Cinepub


Review: How To Train Your Dragon by Jamie

I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers but there are still a couple of things which people may consider to be a little spoilerish.

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of dragons. I’m assuming this is probably some kind of extension of my lifelong love of dinosaurs. There’s just something fascinating about the giant, mythical reptile beasts with their leathery bat-wings and their propensity for igniting their breath. Yet despite the fact that some kind of dragon legend or other permeates almost every culture on Earth, dragons on the big screen have always been a little hit and miss.

From the crap like D-War and Eragon to the pretty good like Reign of Fire, there’s never really been a dragon film that stood out. Well, I suppose there was ‘Pete’s Dragon’ but in terms of ‘realistic’ dragons, there’s never been anything great. I should probably define that term ‘realistic’ dragon. I mean something that makes somewhat sense biologically, with a slight hint of suspension of disbelief for things like flying, occasionally speech and fire-breathing, but something which looks like it could possibly exist without a ridiculous number of magical powers. That’s why Pete’s Dragon doesn’t count in this definition and Draco from ‘Dragonheart’ does.

So it was with some apprehension that I decided to watch ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. I’ll say that I watched in 2D because a) My last experience with 3D with ‘Clash of the Titans’ was so piss-poor that I’d rather just watch things in 2D and b) I think maybe 3D doesn’t work for me as well as it does for most people. Maybe it’s because I wear glasses, maybe it’s because I need to have my eyes tested again and get better glasses. I’m not sure but 2D is fine for me anyway.

Also, yes, I know this is based on a book. No, I haven’t read the book. From what I understand the film is quite different from the book in that the film has more of a mature edge. Right, that’s that out of the way. Let’s get on with the review.

So, ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ concerns the story of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of Chieftain Stoic The Vast (Gerard Butler) and the village’s local fuck-up. In their particular clan it’s generally seen that the best thing you can be is a great and mighty Dragon Slayer. Sadly, due to the fact that he is a bit of a fuck-up, it seems as though Hiccup will never achieve such glory. However during a Dragon raid on their village, he manages to use a special bolas machine he has invented to take down the legendary Night Fury, a dragon so rare and that flies at such great speeds that no one has ever actually seen one. Of course, no one believes Hiccup and so he goes to the forest where his target crashed in order to prove himself to everyone.

Unfortunately when he finds the dragon it turns out that he’s only ensnared it in the giant bolas rather than actually kill it. He is about to stab it and cut out his heart but finds he pities the creature, sensing it’s fear and decides to free it instead. The dragon takes off into a valley, a valley that Hiccup finds that the dragon can’t get back out of because the bolas has damaged his tail and he isn’t able to fly properly anymore. Hiccup manages to gain the beasts trust by feeding it fish and gives it the name Toothless due to it’s ability to retract it’s teeth back into it’s gums. He slowly begins to train domesticate the dragon, inventing a kind of prosthetic tail-fin to enable it to fly again and allow him to control Toothless whilst riding him.

Whilst this is going on back in the Village, Hiccup is being trained to be a Dragon Slayer with his peers, braggart Snotlout (Jonah Hill), frantic fraternal twins Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruff nut (Kristen Wiig), nerdy Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and the object of his adolescent fantasies Astrid (America Ferrera). This training is carried out by the awesome Gobbler The Belch (Craig Ferguson), a Viking who’s run in with dragons in the past have left him with a metal leg and an arm which he can screw various different tools into including, most awesomely, a mead tankard. If I ever loose a hand, I’m so getting a tankard attached to my stump.

Anyway, to begin with Hiccup isn’t particularly great during these lessons but as time goes on, he gets to learn more about dragons from his experiences training Toothless. He uses these things to basically tame the dragons in the training pens in a similar manner and soon the Vikings think he has some mystical affinity with the beasts.

I’ll leave the plot discussion there for now. I don’t particularly want to give away the ending except to say that things happen on an incredible scale and it’s amazing to watch, especially compared with that fucking confusing Kraken from ‘Clash of the Titans’. (Though admittedly, the trailer below gives it away a little).

Let’s start of with the look of the film. It’s fucking amazing. Some of the scenes with the dragon in flight are some of the most incredible things I’ve seen in a CGI animated film and I’m even gonna include ’Avatar’ in that. It truly is beautiful and there are times when there are literally hundreds of dragons on screen and it’s truly a magnificent sight. I also really love the design of Toothless. He’s somewhat reminiscent of an axolotl and everyone loves axolotls. They rule. It’s a nice departure from something strictly lizard-esque though still recognisable as something close to the classical image of a dragon.

It’s also genuinely funny and it completely avoids any pop cultural references (Though you could say the little arena where Hiccup must fight a dragon looks a bit like the thunder dome for Mad Max 3) which have become the hallmark of the somewhat lacklustre recent ‘Shrek’ films and non-Pixar CGI films in general. Every piece of humour works perfectly well and consistently within the context of the films medieval/fantasy world. I’ll also say that this is probably the first family film that I’ve ever seen that contained the phrase “Breast Hat” and for that alone it must be applauded.

The actors providing the voices are all really quite brilliant, delivering believable performances. Perhaps the most enjoyable, besides Hiccup himself, was Gobbler played by Craig Ferguson. He managed to deliver just enough humour but also seemed to care for Hiccup in a way that his father really didn’t seem to. Speaking of his father, Stoic played by Gerard Butler , I was really surprised by this performance. Butler seems to have a more convincing emotional range in this then he’s ever had in any film where he’s actually appeared on screen. I honestly hope he does more of this kind of film because he was really, really good in it.

There is one thing that did seem a bit odd. Why is it that all the adults in this film have Scottish accents whilst all the children have American accents? I mean that’s odd on it’s own but aren’t these people supposed to be Vikings? Shouldn’t they all be talking like the Swedish Chef or something? No, no that’s stupid. I apologise. I suppose it’s fine the way it is… Just a bit odd is all…

Anyway, if I had to compare this to any other recent film of this type, I suppose I’d say it’s most like ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’. In fact the underlying emotional story is pretty similar. Both films are essentially about sons who want nothing more than their fathers approval and trust. I think that that particular story element is probably explored a bit more fully in ‘Cloudy…’ but in terms of overall enjoyment I think ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ just beats it for me personally. Maybe it’s just my natural love for all things Draconian. Four and a half pints out of five.

Advertisements

1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

The tone moves smoothly from cartoony humor to exciting action, and the visuals – including some soaring flight sequences, augmented with subtle 3-D – are wondrous.

Comment by CMrok93




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: