Dreamworks’ latest offering is one of their best.
How to Train Your Dragon focuses on the story of a Viking named Hiccup, who is scrawny, clumsy, and not at all possessimg the traditional Viking virtues of strength, battle-lust and a horn-laden hat (we can see here that this movie’s traditional viking is one of the Looney Toons tradition).
Hiccup is instead, an engineer, and a smith’s apprentice. He yearns to impress the lovely Astrid, a fierce young lady Viking. His clumsiness and odd sensibilities instead make him both a laughing stock and somewhat of a menace to his village.
This is a problem because his village is already plagued by dragons. In this world, there are dozens of varieties of dragons, from fat and ponderous pests to the fierce Nightmare and the seldom-seen and never-killed Night Fury.
Hiccup disobeys orders and runs out in the middle of a raid, deploying his latest invention, a net-throwing device. He manages to hit and bring down a Night Fury, but no one believes him.
Hiccup later finds the Fury, but cannot bring himself to kill the dragon, discovering that it is as terrified of him as he is of it.
Instead, the two begin a friendship. The night fury’s tail was maimed in the raid, so it is incapable of escaping the mountain lake glade where it crashed. Hiccup designs a prostetic wing-fan for the dragon, whom he names Toothless.
Hiccup is enroled in dragon training by his father (the Viking chief Stoic the Stout, voiced by Gerard “Sparta!!!” Butler. Hiccup uses the knowledge gained about dragons from Toothless to excell to the amazement of all.
Later on, Hiccup must choose between his dream of being a might warrior and his friendship with Toothless. The film ends in a great action sequence and finishes up with a good lesson and a cute conclusion.
Aside from positing dragons as not the bad guys, there isn’t a great deal of originality in the film, but it doesn’t matter. The characters are likable and relatable, the dragon species neatly distinguished, and the story confidently told. It’s accessible for kids but compelling enough for an adult audience. It’s as delightful as Kung-Fu Panda, if not a gut-bustingly funny for lack of Jack Black.
An early favorite for one of the best films of the year and a likely best Animated Feature contender, How to Train Your Dragon is great for all ages and very much worth seeing in theatres. The 3D is used somewhat sparingly, mostly for dragon action, and decently done, though I’d say not essential for enjoying the film.