Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

(No spoilers.)

While I haven't seen all the DreamWorks animated features, I've seen most of them. How to Train Your Dragon is my favorite so far. While I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, I didn't find Po's transformation from loser to warrior convincing. The arc for Hiccup, the boy pictured above, is better constructed and the plot points are all in place.

The story has elements of E.T. and is pretty predictable, but it is well told and emotionally satisfying. There's a good balance of humour and suspense. The film is built on a father-son relationship that works within the context of the film and resembles Disney's Chicken Little. The dragon designs are nicely balanced between caricature and menace and the Vikings are fun to look at.

There are things that I could criticize in the film, but they don't detract from the overall experience. I saw the film flat, not in 3D, as I was more interested in judging the story elements than I was the technique. I still found the camera moves too busy in the early part of the film and wonder if I would have suffered whiplash had I watched it in 3D. The children, except for the male and female leads, are one dimensional, which often happens with supporting characters in animated films. It's a bit of a stretch to have Vikings talking with Scottish accents, though I guess it is plausible. The relationship of the largest dragon to the others is not clear and probably unscientific. I can't say more without spoiling something.

I couldn't help thinking while watching the film that should it outgross Disney's Bolt (and it deserves to), it will be vindication for director Chris Sanders, who was removed from the Disney film by John Lasseter. Dragon also seems to me to be the DreamWorks film most dominated by it's directors (Sanders and Dean Dublois). With DreamWorks now set on releasing 5 films every two years, I think it would be all to the good for Jeffrey Katzenberg to loosen the reins a little and let directors put their stamp on films.


Jeremy said...

Watching Dragon in 3d was a real treat. I agree that the story was predictable but what worked was the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup. It reminded me of my pet cat. Gabe & Cassidy deserve a pat on the back for getting the Toothless animation to feel believable and genuine. Great review and I hope others give the film a chance.

Alex_Munguia said...

I read your review earlier, before watching the movie and just got from the theatre absolutely in love with the film. The 3d and camera movement posed to whiplash issues for me haha.

YES this movie does deserve to outgross Disney's Bolt, perhaps even some of Pixar's films. The story was a bit predictable but there were also a few things that made up for the predictability.

The NON TALKING DRAGONS is definitely a plus as the movie establishes a strong relationship (all pet owners can relate to) between Toothless and Hiccup purely on gesture. I loved the film, hence my need to comment on your review. Here's hoping the movie does really well.

cadguycad said...

I agree with the two previous posts.

On the whole i enjoyed it. (only a few gimmicky 3D parts).
The story was predicable but also entertaining. I think the dragon flying was very similar to some of the Avatar shots and like Avatar the scenery was good.
I especially liked some of the use of colour (and lack of, for contrast) in the final battle scenes.
I slight niggle i had was that the end emotional beat could have been extended a little, it seemed to be glossed over. (foot thing i mean)

I left with a smile on my face after seeing some great scenes and the kids loved it.

Mr. Semaj said...

Disney must really be kicking themselves for letting Chris Sanders go. By now, they should know what happens every time they let talent slip away like this.

Floyd Norman said...

Does Disney even care? I get the impression they're getting out of the movie business.

jriggity said...

I too enjoyed the film very much.

I wish all the best for the team that created it.


Virgil said...

Speaking of Panda, I don't think there is any way a zero-to-hero kind of story can be believable, unless the zero is Hercules... so that makes him a hero anyway. Or maybe the loser drinks some magic potion. Anyway, without an external influence like that, there is pretty much no way you can make an audience believe a loser could become a hero. And that would be deus ex machina, and is not about the character actually changing in any way or deserving to be a hero. I for one, never bought these Hollywood ridiculous stories of people changing radically...