Is How to Train Your Dragon: the Hidden World Worth Your Time?

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ends the long-running trilogy with a fun, wholesome ending.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was directed by Dean Belois.  This is the third and seemingly final film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy produced by Dreamworks Animation.

If you’ve never heard of this trilogy before, these animated films tell the story of Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel) and his friends who live with their dragons at Berk.  The first film told of the people of Berk domesticating the dragons after initially hunting them down.  It was about the relationships that these people could develop with these seemingly violent and frightening creatures.   It was a wholesome yet exciting film that would launch arguably Dreamworks’ best franchise to date.  The second film then resumed Hiccup’s journey as he searches for his mother that he believed was dead.  In terms of the whole trilogy, this one reigns supreme as the best one in the series; the film carried the most emotion without losing sight of the larger world the series was trying to build.  Additionally, action scenes in The Hidden World were by far and away some of Dreamworks’ best animation to date.

The newest How to Train Your Dragon film starts off following the events of the second film, with Hiccup’s father now dead and his mother back in his life.  After learning about yet another person who wants to take their dragons and destroy their homes, they realize the possibility of the existence of another world in which the dragons can live in peace away from the rest of society. Hiccup, having assumed the role of chief, decides that it’s a good idea to get not only the people of Berk to safety but more importantly the dragons as well.  Things get more complicated when the main dragon, Toothless, meets another female dragon and develops a relationship with it.  While the gang wonder what the best way to accomplish this goal could be, they begin to consider the possibility of releasing the dragons into the wild.

Although this latest entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series has heart and some touching scene, it’s not perfect.

I would say the scenes whenever the characters considered what life would be like without their dragons are probably the best ones of this film.  I further think this is the emotional highlight of the film when it comes to the way this story is structured.  The other aspect I really liked is of course the animation, but I also don’t really think animated movies are released today without top-notch animation.  These movies have always had really nice animation and this film is no exception.

The biggest flaw with this movie is the pacing.  Despite running for 1hr 44mins, the filmmakers still didn’t have enough time to tell the story they wanted to.  This affected certain elements of the film into feeling rushed, whereas other unnecessary elements felt overly drawn out and exhausting to watch.  The film chooses to spend much of its time showing either the characters quickly interact with the villains, the two leading dragons going on their little dates (which admittedly are very entertaining), or the other side characters being goofy and getting into silly shenanigans.   Many of these moments felt like they were only there in order for the film to force either substance or bad comedy into it.  Although it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the first two How to Train Your Dragon films, but I remember them being pretty funny.  I think that’s why it was surprising to me to see this film and acknowledge that it’s really not that funny.  The humor is mostly very juvenile and meant to cater towards children.  If the humor took a backseat to the drama the characters face this wouldn’t be a big deal, it’s just the fact that jokes are thrown in very often which makes this experience very distracting.

Even though I really liked the animation and I thought the emotions shared between the characters and their dragons were strong, this movie overall is somewhat boring.  Honestly, this is perhaps the weakest movie in this trilogy and the reason for that would be because the film does not have much substance to it.  The supposed feeling of dread that these characters have is never fully related or felt by the audience.  My guess as to why this is the case is likely because they don’t want to make the kids watching this feel uneasy.  And while that is understandable, you can still keep the audience engaged and feeling like the stakes are high while still entertaining the kids.  Good examples of this concept are the first two How to Train Your Dragon films or the Toy Story films, as these films showed managed to be entertaining for both kids and adults.

I will say that the resolution to this film and the ending to the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is very well done.

When it is time for the climax to come that has been built up for the entire film, it feels mostly underwhelming and it comes in really quickly.  I would say the final fight of this film, although very good, is probably under 10 minutes, which is not usual for one of these movies.  What’s interesting though is that I really like the climax and I think it is my favorite part of the film, it’s just jarring to see it come so quickly is all.  What leads after the fight is really wonderful I will say though.  I won’t give away the resolution of what happens to the dragons and to Hiccup and his friends but I thought that was very satisfying.  I just wish the film had a story with higher stakes so that this ending could feel more earned.

