and briefly delightful. But it stops the action dead in its tracks, which doesn’t bode well for the movie.

Mountain of kitsch

Sure, love is universal. But these two particular lovers are — despite Toothless’s appealing “personality” — mostly surface. The new character of Light Fury, all coquettishness and purity, is little more than a Manic Pixie Dream Dragon.

What’s more, the titular “hidden world” — a dragon utopia where the animals are said to be able to live free from fear and harm — is rendered as a fantastical, neon-colored mountain of kitsch, like something out a prog-rock opera for kids.

Frankly, that aesthetic may have been part of the appeal of the previous two films. Yet the robust action sequences — and the corny dialogue about the strength we carry within us — just aren’t as thrilling this time around.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” still has the power to warm a cold heart, but the fire is less bright.

DreamWorks Animation
Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel, left) and his Night Fury dragon, Toothless, in “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.”
Categories: AandE | Movies TV
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.