Animation Movies, by Ajay Singh, 14 March 2011

Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Stars: Dean DeBlois, Jay Baruchel, Chris Sanders, Craig Ferguson, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera

Country: USA

Runtime:

Release Date:

Language: English

Official Site: How To Train Your Dragon Official Site

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon is set in a fictional Viking island settlement in a mythic alternate reality in which Vikings are meant to kill dragons, and a warrior’s manliness and skill are judged by his ability to pursue this dangerous occupation. After setting down these basic ground rules, the film quickly launches into a very recognizable lonely-boy-and-his-horse scenario. The boy in question is the aptly named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the scrawny teenage son of the Viking chief, Stoik (voiced by Gerard Butler). Hiccup is misunderstood and underappreciated because he is not large, muscular, and aggressive and has never killed a dragon. He wants to fit in with the other young Vikings and get a girlfriend, specifically the stereotypically tough, feisty Astrid (America Ferrera). But, to attain all of this he must first prove himself as a dragon slayer.

His creative attempt at shooting down a dragon with a contraption of his own creation ends with a confrontation with a young, injured dragon who he can’t bring himself to kill. A damaged tail prevents the dragon from being able to fly. Predictably, this incident soon leads to the formation of the classic unlikely friendship as Hiccup designs a prosthetic tail fin that he can control, enabling the dragon to fly again. Hiccup learns some valuable life lessons about loyalty, teamwork, prejudice, and acceptance while indulging in obligatory epic flight sequences.

The aforementioned flight sequences are solidly animated, although quite obviously derivative, slightly resembling a cuddlier version of Avatar. Hiccup’s romantic flight with love interest Astrid among fluffy cloud formations, meanwhile, is a reworking of a scene from Disney’s Aladdin.

Stylistically, the design makes no attempt at any kind of authenticity, indulging in a simplified fusion of Viking fantasy film clichés, including horned helmets and furry vests, and the character design adheres closely to the now solidified CG animation conventions including large round eyes, rubbery mouth movements, and limited textures. The camera work is moderately cinematographic and dynamic, but some of the lighting effects leave more to be desired.

The dragon, named Toothless by Hiccup because of its retractable teeth, is undeniably cute, with its feline features and coy gestures. That does not mean, however, that the film itself is cuddly. As soon as you get past the surface of the archetypal storyline and the glaringly primitive dialogue, you begin to sense a certain level of darkness and twistedness that is unexpected for a children’s film. Although very little violence is actually shown, the gruesome results of dragon battles are more than evident on certain members of the Viking community. These Vikings apparently do not have the type of rubbery, self-healing regenerative skills so frequently displayed by animated characters. It may also be a bit jarring that the adorable dragon itself is in essence a cripple, as its debilitating tail injury will never allow it to fly without human assistance. Of course the theme of overcoming disability through friendship and perseverance might be seen as beneficial and instructive to a young audience, but in some instances it is taken a bit too far.

The climactic confrontation between the worlds of the Vikings and dragons is quite epic, accompanied by a monumental soundtrack, sweeping cinematography, and emotional epiphanies. Both Hiccup and Toothless are given ample opportunity to prove their courage and faithfulness to each other and the rest of the community. How To Train Your Dragon is not without potential, and touches on some heavy themes and emotions, but is unfortunately bogged down by a banal screenplay and reincarnations of old clichés.

How To Train Your Dragon Videos

How To Train Your Dragon Trailer

How To Train Your Dragon Stills

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon

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