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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Album Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway
Eric Whitacre

Orchestrated by:
John Ashton Thomas
Andrew Kinney
Randy Kerber
Tommy Laurence
Geoff Lawson
John Kull
Rick Giovinazzo

Additional Music and Arrangements by:
Batu Sener
Paul Mounsey
Anthony Willis
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Back Lot Music
(February 1st, 2019)
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Regular U.S. release.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you demand a satisfying conclusion to an incredible trilogy of music, the third entry a highly engaging and accessible experience with a clear narrative.

Avoid it... if you become frustrated when franchises replace existing themes with new ones where not entirely necessary, John Powell diminishing some old favorites here without really needing to do so.
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WRITTEN 3/24/19
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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World: (John Powell/Various) It may not be the most successful animated franchise by most measures, but the "How to Train Your Dragon" concept has thrived on screens big and small during the 2010's because of its genuinely hearty and adventurous qualities. After the success of the original theatrical How to Train Your Dragon adaptation from novels in 2010, a franchise of several short films, television show, and video games followed, joined by two additional feature films that culminated in 2019's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The world of Berk and its societal relations between Vikings and dragons may have lost some steam by the third motion picture, sustained critical praise met with a touch of fatigue from viewers as the filmmakers sought to devise a definitive conclusion to the original set of characters in one final installment. The second two films are not without a fair dose of sadness, the concepts of separation and loneliness remaining to temper the airy fantasy at the series' core. An inevitable segregation of humans and dragons awaits in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World after years of the two species living in relative peace at the humans' town of Berk. As in previous stories, evil human dragon hunters once again spoil the utopic endeavors, forcing the dragons into seclusion and necessitating depressing goodbyes between the series' main characters. Despite rotating between distributors for each film, the stylistic voice of the world of Berk and dragons remains intact, and much of that consistency is maintained by John Powell's exemplary music across all of the films. His work, led by three exuberant main themes of friendship and flying, has become recognizable to children worldwide and has developed into the most famous musical anthem used generally by DreamWorks in advertisements for its lineup of animated properties. The quality of Powell's masterful music for these films lies not in the complexity of his thematic constructs but rather in his ability to develop these easily digestible ideas in a myriad of settings. Like the franchises of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, the How to Train Your Dragon scores offer constant repetition and development of dozens of themes. Their uniqueness stems from a playful, Celtic-influenced personality holding it all together.

For How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Powell audaciously added a plethora of new themes to an equation already stuffed with favorites from the prior two movies. He enlisted three ghostwriters to assist him in this endeavor on the majority of cues, utilizing Batu Sener more frequently than Paul Mounsey or Anthony Willis. But attribution of all the new themes points back to Powell himself, and the composer handled the film's later emotional scenes on his own. The composer's phenomenal handling of themes in Solo: A Star Wars Story the previous year was an unattainable benchmark of success for motific interpolation, and while How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World exudes similar intelligence and forethought in its handling of its own franchise's identities, the end result is slightly less satisfactory. While it's always good to add new themes to the formula for any sequel, Powell may have gone too far in this third film for the tastes of some listeners, marginalizing prior identities or, in some cases, casting them aside completely at moments when they could have appealed once again. Still, the new themes offer strengths of their own, the score benefitting from Powell's consistent spotting of an idea in various guises at nearly all moments. The instrumentation, meanwhile, is less overtly Celtic than at the franchise's origins. Enthusiasts of these tones, and especially the pipes, will appreciate that Powell extends their usage in "Exodus!," "Third Date" and, to lesser degrees, in the conclusive cues. Woodwind solos continue to carry much of the emotional luggage, flutes and clarinets shining particularly. A comparative lack of action in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World yields potential disappointment for listeners expecting extended sequences of brassy bombast, the long "Armada Battle" cue really the score's only such highlight. Choral applications fall closer to traditional notions of Viking bravado, Powell extending his male choral presence for Drago in How to Train Your Dragon 2 here as an almost too-similar representation of equally troublesome dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly. Relying upon new thematic ideas for the villains, dragons, another human settlement, fresh heroism, and a general notion of destiny, the score for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World applies familiar instrumental colors to its debuting attributions without capturing the same romantic sense of awe and wonder as the previous entries.

