Michelle Reynolds, Staff Writer

The DreamWorks series How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) began in 2010, expanded with a sequel in 2014, and is now coming to an epic conclusion in 2019 with the third and final installment, “How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World.”

In HTTYD 3, Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel), now chief of Berk, has turned the island into a dragon haven. When hunter Grimmel (played by F. Murray Abraham) threatens to disrupt the peace, Hiccup sets out to discover the legendary Hidden World and establish a dragon and Viking utopia.

This movie features Hiccup and his crazy gang of friends Astrid, twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, Fishlegs and Snoutlout. Now in their twenties, the characters are still as quirky as they were when we first met them as teenagers in HTTYD 1. Every character has been so defined and real that sometimes I forgot they weren’t real people but animations.

The characters were always well-developed but the reason they have shined so much is because audiences have watched them grow throughout the series. HTTYD at its core is a coming of age story. Audiences witnessed Hiccup and the gang get into teenage mischief, experience crushes, fall in love, feel hope and heartbreak and tackle adulthood.

While all of the characters have matured in their own way, Hiccup had the biggest character growth. At the beginning he was a scrawny, awkward and lost 15-year-old and throughout the movies audiences have watched him grow into a confident, independent and strong leader just like his father. He truly is one of the most relatable characters and serves as a great role model for all the misfits who have ever felt lost.

Online critic Peter Deruge stated that while other animations typically keep their characters the same age over many movies, the HTTYD series has “taken another path entirely, allowing its heroes…to evolve as human beings, resulting in one of the greatest character arcs animation has ever seen.”

While the characters add to the overall piece, the dragons are what viewers come for. Though the dragons don’t speak, they all have such a defined personality, making them just as unique as people. Toothless, as always, is incredibly charming, with his cat-like behaviors, expressive faces and amazing dance moves.

Another impressive portion of the film is the animation. For being a cartoon, it was absolutely breathtaking, immersive even! Hollywood is really stepping up their world-building skills. Audiences no longer sit in a theater. Instead, they are transported to the village of Berk, looking over the cliff as dragons fly off in the distance.

While other movies drag on or rush the plot, the HTTYD series does not. At 104 minutes, this was the perfect length, had great pacing and managed to pack in so much emotion. HTTYD 3 can be anticipated to be a perfect mix of action, character development and heart. The emotional intensity and action are what has astounded me the most. It is something I haven’t felt from a movie in a long time.

While a PG movie, HTTYD 3 isn’t just for children. Audiences of all age will fall in love with this charming movie. It is well-rounded, with spectacular animation, gripping action and charming dragons. With a bond developed over three movies that have made the characters feel like they’ve become your friends, this finale might make you shed a tear or two.

Online critic Rafael Motamayor said it best, stating that “DreamWorks has a new winner on their hands with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, a film that is not only as good as its predecessors but even surpasses them at certain points.”

HTTYD 3 is more than a satisfying conclusion to a near perfect series. While it hurts to say goodbye to Hiccup, Toothless and the village of Berk, it truly was a fantastic ride that audiences will revisit over and over again for years to come.

“How to Train Your Dragon 3” will be in theaters Feb. 22.