Writer-director Dean DeBlois (a veteran of all three films) juggles a whole lot of moving parts, as well as disparate tones, specifically in the lyrical nature of Toothless’ interaction with a female Night Fury dragon — scenes played silently for long stretches, other than John Powell’s lush score, in a manner that almost approximates a nature film — and Hiccup’s familiar assortment of comic-relief sidekicks.
By the time it’s over there is an abundance of action, if a slightly chaotic aspect to it; indeed, portions of this “Dragon” seems to be killing time, before tackling larger questions that involve placing the happiness and well-being of others — however exotic they might be — above one’s own in the name of loyalty and friendship.
Despite the epic elements in the storytelling and some beautiful rendered imagery, little here quite matches the simple “The Black Stallion”-esque appeal of an outcast boy and a wounded dragon finding each other — and creating peace as a bonus — that elevated the first film, however gamely “The Hidden World” tries.
The result is a solidly made animated feature, but one more notable for the height of its aspirations than its consistent ability to deliver on them.
DreamWorks Animation has billed the movie as a finale, a claim easy to view with skepticism when such a valuable commodity — having already amassed more than $175 million from release outside the US — is involved. To the extent “The Hidden World” puts a nifty bow on this children’s book turned movie franchise, it would be nice if the studio actually does let sleeping dragons lie.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” premieres Feb. 22 in the US. It’s rated PG.