- Rated: PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.
- Runtime: 98 min
Yep, that’s right, if you liked Avatar, then you’ll like How to Train Your Dragon. In fact, if you didn’t like Avatar, you’ll like Dragon. This movie offers a fantastic world that will suck you in, and lovable characters that you won’t soon forget.
The story revolves around Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a teen in a mythical viking world where dragons are real and a dangerous threat. Hiccup isn’t like everyone else in his village. He’s scrawny, cynical, and not very good at dragon slaying. What he is good at is inventing contraptions — much to the embarrassment of his father and tribe leader, Stoick (Gerard Butler). Hiccup uses one of his contraptions to bag his first dragon, but when he goes in for the kill, he gets much more than he ever bargained for.
Here we get a charming version of a boy and his beast. Hiccup can’t bring himself to slay the creature, and instead an adorable friendship blossoms. He calls his dragon “Toothless,” and uses what he learns about it in his dragon-slaying training school. Where he used to be an outcast, he quickly becomes a hero with a knack for sort of ‘dragon-charming,’ an ability to dispel the fearsome creatures without actually harming them. Everything is going good, until a fearsome foe emerges that threatens not just the vikings but the dragons as well, and forces both to see the world from a different view.
Overall, Dragon is pretty funny. There are definitely some funnier family movies out there, but while there isn’t as much comedy, there is plenty of PG rated action. There are quite a few varieties of dragons that are thrown at our heroes, and all of them are fierce and wonderful in their own ways. The vikings are expectantly ‘rough and tumble,’ some with peg-legs and all sporting the traditional viking armor and body-types. The battles are action-packed and visually stunning.
Let’s talk about the visuals for a moment. In my book, Dreamworks has always been a little behind the pack of the animated movie race. Their visuals usually aren’t as stunning as some others, and their stories seem a little less intriguing. This time, Dreamworks took this film and ran with the CGI and new 3D integration. It’s amazing! There are scenes where Hiccup and Toothless take flight, and the camera point of view puts you right on Toothless’ back. You dip and dive through some really amazing scenery, and it’s hard to tell if your breath was taken away by the wild ride or the beautiful backgrounds. While at first the dragons appear to be scary, they quickly become endearing and adorable with their unusual body types and bright coloring. Dreamworks really went all out on this one, pulling out all the stops on making this one of their best movies, both in visual and storytelling aspects.
I used to like Jay Baruchel when his gimmick was still relatively new. But now he seems to be a little overplayed, and you see him everytime you turn around. When I saw the trailers for Dragon, I really thought that the voice and the character for Hiccup didn’t seem to match, and that Hiccup would be whiny and annoying. Well, I was wrong. While his deep nerdy voice seemed a little too old for a viking teen, he actually did a pretty good job. Like in all of Baruchel’s movies though, the supporting characters played a big part in generating laughs and emotions. Gerard Butler lets his Scottish accent rumble freely and makes a very believable big tough daddy. Craig Ferguson lends his accent to Gobber, a dragon-slayer teacher with quite a few wooden appendages. America Ferrera was great as the kick-butt viking lass, Astrid, who can hold her own among the boys. The other characters include siblings Tuffnut and Ruffnut, played by T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig; the tough show-off Snotlout (Jonah Hill); and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintzs-Plasse), who can recite all the different dragons and their strengths and weaknesses like a D&D master. Aren’t these names great? They wreak havoc on my spellcheck, but how often do you get to write about characters with these fun names? Now, I must explain to everyone, I haven’t read the book, but if anything was lost between the book’s story and characters, it won’t even make those oblivious to it blink.
Basically, How to Train Your Dragon boils down to a lesson that being a pacifist is a good idea; that learning to understand your enemies can completely change your point of view. Ugh. Fine. I can live with that, considering there are many more politically opinionated kid’s movies out there. Not to say it isn’t a good idea, but it seems that everyone is jumping on the whole ‘Let’s Make a Political Statement and Hide It in a Kid’s Movie’ bandwagon. I can’t be the only one who is seriously tired of Hollywood telling me my politics, am I? There are only a few actual quotes like, “Our parent’s war is about to become ours. Figure out who’s side you’re on.” Compared with the freight train of symbolism and political POV in Avatar, this one is far more bearable. Fortunately, there’s also a lesson about how sometimes doing the right thing requires a little sacrifice. Many things can be compared between the two movies. The storylines and morals are similar, the graphics are amazing and delightful, and the dragons are the embodiment of not only the Na’vi themselves, but the mountain banshees they ride on. Ultimately, Dragon is fun, inviting, action-packed, and beautiful. I would recommend this one to see in the theatres, and in 3D if at all possible.
I give How to Train Your Dragon 4 ‘Dragons and Vikings are Awesome!’ out of 5.