It’s that time of year when kids movies have the run of the cinemas, and the overly perky, bright colours can make your hangover hurt that little bit more than usual (and the eternal shrieking of sugar-hyped kids really doesn’t help).
Thankfully, this year, the threat of dodgy kids movies has been replaced with a collection of surprisingly great flicks worthy of a kid-free trip to the cinema. For fans of the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ franchise, ‘The Hidden World’ has been a long time coming, and with any movie that’s been talked up for years, there’s that niggling fear that it can never live up to the hype.
Thankfully, ‘The Hidden World’ more than lives up to it.
‘The Hidden World’ sets itself as the final phase of the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ movie universe. Unless the creators pull a ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and focus on another element of their cinematic universe, this is the last time we’ll see the residents of Berk on the big screen. Not a happy thought for fans.
There have been a lot of near-traumatic angst fests in the cinemas lately, and closing out a well-loved franchise definitely risks turning any story into a sob fest. One of the most beautiful elements of ‘The Hidden World’ though, is that while there is sadness and drama, and even fear, it’s not so all-consuming that the wonder of the story is lost. The characters are older, maybe a little wiser, but they still hold all the silliness and magic of our first introduction to Hiccup and friends way back in 2010. It can be hard to weave humour into a story that is drawing a beloved franchise to an end, and yet, inexplicably, they’ve managed it beautifully.
Kids movie or not, this is some fantastic storytelling and artistry, rendered flawlessly and staggering in its beauty. The animation here is stunning, with the sort of detail you can’t help but be impressed by. With each character moving into adulthood, it would be easy to lose sight of the characters we started this journey with and yet there are elements of those scrawny, ridiculous kids interwoven with the strong and noble characters they’re becoming. Even something as simple as dragon scales are rendered with so much care that it’s hard not to be dazzled.
The story itself sticks close to the themes of personal growth and empowerment, without the cloying sentimentality that children's movies used to fall to. Happily ever after no longer means absolute perfection, and there’s oftentimes a bittersweet element to children’s stories these days which makes for fascinating viewing.
Really young kids might get a bit scared at parts, but overwhelmingly, it’s hard not to love this movie. If you’re looking for bland storytelling and pointlessly cutesy characters, this is definitely not the movie you want, but if you like your heroism flawed and your kids stories engrossing enough to make adults get a bit teary, you’re going to want to see this movie.
If you’re looking for a surprisingly emotive, visually spectacular way to spend a few air conditioned hours, ‘The Hidden World’ should be at the top of your list.
'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' is in cinemas now.