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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Dean DeBlois
prd Bonnie Arnold, Brad Lewis
with Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, F Murray Abraham, Gerard Butler, Kit Harington, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, Justin Rupple, Olafur Darri Olafsson
release UK 1.Feb.19,
19/US Dreamworks 1h44
Writer-director Dean DeBlois draws his trilogy to a close with an adventure that's both beautifully scripted and spectacularly animated. These movies have consistently boasted some of the most striking on-screen visuals, plus properly coherent, meaningful action sequences. And with its resonant themes about responsibility and truth, the film is both exhilarating and powerfully involving.
Now chief of his Viking island Berk, Hiccup (Baruchel) leads his pals on raids against the dragon traders, releasing rescued dragons into his growing, integrated community. But they're under threat from relentless hunter Grimmel (Abraham), so Hiccup and his girlfriend/first officer Astrid (Ferrera) make a plan to move the entire village to the safety of the mythical hidden dragon world. But the swaggering, confident Grimmel has a nefarious plan, distracting Hiccup's night fury Toothless with a rare female of the species, a light fury.
Hiccup's colourful band of friends provides comical energy to lighten up the plot's darker moments and add texture to the ensemble. These include earnest guide Eret (Harington), over-eager Snotlout (Hill) and mentor Gobber (Ferguson), plus Fishlegs (Mintz-Plasse) and dopey twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut (Wiig and Rupple). The balance is just about right between the raucous camaraderie and the more serious dramatic beats, in which characters find their loyalties challenged. At the centre is Hiccup's pointed journey to his own independence, realising that he is still a powerful leader even when he's not riding Toothless.
Voice work is character-based, nicely bringing out the deeper layers of conversations while revealing angles to each person in the story. While the sidekicks remain fairly silly, the connection between Hiccup and Astrid is very strong at the start, then shifts into something engagingly unexpected as the story progresses. If there's a weakness here, it's in Gimmel's delusional evil-for-evil's sake motivation. But the animators outdo themselves creating characters who feel present in the simply stunning settings, adding a sharp sense of lighting and epic camerawork to bring each scene to life.
It's refreshing to see an animated adventure that actually bothers to create a properly edgy story, refusing to force the narrative into the usual blockbuster structure while focussing on the people, relationships and bigger issues rather than just some frantic visual whizzery. But this is also one of the most beautiful animated movies ever made, simply breathtaking in its invention, which leaves comic book tentpoles (for example) looking cheap and contrived by comparison. It's also a story that deserves to become a classic.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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