How to Train Your Dragon

PLOT:

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is the son of the chief Viking, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), on the island of Berk. The Vikings have been plagued by attacks of dragons raiding their livestock and destroying their homes; their lair has remained elusive from Stoick’s searches. Hiccup, scrawny and destructively clumsy compared to others in his community, attempts to compensate by building contraptions to kill dragons, specifically the most dangerous dragon known, the mysterious Night Fury, whom no one has ever fought and survived, to earn some respect, most importantly with Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), a competently aggressive girl of his age intent on joining the Viking ranks.

After the latest dragon attack, Stoick organizes yet another search for the dragons’ nest, while signing Hiccup up for dragon killing lessons with other children under the tutelage of Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson), the local blacksmith. Between lessons, Hiccup explores the nearby woods and finds that one of his inventions has indeed trapped a Night Fury, damaging its tailwing. Hiccup tries to kill it but cannot bring himself to do so, and instead cuts the dragon free. The dragon pins him down and roars at him but then disappears. Hiccup returns later to find the dragon cannot fly away from a small depressed glade due to the condition of its tail. Hiccup becomes friendly to the dragon, and over time he learns what actions please or distress the Night Fury. In understanding how he can make the Night Fury react, Hiccup is able to transfer this knowledge to his dragon training classes and “defeats” the foes Gobber sets on the class through pacification, becoming renowned in his community as a formidable warrior, much to Astrid’s dismay. Due to the dragon’s retractable teeth, Hiccup names the Night Fury “Toothless”.

Hiccup secretly fashions a make-shift prosthetic tail and riding assembly, allowing him to guide Toothless in free flight. Hiccup and Toothless develop a close bond over time, and Hiccup finds that other dragons can be similarly domesticated. One day, Hiccup finds Astrid spying on them; worried that Astrid will reveal this to the rest of the village, Hiccup has Toothless bring Astrid aboard, then shows Astrid the joys of flying. However, while soaring, Toothless finds himself lured along with a flock of dragons returning with stolen livestock, heading towards a volcanic island. Inside, they find the dragons fearfully serve a gargantuan dragon (a Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus) living inside the island, feeding it the stolen livestock to avoid being eaten themselves. Hiccup, Astrid, and Toothless escape and return to Berk. By this time, Stoick and the fleet have returned, having failed to find the lair themselves.

The next day, Hiccup is put to the final test, and when he refuses to kill the offered dragon and instead tries to pacify it, Stoick attempts to end the fight, scaring the dragon and putting Hiccup’s life in danger. Toothless hears Hiccup’s screams and saves him from the other dragon, but is soon caught by the other Vikings. Hiccup is forced to reveal his training and the lair, and Stoick, after disowning his son, sets out with another fleet, using a chained-up Toothless to guide them. Left alone, Astrid helps the aggrieved Hiccup come to a personal epiphany that his empathy and daring inventiveness with Toothless are in fact strengths of a worthy warrior. Thus inspired, he convinces Astrid and the other teenagers to pacify and mount the other training dragons to set off to try to stop the Viking fleet, yet unaware of the giant dragon awaiting them.

The children are too late to prevent the Vikings from rousing the monstrous dragon against them, but they are able to delay it long enough for the Vikings to retreat safely, and for Hiccup and Stoick to free Toothless. Hiccup and Toothless lead the giant dragon on a dangerous flight, eventually into a direct descent to the ground. As the giant dragon nearly devours them, Toothless turns around and ignites the dragon’s breath; the dragon cannot stop and collides into the ground, killing it and releasing a giant fireball. Hiccup falls out of his saddle on the rapid ascent, but as he falls towards the flames, Toothless saves the boy and protects him from the flames with his wings, much to Stoick, Astrid, and the other Vikings’ relief.

Some time later, Hiccup wakes up from the injuries and finds himself back in Berk. Toothless is in his home, and Hiccup finds out that he has lost his left foot, replaced with an artificial limb Gobber made. Whatever regrets he has are quickly forgotten when he exits the house to find that the Vikings and dragons are living together. Hiccup is celebrated as a hero by everyone, particularly Stoick and Astrid. Hiccup and Astrid race their dragons through the newly-reformed Berk, signifying a new beginning for both worlds.

REVIEW:

One of my fellow movie bloggers actually beat me to reviewing this film, by a few days. After you read mine, check his out here.

 I’m a big fan of dragons and really wanted to see this film when it came out, but something kept me from seeing it. After watching it tonight, I am really regretting that decision.

More often than not, films that are made in 3D don’t look like they really take advantage of the technology, with the exceptions of Beowulf, Avatar, A Christmas Carol, but not many others.

