How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – John Powell

For the last couple of years, there hasn’t been a soundtrack I was waiting for more than the one from the last movie in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, written by John Powell. The scores of the first two movies are near the top of my favorite scores list. Both of them are just magnificent and should at least be listened to once as an example of how film music can be used to perfectly support all kinds of emotions and action sequences, while still being a joy to listen to outside of the movie. With How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the story of Hiccup and Toothless will conclude and I had great hopes that an amazing score would live up to the quality of the prequels. The movie deserves a score to help create a satisfying end to a marvelous tale.

The two previous scores have a wondrous introduction with a version of the Berk theme in the first track of the album, which is established as the main theme of the series. This score has it as well, but it starts later in the first track “Raiders Return to Busy, Busy Berk.“ Each soundtrack also introduces new themes, which are always astonishing pieces of music. This movie is no exception, and you can hear the new themes right away in “Dinner Talk / Grimmel’s Introduction“ where the track begins with a lovely melody, which represents the hidden world. The last part is, as the name says, a darker theme for the villain of this story. The new theme for the hidden world can be heard again in “Legend Has It / Cliffside Playtime.”

“Toothless / Smitten” is the first track that introduces the most gorgeous music I have heard in the last couple of years, and it can be heard in full glory in “Furies in Love”: a beautiful waltz with gorgeous melodies by the strings together with the choir and short staccato patterns by the brass. “Third Date” is quite a long and carefully paced track with a joyful pattern representing the white female dragon. In between, we get all kinds of silly musical jokes, but afterwards the buildup towards a spectacular highlight continues.

It was great to hear the How to Train Your Dragon main theme again in all its beauty in “New ‘New Tail’.” For me this was a great joy, since the theme can also be heard in “New Tail” from the first soundtrack. “With Love Comes Great Waterfall” also has a theme from the past: It is the sad sounding theme that is used in “Toothless lost” from the second film and this time it is performed on flute until it transitions into a grand sounding “The Hidden World” theme with choir and full orchestra.

“Armada Battle” is the track where the score starts to change. Where in the previous tracks you could hear a lot of new music and themes created for this film, from this track on, it becomes a mix of all the themes from the three different movies mashed together in one long action cue. This trend continues in “As Long As He’s Safe” where we can hear the “Coming Back Around” music from the first score after one minute. If you have seen this movie in the cinema, you know exactly, which goosebumps-inducing moment I am referring to, where this tune kicks in. The rest of the music is just emotional, sad and gorgeous until the big finale with orchestra and choir come into play to conclude the track with the Hidden World theme. “Once There Were Dragons” starts with a hymn by the choir and sounds like the epilogue of a long fairy tale. After the song, it becomes an emotional roller coaster ride with beautiful versions of old and new themes, especially with the new version of “Forbidden Friendship.” It also ends with an amazing rendition of the theme from the first movie’s “Test Drive,” and with it, the whole trilogy comes to an end.

The last official track on the album is the song “Together From Afar” by Jónsi (Jón Þór Birgisson), who has collaborated with Powell for all three movies. This song is not something I care much about, just like the other two from the previous movies. The digital version, which I have received as a gift, also contains “The Hidden World Suite”, which summarizes all the new music in a gorgeous suite. If you want a quick listen to what this score is all about, I can definitely recommend that piece. It can be found easily on YouTube and is added below.

Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself to listen to a score several times before I can start reviewing it. This is not the case with this soundtrack. In the period right before this review, I could not stop listening to this album. The scores for the first two movies are already perfect in my opinion, and I can happily say that this score has earned that status as well. Each note matters and has a meaning for what is happening on screen, while it also has impressive melodies that are a pleasure to listen to while even without watching the movie. The mix of old and new themes throughout the whole movie is extremely well done. I was especially happy with the marvelous themes from the first movie. For the second one the old themes were changed and reused, and new wonderful themes were introduced, and now the same thing goes for the third one. Not only is this score perfect from start to end, but now I can also say that the music of the whole trilogy is perfect from start to end. This was a great musical journey from “This is Berk,” from the first movie, to “Once There Were Dragons” from the last one. It was an amazing ride and while I will miss it dearly, at least I now have three scores absolutely brilliant music in my possession, which I will treasure for a very long time.

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The highlights are in bold.

  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 (by Jónsi) (3:17)

Total length: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Back Lot Music (2019)

One comment

  1. For many years I’ve been observing John Powell’s career development and I must admit that the “trilogy of dragons” is a kind of Opus-Magnum of this great composer. John, on the occasion of the interview on SW Solo score composing, said he had the great pleasure of working on the main theme of the character (Han Solo) composed by his great mentor John Williams. He said that William’s compositions are in their own way “polyphonic” which is rare in today’s world of film scoring.

    DEAR JOHN POWELL – YOU ARE THE NEXT J.WILLIAMS. For me personally, when it comes to structure, lyrical complexity, originality and above all the ability to create characteristic and memorable motives (themes), you are the master of the craft of the young generation. Nobody creates such rich and beautiful “Worlds” as you do. You are at the top the scoring mountain and no one can dethrone you. J.Horner (RIP), J.Williams and H.Zimmer have already done their job in film industry and no one will take away their achievements and contribution to the development of pop-culture and film-scoring. But now is the time for such talents as John Powell. 10/10 for Hidden World.

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