Animated movies are very popular and I still enjoy them even though some aren't as good. DreamWorks has made several computer animated movies and while I have enjoyed them overall, I haven't liked them as much as the movies done by Pixar. I do think that DreamWorks has improved with their last few movies. I just had the chance to see their newest animated movie, How to Train Your Dragon.
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The Viking village of Berk is regularly attacked by dragons who take food and cause much destruction. Most of the villagers fight the dragons. Hiccup, the son of Stoick the Vast, is thinner and doesn't have much luck in fighting. He works with Gobber the blacksmith. Hiccup wants to fit in and fight dragons. He manages to catch a Night Fury, the most dangerous dragon. He is unable to kill it and frees it instead. Hiccup then ends up finally starting dragon training with Gobber to learn how to fight and kill dragons. Hiccup finds the Night Fury unable to fly because of tail damage and he decides to try something different. Hiccup starts trying to become friends with the dragon and even names him Toothless.
How to Train Your Dragon is based on the children's book of the same name by Cressida Cowell. The book is the first in a series featuring Hiccup. I haven't read any of the books, but I did read a little about them after seeing the movie. It seems like a lot has been changed for the movie.
Things start off in How to Train Your Dragon by introducing the village of Berk. At that point, Hiccup is doing a voice over explaining some things about the village and how the dragons attack. The voice over isn't done for the entire movie, though it does return at the end. The plot is interesting and makes for an entertaining movie even though a few things that happen are more predictable. Things are fairly straightforward even though a few different things happen throughout the movie.
Action scenes turn up every so often throughout How to Train Your Dragon. The first action scene happens at the beginning of the movie when Hiccup is talking about his village and a dragon attack is shown. The villagers try to fight, though the dragons do a lot of damage to the village. When Hiccup is working on his project that adds a bit of action in some scenes. There is also some action when Hiccup and a few other young villagers are going through the training so they can fight dragons. Violence does turn up in a few scenes. It isn't that graphic, though a few scenes might be a bit too intense for younger children. Things move along at a decent pace for most of the movie, though there are a few scenes when things are a little slower. I don't think the pace ever gets so slow that things are boring.
The main focus of How to Train Your Dragon is the developing friendship between Hiccup and Toothless. At first, they are very wary of each other, each expecting the other to attack. The trust slow builds as Hiccup continues to visit Toothless. Some of those scenes do move a little slower, but I think they are very important to properly develop the story. That relationship gives the movie heart, something that has been missing from most of the other animated DreamWorks movies. It does seem like more time has been taken with the story, which makes the movie stronger overall. Some serious things are dealt with during the movie in a way that works without being overly sappy. There is a decent amount of humor to what is going on as well. Most of the characters say or do things that are funny. I do think Gobber is the funniest character with the wacky things he says. Gross humor isn't used, though Gobber does mention underpants a few times.
How to Train Your Dragon has been created with computer animation. The animation is wonderful and I think it is the best that DreamWorks has done. The scenes of flying are absolutely amazing and feature gorgeous images. During some scenes, the colors are more subdued and dark while in other scenes, brighter more vibrant colors are used. That helps to build the atmosphere in different scenes. The movement of hair is finally getting closer to what Pixar has done. The movements of the characters do look realistic even though the skin of the people still doesn't look that realistic. Several different types of dragons are shown in the movie, and each one has a unique look and different special attack.
I really like the way Toothless looks. He makes a few noises, but he doesn't speak, so his feelings have to be conveyed through his expressions and that is done wonderfully well. His eyes are extremely expressive and I felt like I knew what he was feeling. Once he accepts Hiccup, he is basically like a pet, just much larger and potentially more dangerous. At times, he shows mannerisms of a dog or cat and acts playful. During one scene when he is playing and looking like he is going to pounce, he is moving just like my cats do when they are playing and preparing to pounce on something.
The movie is being shown in 3D in some theaters and I think it is also in IMAX 3D as well, though I may be wrong about that. I did see the movie in 3D. There isn't a lot of stuff flying at your face during the movie, though some shots do take advantage of the 3D. The 3D does seem more subtle, like it was done just to enhance certain things instead of being used as a gimmick to see how many things could jump out at the audience.
Hiccup just wants to be like the others and fight dragons when the movie starts. He is not typical of the other Vikings in his village and he is a bit of an outcast. He really can't fight and he tries to deal with things in different ways. He does seem to be more intelligent and more caring at times. He is a bit desperate for his father's approval. Jay Baruchel does well with the voice of the character. Stoick is in charge of the village and a fierce fighter. He doesn't understand or listen to his son. Gerard Butler does well with the voice.
Gobber is the blacksmith for the village and he also trains the young Vikings in how to fight and kill dragons. He has had experience fighting dragons and has lost a few limbs. He pops up every so often, though he isn't that developed. I do like the voice that Craig Ferguson did for the character. It is a little odd that Gobber and Stoick have Scottish accents, but it didn't bother me. The other Vikings don't have accents, or at least they don't have accents that I recognize.
Hiccup has a bit of a crush on Astrid, a tough girl in the village. She is good at fighting and doesn't pay Hiccup much attention for a while. She seems like a nice enough character and the voice America Ferrera is fine. Snotlout, Fishlegs, Tuffnut, and Ruffnut are the other young Vikings in dragon training. Snotlout and Tuffnut try to act tougher than they really are. The voices all sound fine for the characters.
Main Voice Talent
Jay Baruchel - Hiccup
Gerard Butler - Stoick the Vast
America Ferrera - Astrid
Craig Ferguson - Gobber
Jonah Hill - Snotlout
T.J. Miller - Tuffnut
Christopher Mintz-Plasse - Fishlegs
Kristen Wiig - Ruffnut
Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
How to Train Your Dragon is a fun, entertaining animated movie that is definitely worth seeing. People who like animated movies should check it out.
I would have rated this movie four and a half stars if I had the option. Since I don't have that option, I decided to round up to five stars.
This review is part of CaptainD's Good Movie EpiGuide 3 Write Off.
*This review was orignally posted after I saw the movie in the theater. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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