Friday, April 16, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

I guess the big 3D film at the moment is Clash of the Titans, which came in first at the domestic box office last weekend for the second week, bringing its domestic total to $110 million. But it wasn't the movie that made me trek out to the theater and don the goofy glasses. Last weekend, I saw DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon in 3D. And I loved it.

I feel like the movie maybe isn't getting as much business as it deserves. $133 million in the U.S. in three weeks may seem pretty good, and it would be for most movies, but I guess it isn't too impressive when compared to other computer animated kid movies. I don't know why, really. I haven't seen that much advertising for it (though granted, I watch my TV online, so I'm missing out on most commercials, and Hawaii doesn't do billboards). And maybe it doesn't have big enough names (I mean, it has some people we all know, but it's still not like Shrek's cast). And it's not a sequel, so it doesn't have franchise power...

Anyway, How to Train Your Dragon is a really fun movie. I was initially skeptical about a movie that names its hero Hiccup (I still can't figure out why someone--either in the story world or the real world--thought that was a good idea), but in the theater I quickly got past that, finding myself fully engrossed in Hiccup's world. The world is one based on the Vikings, but the Vikings in this village are plagued by continual attacks from a variety of different types of dragons, each with unique behaviors and traits. The well-known rule is that dragons always go for the kill, so a Viking always kills a dragon when given the chance. Except for Hiccup, the skinny, wimpy, teenage grunt of a Viking who happens to be the chief's son. When he has the chance to kill a dragon, he can't do it, and (surprise) the dragon returns the favor. The resulting friendship between him and the silent dragon brings a series of revelations about dragons that will change the way both species live.

The dragon that Hiccup befriends, whom Hiccup names Toothless, is my favorite thing about the movie. Toothless is a "Night Fury", a mysterious, elusive, and deadly variety that no one--until Hiccup--had ever seen. Dark as night, they fly at lightning speed and spit balls of purple flame even faster. Plus, they are absolutely adorable. Designed by the same artist who designed Stitch (of Lilo and Stitch), they have a similar aesthetic: huge eyes, wide mouth, rounded features, clunky front legs... I don't blame Hiccup for being unable to kill him. Since the dragons in this movie can't speak, as Hiccup and Toothless get to know each other Hiccup is the only one talking. He is not, however, the only one communicating, as Toothless is very silently expressive. It's delightful, and his friendship with Hiccup is very touching.

Now, about the 3D. The problem with Clash of the Titans, I understand, is that it was not originally meant to be 3D (the director was told they'd be releasing in 3D after he was done with all the shooting), so the 3D just isn't used very well. How to Train Your Dragon was planned as a 3D movie, so each shot makes the great use of the medium. Of course, Avatar set a new standard for 3D that is tough to surpass, but I have to say at least for the flying scenes, How to Train Your Dragon has it beat. In Avatar, the characters spend a good amount of time flying on their banshee creatures, and the banshees are graceful and the scenery is gorgeous, but in How to Train Your Dragon, when Hiccup is flying on Toothless, you can really feel the thrill of flying. It's like you're there with him. So I definitely recommend seeing it in 3D while you can.

The cast has a number of names you may recognize. Jay Baruchel as Hiccup has by far the largest part, but Gerard Butler has some good bits as his Viking chief father. Craig Ferguson plays a very funny mentor role, and playing Hiccup's peers are America Ferrera (the tough romantic interest), Jonah Hill (a bully type), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (spouting dragon stats), and Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller (as scraggly twins).

The movie is funny, exciting, cute, moving, and great eye candy. It's based on a novel of the same name by Cressida Cowell which already has a number of sequels, so if this one does well enough there's definitely a franchise waiting to happen. It's better than most of the kids movie franchises out there now. So check it out. And if when you come out of the theater your first words are "I want a Night Fury!!!"--join the club.

10 comments:

Andhari said...

Ahhh I think I should watch it, if it's that entertaining. I saw the billboards over here but I guess I was just too focused on Clash Of The Titans :p I didn't watch the 3D but since you said it's not that good as a 3D movie anyway, then I didn't miss anything :D

Eleni said...

Well I thought Dragon was really cute. I haven't actually seen Clash of the Titans in 3D myself, but my brother said it was underwhelming (and I trust his opinion).

Hezabelle said...

Oh, that actually makes a lot of sense that the dragon was by the same artist as Stitch, they really do look similar.

I've heard that Clash of the Titans isn't worth paying the extra money to see in 3D. It wasn't that great in 2D.

Eleni said...

A shame. I am a fan of Sam Worthington, and of Perseus.

Is the plot utterly ridiculous to someone familiar with the classic myths?

Hezabelle said...

It really, really is. The only way I could sit through the movie was to turn that part of my brain off.

I could write lists of the things that were wrong in it, but I knew what I was getting myself into and decided just to take it for what it was: an action movie baring no relation to actual mythology... hehe.

Kind of like Troy!

Holly said...

I saw how to train your dragon! I absolutely loved it. It was cute, exciting, and well animated. Which was nice to finally see a CG movie that had the feel of a good 2D cartoon and a live action movie.

plus, toothless looked/acted like my cat. Enough said. lol

Eleni said...

Hez - I remember seeing the Disney Hercules after studying a bit of Greek mythology in 7th grade. Even then I was able to see things wrong with it--starting with his name, Hercules instead of Heracles to correspond with all the other Greek names used in the movie. I think the added problem with Troy was that they were trying to do it without gods, I guess to make it more "realistic", haha.

Holly - Aw, I want a cat like Toothless. So cute! Does your cat spit fire?

Hezabelle said...

I just watched a documentary about Greek mythology where they referred to him as Hercules, too! But then said he was the son of Zeus, not Jupiter. Sigh.

Eleni said...

I guess someone decided at some point that Hercules just sounded better, at least to English speakers, and now most people only know him by that name so they use it even if they're using other people's Greek names. Ah well.

Anonymous said...

I saw How To Train Your Dragon! It was SO cute! ^^ I have the movie in 2D. WHEEEEEEEEEE~ I luv that movie!