How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Directed by Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, F. Murray Abraham
Rated PG for adventure, action and some mild rude humor
1 hr. 44 mins.

In the third installment of How to Train Your Dragon, we find a story mature enough to include love, both human and dragon, as its central theme.

When How to Train Your Dragon was first introduced as a film in 2010, it was a whimsical, funny story that could have simply been a one-off and no one would have thought less of it. Over the course of nine years, both the film and the story have grown to include family drama, love interrupted, death, even an environmental theme about the human impact on the world around us, which in this case includes dragons. In short, it may still be a kid’s story, but adults like me have come to appreciate it as well.

A year after Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) defeated Drago and saved Berk, the island has become overrun with rescued dragons. Hiccup, now the chief of the village, must find a way for humans and dragons to live together peacefully.

Hiccup is also dealing with pressure from his advisor, Stoick (Gerard Butler), to settle down and get married to his close friend Astrid (America Ferrera), but neither want anything to do with matrimony . . . yet.

Hiccup’s Night Fury dragon, Toothless, discovers something strange in the local woods — a female Night Fury who is white and can disappear and reappear. Needless to say, he is intrigued.

The “light” fury, however, is a trap set by notorious dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), infamous for having killed all the Night Furies except Toothless.

Grimmel visits Hiccup at night and threatens him and the village if he doesn’t turn over his friend and compadre. When Hiccup sets a trap for Grimmel, the villain escapes and burns down Hiccup’s house.

Hiccup is faced with a crucial decision. He can go to war with Grimmel or move the village somewhere safer while he searches for what his father used to describe as the dragons’ “hidden world,” a literal place at the end of the world, a paradise for dragons.

Hiccup decides to move the tribe and search for this mythical dragon home. He and Astrid travel together in search of what no one has ever seen. Does this hidden world really exist? And if it does, will the tribe be able to save the dragons and find a new home?

As is true with life as an adult, right and wrong are not always clearly defined. For Hiccup, choices have consequences with which he must deal. Meanwhile, Grimmel sets another plan in motion to capture Toothless.

The storyline for D3 is less about humor and more about drama, particularly when it comes to friendship and family. Director and writer Dean DeBlois has shifted his dragon focus to include more of these heavy themes. The tradeoff is that the movie has less dorky humor, more human angst.

But fear not if you’re worried about too much darkness. D3 has its own charm, plus enough action to keep it interesting and kid friendly.

The movie also includes some high-tech imagery that will wow anyone who appreciates digital art. Particularly within the dragon world, the colors seem to pop off the screen, and the lighting and detail of the sky and clouds through which Hiccup and Toothless fly are enough to make you wish you had a dragon as a buddy.

D3 doesn’t work quite as well as its predecessors (D2 being my favorite). It feels like there’s a need to neatly wrap up everything and as such, it sometimes suffers as a story. But who can resist Hiccup, now grown into a man, and the irrepressible and impish Toothless? Best of all, it’s a movie with a happy ending. For your kids, for all you romantics who love gentle stories about dragons, what more can you ask for?