A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Underdog stories are as old as the hills; most films, particularly animations, tend to simply be variations on the similar story. “How To Train Your Dragon”, the 2010 Dreamworks epic is a prime example, yet this is not particularly a bad thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, particularly when considering the targeted demographic.
“How To Train Your Dragon” is an underdog tale about Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the son of a viking lord that is both under appreciated and a disappointment to those around him. In a world that is under constant threat from violent swarms of dragons, Hiccup seeks an opportunity to prove himself as more than a mere blacksmith by slaying one of many terrorising beasts. Cowardly but determined from the offset, Hiccup manages to luckily strike down one of the rarest species of dragon with a device crafted form his impressive but unrecognised ingenuity. A ‘Night Fury’ dragon, a mythical and never before seen species is struck and injured as a result of Hiccup’s convenient aim and becomes trapped in a forest. Hiccup later comes across this beast and the two develop a strong bond. This friendship of course requires time, patience and trust all the while being kept a complete secret from the townsfolk, whose intention is to hunt and kill dragons through fear they will do the same.
As Hiccup soon learns that the beast (of whom he names “Toothless”) means no harm and is characteristically more or less similar to an everyday household dog, the messages regarding animal cruelty, animalistic nature and prejudice in general become extensively clear. Through his constant meetings with Toothless and his relentless efforts to tame the beast whilst helping him learn to fly again (once more with a exceptionally crafted piece of engineering), Hiccup grows in confidence and proceeds to excel in his dragon training classes back at home. This of course raises suspicion amongst his classmates who know him as the cowardly and pathetic failure of a viking.
Taking certain elements of the ‘boy who cried wolf’ story (even though Hiccup never lied), “How To Train Your Dragon”, has a simplistic and predictable plot. The average: “boy is under-appreciated, he finds something of significance to the story, people don’t believe him, they’re proved wrong, boy was right, becomes a hero” storyline is a brief summary of this film. However, the predictability of the storyline is not really anything to criticise a children’s film over. What is so great about these Pixar and Dreamworks features is that with the simplistic plots is that they’re crafted so exceptionally, that they are highly enjoyable for all demographics. Sure, classics like “Toy Story”, “Shrek” and “Finding Nemo” epitomise this fact more so than “How To Train Your Dragon”, yet this is still a very enjoyable animation, the 8.2/10 on iMDB reinforces this.
The voiced cast is star studded, with Jonah Hill, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson (a personal favourite), America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and David Tennant joining Baruchel to voice the numerous goofy, witty and comical characters of the film.
If you can tolerate one hundred minutes of Jay Baruchel’s painful voice, there isn’t much wrong with this film. It isn’t an all-time classic animation that is up there with the greats of Disney/Pixar, however it is fun, exciting and even scary at times (if you don’t like jump scares, be warned.) “How To Train Your Dragon”, like many animations of it’s kind, is targeted at children, but can appeal to adults, and certainly does. With some dreamlike scenery that is at times reminiscent of “Avatar’s” Pandora, the animation techniques yet again are something to marvel at. With a pleasant story, stellar cast and an adorable black dragon, Dreamworks has once again produced a delightfully entertaining animation treasure.
Recommended By Alise Dolly