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How to Train Your Dragon

October 28, 2010

New to DVD this week is How to Train Your Dragon, one of the many coming of age stories from Dreamworks Animation. The brand of the production companies name is its stamp of quality on a film and while the studio has a reputation of making enjoyable films most of them never exceed the quality of being merely adequate. Kung Fu Panda actor Jack Black said it best at the 2009 Oscars when he stated “each year I do one Dreamworks project then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar.” Black’s comment reflects this stamp of quality that has haunted Dreamworks Animation since its inception. Their movies are good, some even great but they just don’t compare to the quality of Pixar.

Based off a series of books released in 2003, How to Train Your Dragon tells the story Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Jay Baruchel) and his ventures of living on the island of Berk. It’s the Viking Era and Hiccup is a young apprentice working for a blacksmith Gobber the Belch (Craig Ferguson). When not working with metals Hiccup is designing his own contraptions to aid in capturing the town’s biggest pests: dragons. The fire breathing flying beasts appear on a regular basis to steal food and wreck havoc on the town leaving much of its patrons to use their Viking build and way of life to devote to become dragon slayers. Unlike his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) and the rest of the townspeople Hiccup’s tiny thin body and rational questioning mind sets him apart from his Viking brethren and to many his oddness makes him a joke. However Hiccup is determined to prove himself as a dragon slayer in order to earn the respect of his father, the town and Astrid the girl of his dreams.

To his shock and surprise he succeeds in capturing not just any dragon but the most mysterious and dangerous of them all, the Night Fury. However when Hiccup comes face to face with the wounded dragon his heart won’t allow him to kill it and he instead spends his time healing it back to health and learning the basic dos and don’ts of dragons. His contact with his now pet dragon Toothless allows him to impress the town as he shows how to overcome the irrational fears of the beasts when he is put through dragon training. Hiccup must show the townspeople that there is a more important aspect to the dragon raids and that instead of battling against the dragons the town has to partner with them to take down something greater than they imagined.

The CGI work of How to Train Your Dragon is the most impressive aspect. The film’s movement is fluid and smooth through its directing allowing the action to play out stunningly. Much like its predecessor Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon almost looks real at times as if the film’s exterior and landscape were actually filmed outside and the characters super imposed on top of the image. The films detail is incredible from the vibrant greens of moss, the texture of stone rocks and mountains to the impressive lighting that realistically create moving shadows. The film’s sound editing and mixing are also just as incredible as its imagery. The sound of the swooping flapping wings of dragons and the rustling of objects moving in the woods are genuine and lively.

However because How to Train Your Dragon is a Dreamworks film and not Pixar it has its built-in flaws. While the story is original, the plot of a boy attempting to take on the town problem for the sake of heroism and fitting in is not new therefore the resolution to the film’s twists and conflicts are easily predicted and unsurprising. And while the imagery of movement, landscape and details are impressive the animation of the characters and dragons aren’t as many of them are bulky and physically unappealing. While Pixar is able to create complex stories and emotions, How to Train Your Dragon is simple, plain and requires no complex thinking or thought at all. Regardless of its flaws How to Train Your Dragon is enjoyable and satisfies the desire for a good animated film with a few laughs on the way.

SEE IT. It’s cute.

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