Sunday, April 25, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

Year: 2010
Directors: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders
Voice cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera

After hearing so many good things about this animated film, which not only slipped below my radar but also dominated the box office in the US since its release, I had to see it for myself.

How To Train Your Dragon is set on the island of Berk, where a Viking village resides. The narrator of the story is also its protagonist, a young boy named Hiccup. He talks about how dull it is at his village, except for the one problem it faces every day: dragon attacks.

Every single day, Hiccup's village is set upon by dragons
, and every brave Viking in his village would fight bravely to defend their home. Hiccup wants to be one of those brave Vikings, alas he is just not good enough. Hiccup is physically inadequate, clumsy and not very brave, which is the total opposite of his father Stoick, who is also the village head.

Hiccup wants so badly to prove himself to his father, so during one dragon attack, he takes a shot with his own specially designed ball cannon, and he hits one! Unfortunately, no one believes he did it, so he sets out to find the dragon he shot down. He finally does, and realises that it isn't just any dragon, but the one that none of the Vikings have ever seen up close or fought before.

Hiccup knows that by killing this dragon, he will finally fulfil his dream of becoming a Viking, but he simply can't bring himself to do it. He sets the dragon loose instead, and then learns that it isn't as fierce or barbaric as his village has made them out to be. Hiccup and the dragon, whom he names Toothless (due to his retractable teeth) become friends and through Toothless' behaviour, Hiccup learns more and more about dragons and how to face them in Viking practice back home. Soon Hiccup becomes the respectable Viking upstart he had always wanted to be. But how will he tell his father the truth about the dragons when the latter has sworn to fight them all his life?

This animated film is directed by the same guys who brought us Lilo & Stitch, which would explain the uncanny similarities between Stitch and Toothless, both physically and personality wise. The story is not unfamiliar if you've seen many animated films before this: it highlights things like friendship, family, misconception and bravery. But the best part about How To Train Your Dragon is the fact that it doesn't feel old or predictable. It has a large dose of fun, humour and drama to keep you entertained throughout its runtime.

The other thing that's good about it is the animation. There are many scenes where Hiccup flies with Toothless, and the sight is wonderful to behold. Even in 2D, it looks awesome, like one big rollercoaster ride, so I can only imagine how much more awesome it is in 3D. The way the skies, clouds and dragons cross one another over and over is done very fluidly and is truly impressive. The human characters are also well animated, with every hair being shown in exquisite detail. I noticed how impressive Stoick looks on screen, with his huge torso and big beard standing out and looking very real. The dragons on the other hand are given different colours depending on their class, so it is easy to tell them apart.

I really can't find much fault with this movie, other than one question that I have: if they're Vikings, why do they speak with a strong Scottish accent? Ah, but who cares? There's enough action, fun and heartwarming moments to savour here.

Dreamworks isn't up there yet with Pixar, but they're starting to show promise with this film. Let's just hope they don't make any more Shrek sequels. (4/5)

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