How to Train Your Dragon actually takes advantage of the medium (from what I can tell). On top of the beautiful animation, the filmmakers made the flying scenes actually worth watching, and not just some half-assed floating scene, the way many other flying scenes in films tend to do.

With the Shrek franchise coming to an (excluding the spin off for Puss in Boots), there is talk of this or Kung Fu Panda becoming the next big thing over at Dreamworks. Not to mention an animated series. Nothing against these characters, but I think that Po would make a better franchise, whereas the dragons and vikings here would be perfect for an ongoing animated series of adventures. Just look at Penguins of Madagascar.

The plot here is one of those stories that is both refreshing, sweet, and comical. It takes you on an emotional journey that doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth after the film ends. It seems to be that these days, films try to put that sentiment in there and just end up bringing about a bit of a depressing film. This only works if you have an established foothold. For example, had Toy Story 3 been the first (or only) film in that franchise, it wouldn’t have been as good or worked as well, because ti does become a bit of a downer.

…Dragon doesn’t fall into that category. There is a story that is established. Characters with their own problems, such as Hiccup and his attempt to please his father. Astrid and her need to prove herself among the boys. Snotlout who wants to be the uber tough guy, etc. Oh, and of course, there is Toothless, the injured dragon.

After they are established and the audience is connected to these characters, we get some high drama among them, which in turn leads to the resolution, albeit a bit bittersweet (you have to see the ending to know what I’m speaking of).

The voice cast is pretty cool. With Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson in tow, one has to wonder why they couldn’t get Sean Connery and Colin Ferrel to make a rounded out Scottish/Irish or wherever they’re from cast.

Jay Baruchel has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard, yet for some reason it works for Hiccup…or maybe it was less annoying coming from an animated character, rather than a live person.

America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristin Wiig all lend their voices to the other children. I wish I could say there was something memorable about them, but there isn’t, save for Hill’s recognizable voice.

On the other hand, Christopher Mintz-Plasse voices the other kid, Fishlegs, who seems to be able to quote each dragon’s strengths and weakness (in a RPG game style). This actually had me cracking up.

One of the things that doesn’t get enough credit about this film, is how cool each species of dragon came across on screen, especially the really dangerous ones they just mentioned. Hopefully in the forthcoming sequel, we’ll get more of those.

If I do have anything bad to say about this film, it is that it isn’t quite as memorable as other animated films I’ve recently seen. More importantly, though, since when do vikings wear Uggs?!? Seriously, they all are wearing Ugg boots! Oy!

How to Train Your Dragon was on many best of lists for 2010, and had it not been for Toy Story 3, it might have been the best animated film of last year. For me, they are neck and neck. I found very few things to take issue with in this picture. Admittedly, I did think that this was just another run of the mill animated flick, so you can imagine my surprise when the final product came out as well as this. I highly recommend this to everyone.

5 out of 5 stars

9 Responses to “How to Train Your Dragon”

  1. i enjoyed this movie just as much as my 6 year old son. We actually caught it on bootleg (gasps) ikr…but anyway after seeing it he went crazy wanting a How To Train Your Dragon birthday party. We manage to find a cake, but could not find anything else to do with the movie anywhere. I searched high and low for 2 weeks. So he ended up wit HTTYD/Toy Story3…lol I did buy him the DVD as soon as it came out too. I think he has watched it at least 230 times…lol

  2. Mystery Man Says:

    bootleg?!? for shame! lol

  3. […] couple weeks ago, I reviewed How to Train Your Dragon, and marveled at the brilliance in animation and the great story. Despicable Me isn’t as good […]

  4. […] guess How to Train Your Dragon spoiled me in terms of what Dreamworks can do since it was done so well. Not only was it a […]

  5. […] guess How to Train Your Dragon spoiled me in terms of what Dreamworks can do since it was done so well. Not only was it a superior […]

  6. […] issue is with Jesse Eisenberg. This guy has no talent and is just annoying. I mean, the guy from How to Train Your Dragon, Jay Baruchel, is annoying, but his annoying voice is what works for him. Eisenberg is just a hack. […]

  7. […] Me How to Train Your Dragon Toy Story 3 Shrek Forever After   …and the winner is      How to Train Your Dragon                             Best Classic Film: here are the nominees   The Blues […]

  8. […] been making romantic comedies such as The Bounty Hunter and lending his voice to family films like How to Train Your Dragon. Not that there is anything wrong with that, especially if you have a family. Just ask The Rock […]

  9. […] I don’t recall much about the original How to Train Your Dragon. That is not because it was a bad film, but rather I haven’t had the chance to watch and […]

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