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How to Train Your Dragon (2010) ***1/2

March 25, 2010

Written by: Cressida Cowell (story), Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (screenplay)

Produced by: Bonnie Arnold

Directed by: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language

98 min.

U.S. Release Date: March 26, 2010

The voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig team up in the massive children’s (and adults!) 3D epic from DreamWorks.  Since the record-breaking success of James Cameron’s “Avatar”, Hollywood studios have been chomping at the bit to release more 3D event films.  Immediately, the comparisons can be made between “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Avatar”, but there is solace in knowing that DreamWorks had their 3D picture in production before the world of Pandora came to screens.  With audiences everywhere inevitably comparing this film to its hippie blue-skinned cousin, can “Dragon” stand on its own?

Cressida Cowell’s story plops the viewer right into a world where the Viking culture is at its height, and scary dragons rule the sky.  Vikings are divided up into tribes, and young men earn their rite of passage into manhood upon slaying their first dragon.  The film focuses in on Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), a young Viking boy who doesn’t exactly fit in with the macho Viking culture he was born into.  At age eleven, it is now time for Hiccup to perform his rite of passage and capture a dragon.  It is at this point that Hiccup meets a special dragon that he names Toothless.

Instead of capturing Toothless, the two develop a close relationship, much like a boy and his dog.  At times, Toothless takes on many dog-like movements and actions with his playfulness, and other times he is very cat-like with his smoothness and stealth.  As Hiccup and Toothless’s relationship grows, the time comes for Hiccup to introduce his dragon friend into a society that is not so dragon-friendly.  As he shows Toothless off to his friends, he is trying to teach them that what they think they know about dragons is not true at all.

Though it is not the most original story ever told, I really like the message that this film is sharing with children, while also giving great entertainment for the adults in the audience.  Hiccup (and this sounds a little cheesy) is standing up for what he believes to be right, though everyone around him has his or her preconceived thoughts and prejudices.  This message is successfully communicated (at least to me), all while provide an immense amount of entertainment with comedy, action and amazing visuals.

On the visuals, the 3D works very well in this film, mostly due to the fact that it is not attempting to be photorealistic in its aesthetic.  Because the movie is computer-generated, with a slant toward the “classic animation” look, the 3D effects implemented in “How to Train Your Dragon” look even better than “Avatar”.  The animated look pulls away the limits of the mind for a couple of hours so the audience can believe anything, while attempting a photorealistic look tends to keep the mind within the parameters of reality, and therefore giving viewers “the ripcord effect” many more times than during an animated film.  The in-flight sequences in “How to Train Your Dragon” give so much depth to the picture, more than I’ve seen in any other 3D experience.

Due to the limited amount of 3D-capable screens, this film will be experiencing some serious pressure and will possibly get booted out of theaters once “Clash of the Titans” comes out, which is only a week later.  If that’s the case, make sure you make it out to a 3D (and IMAX) capable theater this weekend and see this film in its best format before the experience gets severely lessened by other 3D competitors.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    March 25, 2010 6:08 pm

    My boys are SO looking forward to seeing this one. I promised I’d be taking them soon. Glad to know that grown ups can enjoy the film as well! :)~

  2. chrisd permalink
    March 28, 2010 4:20 pm

    I can’t wait to see this!

    I am reading reviews for Sean Bean’s movie “Ca$h.” Doesn’t sound very good.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      March 28, 2010 11:32 pm

      True. I haven’t heard too many good reviews of “Ca$h” yet. Paul has seen it and will be posting a review of it soon.

  3. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    January 15, 2011 1:07 am

    We just watched this one tonight at home, projected, but of course not in 3D. Exactly as you described. Not original at all. Utterly predictable. Fun to watch nonetheless. Great themes for little ones.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      January 15, 2011 7:53 pm

      I recently saw it too and thoroughly enjoyed it. i wished I had seen it in 3D on IMAX! John Powell’s score was fantastic as were the voice actors. The character design for the dragons were quite creative, so much that I wanted to have a Toothless all to my self! The animation was excellent, especially the backgrounds, but those flying scenes were phenomenal. As for it’s predicability, I wasn’t expected anything terribly original, just fun and fantastic….and it exceeded my expectations.


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