For some listeners, the diminishment of overwhelming romanticism and uproarious, sustained action in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, especially as it relates to Powell's existing themes, may disappoint. But perspective is necessary, as the film's plot, essentially devised as one long series of interactions meant to soften the blow of the goodbyes at the end, doesn't provide the score ample opportunity to either soar or exhilarate at frequent intervals. Clearly cognizant of this conundrum, however, was Powell, for he did make it something of a mission to address nearly all of his existing themes at least once here, even if briefly. Roughly two-dozen themes are conveyed, most of which heard in the cues available on the official album. Ten or so of these ideas carry over from the previous scores, and they compete with more than a dozen new ones that occupy most of the work's running time. No new identity can compete with Powell's trio of friendship and flying themes from the first film, and the composer is careful to bookend the third film with these fan favorites. The descending friendship motif of the franchise has become its go-to fanfare, bursting with energy and representing all the youthful excitement of the concept. Capping two of the first score's other main themes at 4:59 into "Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk," the idea is hinted on harp at 0:47 into "New 'New Tail'" and is skittish on strings at 1:55 and 6:22 into "Armada Battle." It returns to its introductory fanfare form at 1:09 into "As Long as He's Safe" and its appropriately familiar romantic allure (reprising pivotal vocal and percussion shades from the first film) at 3:10 into "Once There Were Dragons" on its way to announcing the trilogy's conclusion at 4:06, 5:06, and 5:33 in that cue. Both the phrases of Powell's legacy flying theme are employed, though the primary one is saved mostly for the end. Touched upon briefly as a subdued low choral fragment at 0:45 into "With Love Comes a Great Waterfall," this main theme receives rousing renditions at 1:18 into "As Long as He's Safe" and 4:12 into "Once There Were Dragons." Its companion phrase is more frequently applied here, and it takes on almost an anthemic personality by the end. Its snare-ripping optimism reaffirms its fan-favorite status at 4:46 into "Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk" and extends to an accelerated version at 1:03 into "New 'New Tail'" before returning to its full stature at 1:34 into "As Long as He's Safe." Its use in "Once There Were Dragons" is particularly satisfactory, the idea applied as choral counterpoint at 2:56 before maturing to strong brass at 4:27 and a full-ensemble send-off at 5:14.

Among the dispiriting developments of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the story's shift away from Berk and associated Viking culture as seen in the first film, a change partly reflected by Powell in his music. The composer knows that his original Berk/Viking theme, a momentous presence early in the franchise, has limited opportunity to shine in this installment, so he offers it two full statements of glory at 4:19 into "Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk." The ingenuity of the culture and Hiccup himself are reprised in the cute throwback cue, "New 'New Tail'" (at 0:38 and 0:55), and throughout "Armada Battle" (sadly subdued at 0:00, briefly but with zeal at 2:54, and in its full choral interlude at 5:00). Also fleeting in its applications, sometimes oddly, is Powell's love theme for Astrid, alternately a more romantic flying identity. It's confined to moments like 3:29 into the gorgeously melancholy "Legend Has It/Cliffside Playtime" and twice in "Armada Battle," where it explodes with full ensemble relief at 3:46 and 7:00. From How to Train Your Dragon 2 return two ideas explicitly, including the "Lost and Found" theme most prominently. Often associated with Hiccup's family, this identity is expressed first on soft woodwinds and choir at 0:06 into "With Love Comes a Great Waterfall" before taking momentous turns at 2:10 and 5:36 into "Armada Battle." The theme is influential in "As Long as He's Safe" as well, its dramatic choral performances at 0:46 and 5:06 bracketing a contemplative rendition for flute and piano at 4:25. Its companion motif, representing responsibility and loss, returns at 1:53 into "Legend Has It/Cliffside Playtime" and is as lovely as ever. Other motifs from the first score are reprised in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, though their impact is muted. This holds true for most of the dragon-related motifs, one comical take continuing at 5:06 into "Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk." Likewise, the lighthearted identity for Hiccup and his silly friends is reduced to only a solemn performance on piano at 1:47 into "Once There Were Dragons." Powell does not introduce new themes for these concepts explicitly, but he does offer a wide enough breadth of fresh identities to accompany their general purposes. The dragons' themes have been condensed into several motifs to represent the two leads of their kind, the Berk theme is displaced by a new one for another island, the flying and friendship themes are supplanted by new heroic alternatives, and other major new locations and characters are afforded appropriate ideas of their own. The inclusion of a theme and submotif for fate ties all of them together by the end.

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Average: 3.89 Stars
***** 149 5 Stars
**** 82 4 Stars
*** 49 3 Stars
** 36 2 Stars
* 21 1 Stars
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John Powell calls DONALD J. TRUMP a wanker at concert   Expand >>
Ken Kirchner - March 28, 2019, at 9:05 p.m.
3 comments  (1905 views)
Newest: March 28, 2019, at 11:33 p.m. by
James Dugan

Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 75:46
• 1. Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk (5:27)
• 2. Dinner Talk - Grimmel's Introduction (3:53)
• 3. Legend Has It - Cliffside Playtime (4:21)
• 4. Toothless: Smitten (3:16)
• 5. Worst Pep Talk Ever (2:40)
• 6. Night Fury Killer (3:36)
• 7. Exodus! (4:38)
• 8. Third Date (6:49)
• 9. New 'New Tail' (1:28)
• 10. Furies in Love (3:03)
• 11. Killer Dragons (5:05)
• 12. With Love Comes a Great Waterfall (2:08)
• 13. The Hidden World (5:16)
• 14. Armada Battle (8:40)
• 15. As Long as He's Safe (6:29)
• 16. Once There Were Dragons (5:45)
• 17. Together From Afar - performed by Jonsi (3:17)

Digital Only:
• 18. The Hidden World Suite (6:40)
(Total time reflects CD only)

Notes Icon
The insert includes a list of performers and a note from the composer about the score.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World are Copyright © 2019, Back Lot Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/24/19 (and not updated significantly since).
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