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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

An animated family fantasy film released by Dreamworks.

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Flaming good entertainment on a large scale...

  • Apr 6, 2010
Rating:
+4
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 the shadow of Pixar with their CGI animated movies. Films like Antz, Shrek, and Bee Movie proved they could deliver in terms of script, but, for me, their animation always lacked the magic of Pixar. I feel that with How to Train Your Dragon, they finally have something that holds its own against Pixar's best.

It's been a while since I watched a movie as outright enjoyable as this. Yes, it may lack the depth that recent Pixar movies have had, but there's no doubting the sheer entertainment of this film. The script is sharp and often very funny (without being idiotic or zany-for-the-hell-of-it, like a lot of previous Dreamworks animations), the action sequences are brilliantly staged and paced, and the animation is wonderful throughout.
Indeed, I must praise the animation first and foremost. The film looks, in a word, stunning. The Coen Brothers' regular cinematographer, Roger Deakins, acted as "visual consultant" and it definitely shows. The film is imbued with a subtlety and genuine cinematic quality that is lacking in most other animated movies. Director Dean DeBlois hails from Canada and spent a lot of time in Iceland making the superb Sigur Ros concert / documentary film Heima, which I think may have helped inspire some of the beautiful and unusual landscapes seen in How to Train Your Dragon.

This film has some of the best human character animation I've seen since The Incredibles. Body language and facial expressions are superbly realised - notice how (like Holly Hunter in the aforementioned The Incredibles) actor Gerard Butler's lisp is faithfully mirrored in the character he voices. The design of the dragons themselves is inspired. We see dragons of all shapes and sizes, from the small and cute to the huge and monstrous. The lead dragon, Toothless, is particularly well designed and realised - he's somehow able to switch from looking sleek, deadly and vicious one moment, to cute, cuddly and adorable the next. There are definite design echoes of the Stitch character from DeBlois & Sanders' previous animated movie, Lilo and Stitch, in Toothless.

I loved the sound design and score to this film too. John Powell's music really lifts the film at times, without being too intrusive or grandiose, and there are some really nice sound effects, particularly for the dragons.
If, like me, you're a fan of Sigur Ros, make sure you stick around for the end credits; new song "Sticks and Stones" by front-man, Jónsi, makes an unexpected but welcome appearance.

My only major gripe with this film concerns the voice acting. The performances are all great, but I have to question the accents they have. For some strange reason, all of the adult characters are Scottish, yet all the kids are American. I found this slightly jarring. I can't help thinking that the decision to keep the lead character American is down to some sort of cynical marketing idea. Giving all of the characters Scots accents would have been much better, and it would have made the film far more unique. I feel that was a missed opportunity.

If I had to pick another flaw, I would also say that the story is perhaps a little hackneyed. The "underdog becomes the hero" tale is a well worn one, but there are enough new ideas here to keep things feeling fresh. There are moments of genuine emotion and pathos in this film, which is something I did not expect.

I must point out that I saw this film in regular 2D, so I'm afraid I can't comment on the quality of the 3D presentation. Although, I can definitely say that the film works perfectly well without 3D. At no point did I feel I was missing anything by watching it in 2D.

I'm really hard pushed to think of anyone who wouldn't like this film. It's one for the whole family to enjoy. The cliché of "8 to 80" really does apply here.
Pixar will need to pull something pretty special out of the bag this year (Toy Story 3, I'm looking at you) to claim the Best Animated Movie Oscar, methinks.

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May 31, 2010
I really liked this movie and I keep on saying that this may become the sleeper animated hit of 2010! Excellent review! This was indeed a formula film that reached awesomeness.
June 01, 2010
Thanks, Woopak! It was a cracking film indeed. Can't wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD. I hear they'll be making a sequel, based on one of the other books in the series. Fingers crossed, that one will be just as good. :)
 
April 07, 2010
Great review, Simon, and very cool to hear that Jonsi has a song in it. With all my friends itching to see this, and all the glowing reviews on Lunch, I think it's time I checked this out. Thanks for sharing! :)
April 07, 2010
Thanks, Devora! I'm sure you'll enjoy this one. :)
 
1
More How to Train Your Dragon reviews
review by . March 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: MAY Well Become the BEST Animated Movie of 2010!! ....it's NO Son of a
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 …
review by . February 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
review by . December 30, 2010
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 …
review by . December 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   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 …
review by . April 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  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 …
review by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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, …
review by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
How to Feed Your Inner Child
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 …
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Simon Lee Tranter ()
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Member Since: May 8, 2009
Last Login: Jan 24, 2015 05:53 PM UTC
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Wiki

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.

Poster art for "How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience."

Characters

  • 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 ...
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Details

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: March 26, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks
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