How to Train Your Dragon
Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the duo who directed Lilo & Stitch, lead the latest offering from DreamWorks Animation – How to Train Your Dragon. The animated tale of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), young Viking warrior, son of clan leader Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) and all round good guy. The problem? Hiccup isn’t much of a warrior, and is as such a misfit in Viking society. The bigger problem? Almost daily dragon attacks on their little Viking village on Berk Island (nobody seems to mind the unfortunate place name) are crippling the already small economy, devastating livestock and generally dooming the fledging Viking tribe to an early extinction. However being Vikings most residents quite enjoy such a short and brutal life, and Hiccup is the only one who seems to strive for a safer and seemingly scientifically sound society style. A life changing event occurs when Hiccup comes across a young dragon, which, as you may guess from the title, does not eat him.
Hiccup is a pretty fleshed out character; his little wry comments and emerging intellect fit his outcast and somewhat lonely and depressed character perfectly. His father, voiced ably by Butler, is a hero and legendary warrior; brave, strong and with a one track mind for violence. Hence his strained relationship with Hiccup (Son, I am disappoint) is easy for the viewer to pick up on and sympathise with, even by small children. The movie turns when Hiccup’s war machinery takes down a dragon of near mythic status. Rather than finish the job, Hiccup takes pity on the felled creature and the two form an unbreakable bond. It is a classic tale of a boy and his pet. Oh yeah, and there is a love interest story tagged on as well. Erm, between some young wench and Hiccup, not the dragon and Hiccup!
It’s a solid and engaging story, with a more than sympathetic main character. How the does the film fare in other areas? In terms of voicing? No complaints. Jay Baruchel does a first rate job with Hiccup, absolutely spot on casting there. Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and the rest all perform admirably. DreamWorks seems to use Scottish accents to represent ogres, Vikings and various other undesirables. But unless you actually know what a Viking accent sounds like (Swedish doesn’t count, jah?) then there is little reason to complain. The animation is superb; computer animated rather than painstakingly hand drawn, yet still visually pleasing. Even the 3D works well. Only Avatar puts the extra dimension to better use. The scenes where Hiccup flies through the air on his dragon are really given an extra something from the 3D effect.
Flaws? I suppose the minor characters have rather 2D personalities. I guess the… err… hmm, that would appear to be the only criticism I can think of for this movie.
Here is an early contender for film of the year. An outside shot for an Oscar nomination. Seriously. Considering I saw The Blind Side this year and found it be a crushingly average film with one star performance from Sandra Bullock I fail to see why this masterpiece should miss out at the Oscars. This is possibly the greatest ever film about dragons, and is certainly one in the top grade of computer animated films – up there with, well, Up. Kids, adults, all with love it. Film of the year thus far.