Dreamworks animation has often been regarded as the “Poor man’s Pixar” since its animated films are more or less a hit or miss. Well, after the sleeper hit "Monsters Vs. Aliens", the company is once again poised to redeem itself with “How To Train Your Dragon” which is based on the book with the same name. This latest film directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois has enough thought-provoking morale themes, stunning animation, as well as an invaluable lesson for youngsters. I’ll get right to the point; Dreamworks may have burned Pixar’s latest offerings to a crisp this time around. The creators of the overrated “UP” should thank the movie gods that this movie was never released last year otherwise, it may have never have won “Best Animated Feature“ in the recent Oscars. (Shrek bested Pixar's contribution that year methinks)
Berk is a village of Vikings that is repeatedly under siege by different types of dragons. Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) is the leader of this village and he means to defend his domain against the dragons. His son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a scrawny embarrassment who wants to win the approval of his brethren as well as his father’s, and earn the name "Viking". Hiccup may well be seen as a weakling, but he intends to overcome his frail frame by inventions. One evening, by a stroke of luck Hiccup downs the most feared dragon which the Vikings call “Night Fury”; seen as a dragon birthed in lightning (references to Thor abound) by one of his inventions. Wounded, the dragon becomes trapped in a canyon unable to fly out. Surprisingly, the two begin an uneasy friendship that may change the way Dragons are seen in the eyes of the Vikings as Hiccup calls the ebony dragon “Toothless”.
Due to his experiences with “Toothless”, Hiccup also becomes a popular student in the school of dragon fighting much to the surprise of his classmates that includes a young warrior girl named Astrid (America Ferrera). But things become more complicated when Stoick becomes obsessed in finding the nest of the dragons and would stop at nothing in annihilating the race of dragons. But the dragons have a reason why they lay siege on the livestock of the Vikings…a very BIG reason.
“How To Train a Dragon” is an animated film that supersedes all expectations seeing as the viewing public have this ‘brainwashed’ state that Pixar is the giant of animation. I thought the movie was very creative in bringing us to this world that is filled with dragons and Vikings, of mysticism, courage and determination. The animation is stellar, as the movements are so fluid that the last time I saw animation this polished and smooth was when I saw “Final Fantasy Advent Children” and “The Incredibles”. The scenes of the dragon-riding flights were just amazing and very impressive.
The dragons in the film are also given different personalities as we see them with their own different powers and abilities. Their hide also has different qualities and textures, and yet, the dragons have similar defining qualities much like dogs have a common trait; as all dragons like having a certain area of their bodies scratched, they don’t like eel and they become distracted with a small bright object. This was a way for the film to establish its groundwork in the dragon’s development as something that shares animal qualities that we are familiar with. This was necessary to bring forth the connection needed for the viewer to care about the movie.
I’ve mentioned that the movie has enough themes of morality to make the adult viewer enticed and this is so true. The film has several themes of tolerance and understanding that would make the adult viewer enthralled. The dragons are misunderstood in this film, and the movie fleshes out that very human characteristic of fearing what they do not understand. It also throws in the powerful message of working in unison is the most effective way to solve a huge problem. Overcoming one’s fear is necessary to achieve greatness and to work hard to attain one’s goals. For the youngsters, the film brings forth the theme of acceptance and to respect one’s parents. This theme was brought forth by the relationship between Hiccup and his father. While having strong themes of family and the need to belong, the film also preaches about individuality and that it is ok to be different; after all being ‘uncommon’ usually leads to being the ‘first’ to achieve something.
The film does have some differences from the book but none that I thought hampered the movie at any great lengths. The characters in “How to Train Your Dragon” are also well-drawn out. Stoick has strong references to the Norse God of Thunder (red beard and hair, hammer in hand with a huge belt) and was marvelously played by Gerard Butler. I liked “Gobber the Belch” (voiced by Craig Ferguson) who teaches “Dragon Slaying” and provides the needed ‘history’ of the Vikings and the dragons seeing as he is missing one hand and a leg. Hiccup and Astrid develop a friendship that changes the relationship between Hiccup and Fishlegs in the book, as Astrid becomes Hiccups closest confidant.
The film’s direction is full of energetic momentum, light-hearted good humor and the pace is kept at a pace that is just so brisk to keep the viewer anticipating the next great scene. This is what I really liked about the film, it manages to have a soul while having the popcorn qualities that makes mainstream movies successful. The film’s music and dialogue just complements the film’s tone and mood and I cannot complain. However, the film isn’t perfect, the film borrows some characteristics from “Dragon Riders”. True, some of the film’s elements are derivative of other successful movies (son looking for father’s approval, betrayal of one’s brethren and so forth) but those devices were developed well into the movie’s main premise.
“How to Train Your Dragon” may just become the best animated success to hail from Hollywood this year although it is too soon to speculate with " Toy Story 3" and "Shrek the Final Chapter" in the horizon; but the film is now ahead of the pack. The film has all the qualities I look for in an animated film for all ages; a great backdrop (world of Vikings), action and thought-provoking moral themes, light-hearted humor, surprises and enough ‘cutesy’ devices to satisfy viewers of all ages and gender. The last time I felt this much satisfaction and entertainment from an animated movie usually comes from Japanese anime, so imagine my surprise to feel this way about American animation.
Dreamworks has scored a homerun with “How To Train Your Dragon”…now let’s hope they can keep up the pace since Pixar needs competition here in the U.S.. After all competition keeps everyone sharp, ambitious and creative; this way, fresh ideas can keep flowing.
