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Manekochan @ the Movies: How to Train Your Dragon

Well, it’s finally happened. I’m writing a movie review for IAT. Those of you that have been hanging around on the forums know me, but I’m mostly a behind-the-scenes member. This weekend, however, Vault and I wandered over to the local Cineplex to see How To Train Your Dragon.

I have to admit that I was excited to see it. Anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that I will watch anything whatsoever if it’s animated. And How To Train Your Dragon had the added bonus of 1) being bookended by narration (which I’m a sucker for – from Pete and Pete to Arrested Development) and 2) starring an animal companion that just about broke the cuteness meter. I knew I had to see this film.

I should note that I’m not a fan of tossing 3D onto movies for no apparent reason, but I was willing to watch Dragon even if it meant paying the equivalent of an extra ticket.

Luckily, I didn’t have to as our city had a 2D copy as well as the 3D version. So you won’t find this review waxing poetic on any “beautiful 3D imagery” as my viewing was blessedly 3D free.

I went in expecting a fun, slightly poignant (maybe depressing), but overall comedic movie starring a loser boy and his cat-like dragon. What I got was… a fun, slightly poignant, but overall comedic movie starring a loser boy and his cat-like dragon. That isn’t to say that’s all there was to it. The time it takes Hiccup (the main character) to gain the trust of the dragon he downs and dubs Toothless is much longer that one would think for a children’s movie. It’s a gradual process and takes place over several days in the film. It’s a bittersweet realization when it becomes apparent that their uneasy truce and friendship is essential to not just the progression of the film, but to the dragon’s survival.

As is usual with a children’s film (UP aside…), you get some pitfalls. The main character of Hiccup is an everyman that doesn’t fit in with any of his fellow villagers. We’ve all heard that story before, but Dragon manages to do it without really calling attention to it. The background characters are archetypes without much to them and most of their names are harsh or gross to “frighten evil spirits away” (or to sell action figures with mucus themed names to young boys) and they have little in the way of character development.

In the previews, you hear Hiccup comment, “everything we know about them is wrong” in reference to the dragons. So, if dragons are really nice critters that feed on mostly fish what in the world are they doing burning down his village every week and stealing sheep? Well, the answer to that is one of the big reveals of the movie and it is left in question for quite some time before it’s answered. If I have a fault with the movie, it isn’t the reveal itself, which was handled nicely and was unexpected, but the sequence in which they eventually do something about it.

The movie itself was fun and engaging, but really it was worth watching for Toothless alone. The dragon has the charisma and demeanor of a giant, exuberant kitten. He’s a joy to watch—his facial expressions and movements relay his emotions easily and his eyes are very well done with realistic irises. You can find details in nearly every shot.

Overall, I give the movie an A, pretty much on the basis of the fact that I would pay to watch it again.

12 comments to Manekochan @ the Movies: How to Train Your Dragon

  • Grenadier

    Toothless reminds me of a Bulbasaur. That’s why I want to see this movie.

    • manekochan

      Once I found out that Chris Sanders of Lilo and Stitch was attached to the movie I started to see the resemblance to Stitch. I can see a little Bulbasaur in him, too.

  • Thanks for dumping on 3D. If more reviewers would be this honest about the gimmick we might get over it and move on sooner. Like we did the last 3 times studios have tried to push the crap.

    • manekochan

      It just isn’t worth it to me and I don’t like the static shots with characters on separate planes. It messes with my head. I wouldn’t mind seeing this one in 3D to compare, though.

  • AdventureVault

    I have to admit, this movie was pretty damned good. Probably the best thing Dreamworks has put out since the first Shrek.

  • I agree, I saw a trailer and was like this should be good but after seeing it I was fairly impressed at how nice the movie is.

  • Blacklighter

    I’m not the biggest fan of 3D, but anyone seeing this in 2D is really missing out. I’ve seen both and the 3D conveys the excitement and danger of riding the dragon better than the 2D version. The 3D here is better than in Avatar.

  • dayraven

    if you’d pay to see it again maneko, i’d seeit in #D… just as a “compare and contrast” review. i wouldn’t advocate this in every film, but in this one… i think it’d be interesting.

    • manekochan

      I’ve thought about it. I like it enough to go watch it again even at the higher price. We’ll probably get Noisy and Sil in on it, too. ^^

  • BiParmesan

    Modern 3D is much more advanced then the 3D of old. I think it can stay around if the prices come down. It really depends on how they handle the movies it is used in though. If there are more like this and Avatar and less with gimmicks where things are thrown at you, I think it could be around permanently.

    • Boy I hope not. My mind, and the minds of most of those I hang with, won’t except the illusion. We see a flat screen in front of us and just start counting the cells that make up the image. Avatar was interesting but still a big headache and Alice was a complete waste of money. I’ll stick with 2D thank you and if it does hang around I’ll just have more money for Action Figures.