[The following review contains SPOILERS for the entire How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. You have been warned.]
DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon series has never been afraid to take risks. The first film, for example, ended with the young protagonist losing a leg (a surprisingly bold departure from the usual consequence-free violence of children’s action-adventure stories), while the sequel featured the shockingly brutal onscreen death of Gerard Butler’s Stoick the Vast. The saga’s latest installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, continues this trend, taking a scalpel to its predecessors’ core premise and deconstructing the very concept of a world in which dragons coexist peacefully with mankind.
As it turns out, attempting to transform a tiny Viking village into a safe haven for flying, fire-breathing reptiles puts an immense strain on its resources and makes it a prime target for trappers, raiders, and warlords. Unfortunately, our valiant heroes have grown to rely too heavily on their scaly companions, leaving them unexpectedly vulnerable to the shrewd machinations of such cunning new foes as Grimmel, a bloodthirsty hunter that prides himself on the extermination of entire species. Unwilling to risk the destruction of the utopia he’s worked so hard to build, Hiccup proposes an audacious plan to relocate the community to the fabled “Hidden World,” the birthplace of all dragons—never once even considering the notion that this unfamiliar environment might be ill-suited to human habitation. As complications arise and obstacles becomes increasingly difficult to surmount, the Riders of Berk must confront the possibility that their beloved mounts are better off returning to their subterranean home and fading into legend.
As far as grand finales go, it’s rather bittersweet, acknowledging that sometimes, we have to let go of an unsustainable dream for the sake of our loved ones. And since “growth through sacrifice” has been a recurring theme throughout the trilogy, I could’t imagine a more fitting conclusion.