|Director: Dean DeBlois|
|Screenplay: Dean DeBlois (based on the book series by Cressida Cowell)|
|Stars: Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), America Ferrera (Astrid), F. Murray Abraham (Grimmel), Cate Blanchett (Valka), Gerard Butler (Stoick), Craig Ferguson (Gobber), Jonah Hill (Snotlout), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fishlegs), Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut), Kit Harington (Eret), Justin Rupple (Tuffnut)|
|MPAA Rating: PG|
|Year of Release: 2019|
|Country: U.S. / Japan|
In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, we return to the medieval fantasy realm in which Vikings and dragons have learned to live together in, well, if not exactly harmony, some kind of symbiotic accord. The series’ hero, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), once a gawky teenager who couldn’t bring himself to kill a dreaded Night Fury and instead befriended it, thus leading to the human-dragon alliance, is now the leader of his clan. Under his leadership, the village of Berk has become an overstuffed sanctuary for dragons, most of which Hiccup and his friends have rescued from the clutches of less savory Vikings who want to capture and use them. Hiccup’s good intentions have led to less-than-ideal living conditions for both his fellow villagers and the hundreds of dragons with whom they share limited space (one of the film’s true visual pleasures is the wide variety of dragon types, which range from the sleek, to the blobbish, to the simply enormous).
To solve this overcrowding problem, Hiccup decides to search for the “Hidden World,” an undiscovered—possibly if not probably mythical—mecca at the edge of the ocean where dragons live untouched by human hands. Hiccup had heard about the Hidden World from his father, and most people think it is simply a myth, which once again puts Hiccup at odds with those around him (how else could he be the outside-underdog when he is also the leader?). His plans to find the Hidden World are bolstered by the discovery of a Light Fury, a white, female version of Toothless, his beloved Night Fury best friend. It had been long assumed that Toothless was the only one of his kind left, and here we learn why: the film’s scheming villain, a dastardly dragon hunter known as Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), has spent his life trying to kill them all, and apparently he came very close to succeeding. Grimmel, whose voice drips with slimy tendrils of condescension, does not at all agree with Hiccup’s view of human-dragon relations, and his attitude toward the latter is so bilious that, if you replaced the word dragon with immigrant every time he spoke, he’d be Stephen Miller.
As in any beloved franchise, there are many returning faces, including Astrid (America Ferrera), Hiccup’s would-be love interest who constantly outmans him; Valka (Cate Blanchett), he long-lost mother Hiccup found in the last entry; and Hiccup’s friends Snoutlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and Ruffnot (Kristen Wiig), the latter of whom has a genuinely hilarious scene in which her imprisonment by Grimmel is cut short because he can’t stand listening to her drone on with her complaints any more.
And, while there are quite a few similarly funny moments throughout the film, one can’t help but feel that The Hidden World is stretched pretty thin in justifying its existence. There is a satisfying emotional payoff as the film moves toward the obviously bittersweet moment in which Hiccup must fully recognize that humans and dragons simply cannot coexist because too many of his fellow humans are bloodthirsty tyrants who want to kill and dominant anything different from them, but quite a bit of the film just feels like it is treading water until we get there. The visuals are frequently outstanding, especially when all the dragons simultaneously take flight, although it is hard to ignore how much the dragons’ hidden world looks like the world of Avatar. Fans of the series will find much to savor, and returning writer/director Dean DeBlois hits all the necessary sweet spots, but it is probably for the best that this series, which began with one of the best animated films of the past decade, has reached its satisfying conclusion.
|How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 4K UHD + Blu-ray|
|Audio||English Dolby AtmosEnglish Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surroundFrench Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surroundSpanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish |
|Supplements||Audio commentary by writer/Director Dean DeBlois, producer Bradford Lewis, and head of character animation Simon OttoDreamWorks Shorts: “Bilby” and “Bird Karma” Alternate openingDeleted scenes“How to Voice Your Viking” featurette“Creating an Epic Dragon Tale” featurette“How I Learned from Dragons” featurette“Brave Wilderness Presents: Nature + Dragons = Awesome” featurettes“The Dragon Sheep Chronicles” featurettes “A Deck of Dragons” featurette“Growing Up With Dragons” featurette“The Evolving Character Design of Dragons” featurette“Drawing Dragons” featurette“Epic Villain” featurette“Astrid’s Whole Dragon Trilogy in 60 Seconds” featurette“Welcome to New Berk” featurette|
|Distributor||DreamWorks / Universal Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 21, 2019|
|How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World looks absolutely gorgeous in its 4K UHD presentation. The level of fine detail in all of the imagery—from the characters’ hair, to the dragons’ scales, to the finest weave of their clothes—is truly outstanding. It should be noted that this is a notably dark film, with numerous sequences (including the fog-shrouded opening) taking place at night or inside dark interiors. The image still maintains impressive levels of detail even in the darkest corners of the frame, with first-rate shadow detail and contrast. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack is likewise impressive, with great sonic detail, surround effects, and a heavy low end. |
The supplements don’t disappoint either, beginning with a highly informative and entertaining audio commentary by writer/director Dean DeBlois, producer Bradford Lewis, and head of character animation Simon Otto. For more information about the film’s production, there are 11 brief featurettes covering difference aspects of the film’s creation and its world: “How to Voice Your Viking” (2 min.) looks at voice acting; “Creating an Epic Dragon Tale” (4 min.) looks at how the franchise has expanded via new characters and plot elements; “How I Learned From Dragons” (4 min.) features several voice actors discussing their experiences with the franchise; “Brave Wilderness Presents: Nature + Dragons = Awesome” includes two 4-minute segments in which YouTube series Brave Wilderness host Coyote Peterson shows how various birds and animals have influenced the series; “The Dragon Sheep Chronicles” offers two brief bits about the sheep in the world of Berk and how they survive among the dragons; “A Deck of Dragons” (4 min.) shows us some of the film’s new dragons; “Growing Up With Dragons” (4 min.) explores the development of Hiccup’s character over the series; “The Evolving Character Design of Dragons” (3 min.) and “Drawing Dragons (3 min.) explore how the dragons are designed and created; “Epic Villain” (2 min.) introduces us to Grimmel; “Astrid’s Whole Dragon Trilogy in 60 Seconds” (1 min) is literally what it says it is; and “Welcome to New Berk” (2 min.) shows us the Vikings’ new island home. Also on the disc are two DreamWorks shorts: “Bilby” (8 min.) and “Bird Karma” (5 min.). We also get an alternate opening that was cut at an early developmental stage (with optional commentary by DeBlois) and almost 10 minutes of deleted scenes, all of which are in various stages of completion and have optional commentary by DeBlois.
Copyright © 2019 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © DreamWorks / Universal Home Entertainment