The fine folks at Dreamworks have done an excellent job marketing How to Train Your Dragon. The trailer was ubiquitous last fall, and every movie theater we’ve been in lately has been covered in dragons. Olive couldn’t wait to go see it.
The vikings have been at war with the dragons, and young vikings are expected to train to become dragon-killers themselves. No one expected Hiccup, son of the brutal viking Stoick to become much of anything, though, as he always had a way of messing things up. Determined to fit in with his viking clan, he uses a catapult-like contraption and downs a Night Fury, the most feared dragon that no one’s ever actually seen. When Hiccup finds the downed dragon in the forest, he knows that killing the dragon would make him a star among his clan. And yet, he can’t do it. A bond forms instead, and Hiccup realizes his natural talent of dragon training. The movie centers on Hiccup and his uphill battle to change the vikings’ thinking about the dragons to stop the age old battle between vikings and dragons. All of the death is unnecessary.
The script is great, and so are the performances by all the actors. Jay Baruchel, that kid from Tropic Thunder, does a marvelous job as Hiccup, a truly likable character from start to finish. We also get some kick-ass girl vikings, most notably Astrid (America Ferrara). She’s a fierce dragon-killer in training, so Hiccup knows that to have her on his side would be powerful. And he’s right.
I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read the novel by Cressida Cowell on which this movie is based, so I can’t speak to how different the adaptation is. The book is going on the reading list, though. What I’m about to say next is slightly spoilerish, so skip ahead if you like. The only thing that I didn’t love about the story is that, though the central message is that communication with the dragons can avoid all of the killing, one particular death becomes necessary for the viking/dragon harmony to exist. That seems unfortunate from a storytelling perspective.
Though the dragons can be very cute, especially the Night Fury, this movie will scare the little ones. Olive (now almost 5) is pretty fearless in movies, but she had her hands over her eyes for parts of it. There were some dragons battles that had some kids wailing and others leaving the theater. You can get a sense of the battles from the trailer, but add volume and some scary contexts and 3D fireballs.
Speaking of the 3D, it added to nothing except the admission price ($35 for me and my kid to see a movie!!) I hate this new trend of everything in 3D, but the 3D trailers show no end in sight. Surely Shrek #4 and Despicable Me aren’t going to be enhanced with the addition of 3D. The only trailer that looked vaguely interesting in 3D was Legion of the Guardians, based on the books, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole. Plus, to hear that the new Harry Potter movies are going to be in 3D makes me want to chuck my 3D glasses at some studio execs. Please. Make. It. Stop.