Highest Possible Recommendation!! [4 ½ Stars]
HYPE LEVEL: Moderate. The Hype is very acceptable compared to the Hype Pixar films are expected to fulfill. This Film may well become the 'sleeper' animated hit of 2010.
*** out of **** You can count on animated films to be good when live action films just aren't. While this is definitely a good thing to count on, some animated films are just bad, and yes, as bad as the live-action flicks are. This is not the case with Dreamworks Animation's first of three 2010 animated offerings. In fact, "How to Train Your Dragon" is the best thing that Dreamworks has had to offer since "Shrek". Yeah, they've come out with some pretty solid stuff from time … more
i hear so much hype about this movie, so i decide to see it. the animation was unbeliveable,i forgot i was watching a movie. i am really intrested about the movie, so i check out all the special features and all(i watched it on DVD) that, and all the effort into this movie, the hundreds of crew and cast, the animation, like i said, was great,it was fantastic. but i am looking forward to see some other great animation hits, so for right now, this is the best 9.5 out of 10 stars 4.5 … more
With a review title as ambitious as mine, some justification is definitely in order. See unlike Pixar (with a little help of the Disney promotion machine), animated hits with the potential to become pop culture icons aren’t a given for DreamWorks. Sure they’ve had Shrek but ask anyone and you’ll discover that 4 feature films and a variety of spin-offs have milked the franchise past its worth. Kung-Fu Panda came next with signs of brilliance. … more
Out from DreamWorks' animation studio is a tale based on two aggressive yet extinct species, dragons and Vikings. Interesting enough, How to Train Your Dragon strays away from stereotyping these two prolific breeds, giving them a fresh interpretation. Hiccup, the main protagonist (voiced by Jay Baruchel), is illustrated as the lanky outcast whose father is the leader of the violent pack of dragon hunters. In addition, his dragon counterpart, Toothless, isn't the barbaric creature that Vikings … more
Dragons have had a pretty checkered history on the silver screen. There have been some good efforts (Reign of Fire, Dragonslayer, Dragonheart) and some terrible misfires (Dungeons and Dragons, Eragon) over the years, but all have fallen short of delivering the definitive dragon movie. The rather clunkily titled How to Train Your Dragon, directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, may well be that movie. Since its formation in 1994, Dreamworks has always been standing in … more
We always seem to go through phases when it comes to popular genres and topics of entertainment. We have the year of 3D (which I'm still debating as to whether I should actually be excited or not), the year of remakes (that has become YEARS and I wish would seriously end), the year of cheapquels/sequels (which some films have promise and others are straight to DVD quality), and of course the year of the "underdog"/geek(which is by far my favorite). 3 months … more
Dreamworks has always been dominant in the the animation field, but that has never made their movies that were great. They had Shrek, which was very clever and very unique and original. But most times when watching a Dreamworks production you're hit with a lot of pop culture references and whatnot. The exception being Kung Fu Panda which showed a different side of Dreamworks. How to Train Your Dragon merely perfects what Kung Fu Panda began. It focuses on being a heartfelt … more
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young boy living on an island with the great vikings. He explains in the beginning that it is a very old land, but with new houses. This is because their houses are constantly being burned down by the firery breath of dragons, who they are always in battle with. Hiccup is the son of a high in rank viking Stoick (Gerard Butler) who is ashamed of his son because he fails to be the dragon fighter he is supposed to. So to prove himself Hiccup shoots down a never before … more
How to Train a Dragon is a coming of age movie. The usual stuff. The overbearing father, with the son who embarrasses him because of his lack of mini-me-ness, tries to force said son to man-it-up and get on with it already. Son does the one thing he can think of to impress his whole village but screws even that up. But while doing so he discovers truth that will change everything his dad, his whole village, his whole world believed. Add humor, fighting, action and a few scary moments, make it animated, … more
I'm a middle aged adult, but you'll never hear me whine, 'We didn't have 3D when I was a kid!' Well, part of the deal is being a middle aged adult nowadays means you can keep making up for lost time. Oh, yes, we had 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' 'Oliver!' and the first release of 'Star Wars,' but kids nowadays have never had it so good. Call it middle life crisis. Call me the middle-aged man who can't grow up, or call me just genuinely honest, but I was thoroughly satisfied with this … more
How to Train Your Dragon is a CGI animated fantasy film by DreamWorks Animation loosely based on the 2003 book of the same title. The film stars the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, and David Tennant. The story takes place in a mythical Viking world where a young Viking teenager named "Hiccup" aspires to follow his tribe's tradition of becoming a dragon slayer. After finally capturing his first dragon, and with his chance at finally gaining the tribe's acceptance, he finds that he no longer has the desire to kill it and instead befriends it. The film was released March 26, 2010.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is the main character in these books. He is an unusual Viking who thinks before he does anything. He has red hair and is very thin. He is one of the only people ever to understand and be able to speak Dragonese, the language of the dragons. He is abnormally clever for a Viking, and a good swordfighter. His hunting dragon isToothless, a small dragon that is a common or garden dragon. Hiccup's best friend Fishlegs claims that Hiccup's dragon is a Toothless Daydream, a mythical and rare type of dragon, to fool Hiccup's father Stoick the Vast and those around him.
Toothless is Hiccup's hunting dragon. Just like his name suggests, he has no teeth. He used to have one tooth, but it fell out in a ...