Released: March 26th 2010
Plot: A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.
Review: I think there are only 2 things that I’ll get up at 8am for on a Saturday, free food or a free screening. In this case, it’s the latter. I managed to wake up and schlepped some 15 miles away all for a free IMAX movie. I was grumpy, tired, and SURROUNDED by little kids with lots of energy and parents who couldn’t control them. When the movie started, the first thing we see is a bouncing ball jumping out at us to basically inform the audience that yes, this is indeed in 3D. My eyes hate 3D because I can’t 3D that well and just based off this little graphic, I was sure I was going to hate this movie. But I was very wrong.
The movie jumps right into the action. The Viking village is under attack by dragons and all the Vikings are running around fighting off the dragons and trying to save their food. Stoick, the head Viking voiced by Gerard Butler, is running around barking orders. People are scrambling, buildings are burning and debris is flying at us causing lots of kids to scream and yell, ”WOAH!” at the screen. The villagers begin knocking the dragons out of the sky one by one but they’re no match for the most dangerous dragon, Night Furry.
Lots of movies made for kids about scrawny heroes tend to follow a simple layout: Kid is weak. People don’t like kid. Kid needs to prove self. Kid finds way to prove self. It blows up in kids face. Kid had what he needed all along. People like kid. End of movie. But this is a movie made by DreamWorks Animation. Sure they don’t have the budget or the writing staff of Disney but, they come very close. DreamWorks Animation has produced hits like Shrek, Madagascar, Kung-Fu Panda, and Monsters vs. Aliens. Kung-Fu Panda was one of my top 10 movies in 2008. It has a very typical story line about an underdog making it to the top, (remember that layout?) but it wasn’t just the story that held my attention, it was the attention put into making the audience like and relate to the characters. That’s what DreamWorks Animation tends to do, and that’s what they do in this movie.
Hiccup isn’t a very strong kid but he’s kind and smart. And Jay Baruchel does a great job at voicing his character. He wasn’t annoying or just some random kid, he was Hiccup. The animators managed to give him and lots of other characters in the movie a personality and personally, that’s something I think every movie should have. Many film makers believe that kids don’t need character development. They just throw a character on screen and make them do their bidding. DreamWorks adds life to their characters which is why Shrek has become such a huge franchise for them. You throw in some personality and great voice-over actors and you’ve got a hit. In this case, throw in some 3D IMAX and you’ve got a super hit.
Hiccup later goes to find Night Furry only to discover that he injured him while trying to take him down and that he’s still wrapped in his ropes. He frees him and Night Furry attacks, but doesn’t kill him like he was taught a dragon should do. He observes him for a few days and helps Night Furry fly again by giving him an artificial tail wing. It’s during this time that we get to know Night Furry now renamed Toothless by Hiccup because it appears he doesn’t have teeth but they are actually retractable. Toothless is very similar to Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. Both How to Train Your Dragon and Lilo and Stich were directed and written by Dean DeBlois. Both characters have the same stubborn attitude and both characters look the same; big round eyes, cute big nose, big floppy ears and big smile. They both are slightly frightening but gentle and cute creatures much like my Landseer Newfound or a bulldog. But, of course, Stitch is an alien and can talk and Toothless is a dragon and does not talk. Instead, he roars and grunts in a very adorable way. I wouldn’t be surprised if an animated series is in the works for this movie like Lilo and Stitch. In fact, being a huge fan of Lilo and Stitch, I look forward to it.
I was really surprised with the 3D. I expected spears, knives and daggers to be penetrating the screen every few seconds but it wasn’t like that at all. The most 3D came during the action scenes. There were a few moments where a splash of water would jump out at us, but overall it was nothing too distracting.
Every actor was awesome. Craig Ferguson channeled his inner silly Scotsman through his character Gobber and Jonah Hill’s character Snotlout reminded me of a small teenage Jack Black. The animation was great and surpasses Shrek. I would expect it too considering Shrek is 9 years its senior.
This movie was really fun, and I’m glad I got to see it in IMAX 3D. Normally I’m anti 3D, but in this case, it was done really well. I never thought I’d be saying that about any type of 3D movie. I’m sure this movie will become a franchise with a silly character like Hiccup and a lovable one like Toothless. The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that all of the adults in the village spoke with these thick Scottish accents while all the teens spoke with American accents. Maybe it’s just a generational thing like when your Scottish grandmother emigrated to the U.S.A and spawned future blood lines. In that case, it makes sense.
(I should note that I recently saw an Episode of Craig Ferguson and he says shut up about the accent, it’s just a movie.)
9 out of 10