'How To Train Your Dragon 3' Early Buzz: 'The Hidden World' Is Worth The Wait

American audiences aren't going to see How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World until the end of February, but since Australian crowds will be able to see it when it opens in that country on January 3, the first batch of How to Train Your Dragon 3 reviews hit the internet today. Thankfully, it sounds like critics are riding high after witnessing the final adventure of Hiccup and Toothless. Read some excerpts from their reviews below.

We've already seen a trailer for the new animated sequel, and writer/director Dean DeBlois has previously laid out the theme for the final entry in the trilogy. "The overall theme of the story is letting go, or finding the wisdom to let go, rather," he explained. "So much of Hiccup's identity, as a leader and an adult, is because of his relationship with Toothless. But if Toothless is not there, who is Hiccup?" Now some critics know the answer, and the reviews are in.

The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen says How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World "proves every bit as emotionally resonant and artistically rendered as its 2010 and 2014 predecessors, if not even more so":

It turns out Hiccup isn't the only one to have matured over the past several years since we last saw him — so, too, have the opulent, computer-generated visuals, which have always been a hallmark of the franchise. Here, the technology reaches notably impressively detailed new levels, from the wispy stubble on Hiccup's chin to cascading waterfalls, and, most notably, photo-realistically flickering flames, all gorgeously bathed in light and shadow with the assistance of visual consultant Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049).

Peter Debruge from Variety goes a step further: he says the franchise culminates with "one of the greatest character arcs the [animation] medium has ever seen":

From its inception, this series has insisted on a widescreen style different from other animated features, attempting to map the live-action idea of "magic hour" onto virtual landscapes and stylized human figures. Here, the visuals outdo anything we've seen before, to such a degree that we might almost overlook the subtler innovations in the character animation: the nuances of expression on both the human and reptilian faces, and the wonderful nonverbal tactics these artists use to convey emotional intricacies neither Hiccup nor Toothless have had to communicate before, all of which pays off in an unforgettable final scene.

This is uncharted territory for cartoons. No matter how Pixar spins it — about waiting until the right idea comes along to continue the story — from "Finding Dory" to last year's "The Incredibles 2," toon sequels have always been driven by financial considerations. Granted, "Dragons 3" (as DWA staffers refer to the film internally) was hardly made for charitable reasons, but there's an integrity to DeBlois' approach that won't be lost on audiences...

How to Train Your Dragon The Hidden World Trailer

Robert Abele at The Wrap says:

The first movie, released in 2010, was a boy-and-animal-friend story built on childhood wonder; the second (from 2014) told an adolescent adventure about maturation and legacy; the third, fusing the cute and the dark that has so far marked this franchise's growth, makes for a satisfying exploration of the ways adulthood invariably means both new horizons and leaving some things, and some ways of thinking, behind.

It gives "The Hidden World" the feeling of something in between an installment and a sequel, a kind of heartwarming drop-in on beloved characters and eye-popping creatures — fantastic beasts, indeed — plus a reviving tour of familiar environs, all with the promise that it's all heading somewhere exciting and meaningful. In this case, it's a story built around a long-assumed mythological realm at the edge of the world where dragons live in peace.

IndieWire's Michael Nordine is the only one who isn't full-on raving about it, dinging the film's lead character as it's biggest flaw:

Therein lies the biggest problem with "The Hidden World": its hero. Hiccup makes for a far less compelling protagonist than his flying friend, not least because the young upstart makes it easy to agree with his deep-seated fear that he's an uninspiring leader who'd be nowhere without Toothless. It doesn't help that Baruchel's voicework is more suited to a plucky kid than the leader of a viking tribe, which is only underscored by the fact that Hiccup's father is voiced by Gerard Butler.

CNET's Jennifer Bisset calls the movie "very nearly perfect," and says "DeBlois succeeds in almost every way possible":

There's no greater gift than love, we're constantly told in Viking land, and it's never more powerful than here. Hiccup and Toothless have parallel journeys: they fall in love and learn the sacrifices required to lead their people. They grow in years and maturity over the smartly paced trilogy. With notes of Toy Story 3's poignant ending, their milestones well and truly hit home.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a near perfect trilogy ender, safely landing an occasionally kid-unfriendly dragon ride. A story about a boy and his best friend, its timeless values are delivered with spades of wit and epic adventure. After three brilliant rides, we bid farewell to one of the best film trilogies of all time.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opens in the United States on February 22, 2019. In the meantime, be sure to check out our interview with DeBlois about the upcoming sequel right here.