Have you ever experienced a movie that resonated with you days after viewing and, in spite of your best efforts, you find that you simply can’t articulate your feelings right away? If you have, then you’ll understand why it has taken me a week after viewing How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World to put these thoughts down. Not just because it was a good movie, but because in both movies and in real life, change is never easy. Ending is never easy. Moving forward into the unknown is never easy. Thankfully, fellow ScreenFisher and dear friend Chris Utley was able to pull me out of my head and with a few key words, inspired me.
Ideally I’d keep this spoiler free since it’s such a new release, but I don’t want to risk it. So POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD for the cautious and eager.
When we last visited the human-dragon utopia of Berk, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his best friend/alpha-dragon/Night Fury Toothless were rebuilding from the physical and emotional destruction of villain Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). The Hidden World picks up with Hiccup awkwardly forging his path as Chief, his primary focus being maintaining the peaceful existence between his clan and their dragons. With the help of Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), Snotlout (voiced by Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (voiced by Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (newly voiced by Justin Rupple), he continues to fight ruthless dragon trappers and build his ideal world.
But there is always a threat. As more people discover the truth of Berk, the more determined Hiccup becomes in protecting their way of life at all costs. So when new villain Grimmel the Grisly (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) threatens Hiccup and Toothless directly, he enlists the support of his mother Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson), and even Erid son of Erid (voiced by Kit Harrington) to flee their home in search of the dragon haven known as the Hidden World.
Throughout this series it has been established that Hiccup is as selfless as they come – always seeking peace as opposed to conflict, conversation as opposed to violence, relationship as opposed to solidarity. And yet he is as imperfect as they come. That same hyper-focus he has on peace often blinds him to the deeper needs of his clan and his best friend. So, when Toothless is introduced to a mysterious female Light Fury, Hiccup is torn between what he wants and what Toothless needs.
It’s a hard lesson, and it plays out in a beautifully and heartbreakingly authentic way. For a decade, we have journeyed with Hiccup and Toothless as they change their world. We have laughed at Toothless learning to draw, we have wept as Hiccup said his final goodbyes to Stoick (who still guides us through flashbacks, voiced by Gerard Butler), and we have cheered every time Hiccup and Toothless conquered a new challenge together.
But not all challenges can be tackled together as planned. If The Hidden World taught me anything, it’s that we have to give ourselves permission to change direction. Too often, we get stuck on our plans. We create goals and map out the steps…we proclaim “this is what we will do, who is with me?” And drive and vision is good. Plans and action items are important. But when those plans and that direction prevent us from seeing the new thing that is being done…when they begin to hurt those closest to us instead of raising them up…then we have to adjust course. We have to let go of the world we want, and instead create the world someone else may need (a summary of some of the most beautiful words to come from this series).
If you’re thinking, “Heather, sounds like this movie has hit a little too close to home,” you’re right. While I always strive to keep myself to whatever a movie may be saying, I find that this particular film has hit me at a particularly trying time. For five years, my husband and I have been working toward a goal. We have studied, planned, prayed, and prepared for a clearly defined future. But that future has gotten foggy. While every step was checked off the list, the journey seems to have taken a turn, and we find ourselves battling with the “what was planned,” and “what will be.”
I share this with you all from a place mixed with grief, uncertainty, and promise. For while I look on into a changing horizon, acknowledging the end of what was, I see the sun dawn into a day filled with opportunity and joy. Was it planned? No. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? As the unknown has a funny way of creating something stronger and more vibrant, sweetened by the anticipation of a new adventure, I unequivocally answer YES.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is currently in theatres.