I know I’ve been trashing on this movie a lot, but I really don’t think it’s bad.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this film was disappointing, but I acknowledge that these films could be so much worse and more childish.  I think this film has the potential to bore some audience members, but I thought it was fine really.    I am happy I saw where these characters ended up and was able to watch their growth and development.  The main characters all go through incredible arcs that changes who they are and that was very interesting to see as well.  If you want to see how this trilogy ends, I’d say check it out.  I would say my enthusiasm for this film is mostly reserved just because I thought the film was underwhelming more than anything, but I still thought it was perfectly fine.  I would just say expect to possibly be disappointed and acknowledge that the film does feel rushed at times.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

A Review of Disney’s Cinderella (Yes, the 2015 One)

This week I was fortunate enough to score some tickets to an advanced screening of Disney’s newest live-action retelling of the classic, Cinderella. Though Cinderella is not my favorite OG Disney princess (shout out to Princess Jasmine), this rendition of the beloved film was spectacular. Cinderella is truly amazing: it’s family-friendly, features more details about the characters, and has a very handsome Prince (whoever casted him seriously deserves an award). My only criticism is that I wish they had incorporated some of the Grimm brothers’ version, Aschenputtel. In their action-packed version, the evil stepsisters chop off their toes and heels to fit the glass slipper, and have their eyes pecked out by doves at the end. Oh, the drama.

Now, for the review. *SPOILER ALERT*

Cinderella starts out with beautiful little Ella happily frolicking about in the countryside with her family, which is of course torn apart in the first fifteen minutes because her mom gets sick and dies. I don’t understand why Disney feels the need to have their protagonists either lose their parents or their only living relative; maybe they figure the orphan-ness makes you want to cry just enough to reel you in.

The storyline essentially parallels the original version. What you see in the 2015 version is more of Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella being extra rude to Ella. It’s mildly uncomfortable to watch because Cate Blanchett’s laugh and demeanor is so evil, but at the same time, you can’t help but appreciate how striking and fierce she is. It’s ironic because you’d think her daughters would try to emulate that, but they’re pretty much the female equivalents to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Despite Ella’s efforts to live by her mother’s last words, “have courage and be kind,” she cracks and apparently copes with her feelings of despair by venturing to the woods on horseback. There, she meets the Prince, who is on a quest to hunt a majestic stag with his army of trusty knights. Right when we see his perfectly coiffed hair, we are also shown more of the Prince’s character. After all, he’s more than just a pretty face. Upon their accidental yet destined meeting, he introduces himself as a royal apprentice named “Kit,” in hopes that he’ll be able to interact with her as a normal guy. Their horses literally prance in a circle for about five minutes before she finally runs off, without even saying her name.

It’s love at first sight for both of those hopeless romantics. But there’s just one problem: the King will only let him marry an eligible Princess, meaning someone who can add treasure and land to the Kingdom. Oh yeah, and the King is also dying (what is with this movie and death?). Kit’s solution was to agree to this, but only if he’s allowed to open the traditionally elite ball to the public. His secret goal is to have his father meet the charming girl he met in the woods, which would force him to have a change of heart because she’s so great.

Word reaches Lady Tremaine, who of course forbids Ella from attending the ball. Ella is heartbroken because she has no interest in the Prince; she only wanted to see the apprentice from the woods again. Ella’s tears are the queue for her fairy godmother to show up for once, and she grants Ella’s wish to be able to go to the ball—but in style. Equipped with a special spell to protect her from being noticed by her jealous stepmother, Ella also gets a golden pumpkin carriage with mousy horses, lizardy henchman, and a goosey coachman. The dress was magnificent, and the effects made it feel like it was going to pop off the screen and whip you in the face with fairy dust, butterflies, and yards of tool.

She arrives fashionably late to the ball, and enchants the whole ballroom with her grace, beauty, and fabulous dress. She reunites with Kit, now revealed as the Prince, and has a jolly old time on a swing in his secret royal garden until the clock tragically strikes midnight. She dashes off, and he fails once again to get her name. Classic Kit.

A search for this mysterious beauty begins, but not before Lady Tremaine gets to the Grand Duke and blackmails him into only letting her daughters try on the glass slipper. He agrees because he’s a horrible person, and almost succeeds in hiding her from his team. Kit tagged along because he didn’t trust him (his instinct was right– the Duke was #fake), and he hears Ella upstairs despite Lady Tremaine’s attempts to disguise her angelic song. Ella tries on her own glass slipper which obviously fits her, and she and Kit live happily ever after while the Duke, Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia are banned from the Kingdom.

I would give Cinderella five out of five stars. This movie was amazing. I don’t know how I was planning to wait to see it until the release date.

*Princely gasp*

Prince-in-Cinderella-2015