“I Am Who I Am Today Because Of You…”
Whilst it may be slightly harsh walking into a concluding chapter of a franchise after failing to see the previous two entries, my own personal admission as a failure of film criticism due to somehow missing the critically acclaimed opening chapter’s before heading into How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was aptly fixed with a quick Wikipedia search and a clear confirmation that dragons had indeed been trained effectively and that there really wasn’t that much to catch up on. Directed and written once again by Canadian filmmaker, Dean DeBlois, whose continued service throughout the franchise has indeed placed him in good stead in the land of DreamWorks animation, The Hidden World reunites the merry band of heroic and dragon loving Vikings as they continue their fight in attempting to rescue as many captured flying beasts as humanly possible from the grasps of the insidious and cold hearted dragon hunters. Led by the good natured figure of Hiccup and his dedicated flying follower, Toothless, the loss of his father in the previous installment still fleetingly haunts the young leader, resulting him in remembering the myth of “The Hidden World”, a utopian world for dragon kind which Hiccup attempts to locate in order to not only save his own race, but his ever expanding race of flying friends who continue to overpopulate his land.
For someone entering the movie with only a faint knowledge of the characters and the overarching set up from the past two installments, it is undoubtedly to The Hidden World’s credit that even with only ten minutes into the action, the characterisation of each of the primary players within the narrative is very much easy to establish, and whilst the pacing does take a good while to fully get going into second year, there is a clear commitment from the filmmakers that the movie is very much a solidified end point to the franchise, with a central screenplay which pretty much relies on a whole lot of filler, albeit interesting filler, before getting to the inevitable conclusion. Whilst there are elements of weariness throughout the one hundred minute runtime, the simply gorgeous animation means that when you do become slightly disconnected from the narrative, the design of the movie is so staggeringly wonderful that you take the time instead to inspect every single frame of the picture and oggle at its’ technical brilliance, with shots of soaring horizons, spectacular armies upon both land and sea, and of course, the sight of hundred upon hundreds of dragons taking to the skies really magnificent to behold. With an array of superb voice acting talent, with F. Murray Abraham (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grimmel the Grisly the standout performance, and a final act which even made this cold hearted cinephile wipe away a flu induced tear, The Hidden World may not be as amazing as it might have been with the added involvement I may have got from a complete dedication to the series, but it is indeed a movie which has more than enough to sustain an interest for both children and adults as it rounds off in a rather pleasant manner indeed.
Overall Score: 6/10
“One Day This Will All Feel Like A Dream…”
Of the two previous Derek Cianfrance movies so far in his impressive career up to now, The Place Beyond The Pines was perhaps the one that impressed me the most; the multi-layered crime drama famous for pulling a Hitchcock and knocking off top-billed Ryan Gosling around 40 minutes into the picture and then focusing on the mistakes of the parents and the effect it has on the next generation. With Cianfrance’s latest picture, The Light Between Oceans, the gloomy sense of tragic melodrama current throughout his filmography is rife once again with a fairy-tale storyline and long-winding arcs bearing a wide range of similarities to The Place Beyond The Pines but also has enough meaty plot difference to be enjoyed as a completely separate body of work. Although the storyline is gripping at times, the movie’s constant need to invoke a solid state of complete, unrelenting melancholia is downright tough, ultimately leading to a piece of cinema which can easily be admired but can also easily be dismissed as just too much of a downer to be effective.
As with all Cianfrance movies, The Light Between Oceans benefits mainly from its’ impressive cast, with Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, two of current cinema’s most consistent actors, leading the way in performances that are immediately believable and are responsible for adding real heart and soul to the drama unfolding on-screen. Add into the picture cameos from the likes of Rachel Weisz and The Light Between Oceans definitely has the acting stance on point throughout. Subsequently, the acting performances are unfortunately subsided by the sometimes plodding pacing of the movie which in itself is dampened by the latter two-thirds of the movie when the tone is unrelenting depression from the characters on-screen and the audience watching. What Cianfrance has with The Light Between Oceans is a perfectly solid drama, one which has stand out performances from its’ two leads but one which suffers from a range of problems including its’ melancholic attitude which encapsulates the drama throughout.