How to Train Your Dragon is another highly enjoyable animated movie by Dreamworks. This one features a young boy named Hiccup, whose destiny it will be to forever change the relationship between the people of his village and the local pests - which just happen to be dragons...
Living on a small island beset by various kinds of dragon, the Vikings of that village are tough - really tough, especially Stoick (Gerard Butler) - ultra-heroic warrior, village chief - and Hiccup's father. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) just isn't cut out to be a warrior, though he's going to give it a real try... in case you were wondering, the Vikings give their children hideous names in the hope that it will scare enemies. Hiccup, we are told, is not actually among the worst names... (Snotlout, Astrid, Fishlegs and the twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut are his fellow trainees.)
While Hiccup enrols in dragon-bashing school under the tutelage of Gobber (Craig Fergusson), he's also secretly befriending a dragon that he managed to immobilise for a time, but found that he just couldn't kill. The scenes between Hiccup and the dragon as they slowly gain each others' trust are wonderful; the rest of the film, good though it is, never really matches the sheer pleasure of watching these scenes. There are a variety of dragons on display here, a pretty diverse range, which makes things more interesting - they all have their own unique talents as well as appearances. The personality of the dragon who ends up befriending Hiccup seems to have been styled on a cat, which actually works quite well.
The main bulk of the film, involving Hiccup's training, strained relationship with his father, love affair with the irritating tough girl (in this cast Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera), the big battle at the end etc is all nicely enough handled, though a bit too cliché and full of stereotypes for adults watching. There's a slight over-reliance on slapstick as well for my liking, but on the whole a good balance is maintained to keep How to Train Your Dragon an appealing movie for both children and adults. The themes of tolerance between species and accepting people who don't fit the perceived ideal come across well without being preachy or patronising.
I didn't bother watching it in 3D - I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste of money after watching several 3D movies last year and being unimpressed by most of them. The visuals are superb, as you'd expect from Dreamworks - the only slight issue I had was that in some scenes the backgrounds appeared just too static, but on the whole everything looks fantastic, plenty of detail in both characters and backgrounds, and great animation. John Powell's music score was terrific too - sweepingly majestic and skittishly comical as the scene demanded. Oh, and the voice acting is excellent throughout.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon. Perhaps the stories of father-child relationships and a loner's path to redemption are a bit too well travelled; certainly this movie won't win any awards for plot originality, but it tells its tale well, looks great, is charming and amusing, and the main plot twist isn't obvious. A very nice animated movie, whatever age you are.
The introductory narration:
This is Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy, and it's been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunset. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have... dragons.
CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog