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‘How to Train…: Brilliant animation, slack story

Film: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”; Director: Dean DeBlois; Voice Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Justin Rupple, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham; Rating: **1/2

Designed as a simple boy-and-his-pet story with fantasy elements, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”, is the third instalment of the series of films about Vikings and their dragons, based on books by Cressida Cowell, which at its core has always been a tale of prejudice and family.

Here 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.

Picking up years after the events of the second film, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) the dragon trainer, who first appeared as an awkward teen, has now grown into a confident Viking leader for the island of Berk.

His constant companion, over the years, is Toothless, the sleek, obsidian-skinned Night-Fury – the medium sized, bat winged, Strike Class dragon who has a mix of dog-and-cat like qualities, long believed to be the last of his particular species of dragon. Together they live in the over-populated Berk.

In response to the overcrowding, Hiccup spells out his desire to find the “Hidden World” a safe haven for dragons.

Meanwhile, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) the dragon hunter, threatens their existence and sends a white female Fury as a bait to capture Toothless, who serves as the alpha to Berk’s entire dragon population. This sparkling white female dragon is dubbed as Light Fury by Hiccup’s friend Astrid (America Ferrera).

So, while Hiccup and the other Vikings band together, escaping Grimmel’s traps, in search for the long lost Hidden World of dragons, we have a romance brewing between the dragons that complicate the human-dragon relationship.

While this is a well told story, the following points do not work for the film: The plot is redundant, stuck in an endless loop of capture, escape, capture, escape. Also, the love story between Toothless and Light Fury saps some of the franchise’s main focus of the human-dragon relationship. The inclusion of Light Fury appears to be perfunctory to drive a wedge between Hiccup and Toothless. And the titular Hidden World, a dragon Utopia where the dragons live in harmony without fear and harm, is rendered as a fantastical, neon-coloured mountain of kitsch, which gives you a feeling of deja-vu and has a very short on-screen time. The place ultimately does not register in the holistic scheme of things.

On the visual front, the animation is spectacular with every character faithfully created, they are appealing to look at and truly alive. You’d be captivated by every frame. Whether it is two characters interacting with a gorgeous backdrop or dragons soaring through the skies with an emotional score to support the visuals. Also, the voices of the ace cast match the characters to perfection.

Overall, while the story is a bit of a disappointment, you’d be blown away by the film’s technical brilliance.



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