I feel I should start off by saying that I am absolutely in love with this film. It pleases me on sooo many levels. I went to see it in theaters with my friends, naturally and this past weekend we watched it again on my friend’s laptop computer. I still found myself wiggling with fangasm.
How to Train Your Dragon is the story of a young Viking named Hiccup who isn’t quite up to the Viking standard. He’s not tough or manly but lanky, awkward and fairly untalented with any weapon of any kind. The one thing he is good at, however, is making things. He also happens to be the son of the village leader, the toughest mostly manliest Viking of them all. Hiccup wants desperately to prove himself as a real Viking and make his father proud, but thanks to his reputation for oddity and clumsiness he’s confined to the blacksmith’s shop to fix and sharpen swords. That all changes when he brings down a Night Fury with one of his gadgets.
Allow me to go back and explain. If you haven’t seen the movie, shame on you, you’re probably wondering where the dragons come in. Well the dragons have a habit of raiding the Viking village and carrying off the sheep and whatever else they can find. There are several different breeds of dragons with different shapes and abilities and so forth but the most dangerous of them all is the Night Fury. No one has ever seen one, no one has ever killed one. They swoop in, destroy some stuff, then leave, without taking anything. Hiccup manages to bring one down and thus our adventure begins.
The conflict occurs when Hiccups lets the Night Fury he caught go instead of killing it while it was done. He discovers that when he shot it out of the sky it took off half of the dragon’s tail, preventing it from being able to fly. He gradually gets the dragon who he names Toothless to trust him and builds for him a new tail that he can operate from a saddle so that he can fly again, if only with Hiccup’s help. While this is going on, however, Hiccup is also going to training to learn how to kill dragons. He starts out doing poorly and making a fool of himself in front of his crush Astrid, but as he learns more about his dragon he picks up a few tricks to use in his training, like the fact that dragons don’t like eels or there’s a spot under their chin you can scratch to put them to sleep. Now he’s got a dragon, he knows that they’re not evil beasts and he’s doing well in his training, thus gaining his father’s approval. There’s just one problem… or two… See the dragons are stealing food to feed a bigger dragon who will eat them if they don’t feed it. Hiccup, since he did so well in training, gets the honor of killing his first dragon in front of the whole village.
So what do you do? Well, Hiccup takes this opportunity to show the village that he can befriend the dragons and they don’t have to fight them. This backfires, however, when his dad kind of freaks out and spooks the dragon into chasing Hiccup around the arena, setting off Toothless’s Hiccup senses and drawing him into the village to protect his Viking friend. Hiccup’s dad is naturally furious that his son has being doing something so un-Viking-like and after finding out that only dragons can find their nest, decides to use Toothless to wipe out the dragons once and for all by taking out the nest. He also disowns Hiccup. So off they go and a very distraught Hiccup has to figure out how to save his village from the dragon they’re picking a fight with and get his Toothless back.
The animation in this movie is really beautiful. The dragons are creative, colorful and unique, the buildings are well structured and natural looking and the expressions are incredible. As I’m in love with most dragons, Toothless was my favorite character. You would think for having a face that’s pretty much just eyes and ears it’d be a wee bit more challenging to get emotions across. But they pull him off splendidly. There’s never any doubt to what is going through our dragon friend’s mind. Even without his little ears helping us out and the occasional baring of teeth we can read his emotions just through his eyes. Toothless is the best example, but we see a wide range of emotions in the other characters too. Hiccup’s father, for example shows us excitement, anger, disappointment, remorse, pride and so many other feelings, all from under his thick Norse beard.
The characters too are incredibly loveable. Toothless is sooo cute when he’s not threatened with his big eyes and cat like manners. Hiccup is your classic awkward teenager trying to figure out where he fits in. As you know, I have a thing for awkward boys. Hiccup isn’t just awkward, though. He’s smart in his own way and while at first he hates being different and not fitting in, as the story progresses he finds that he doesn’t really care anymore if he doesn’t fit in and, in fact, he doesn’t want to fit in anymore. He’s happy to be his own person. He still wants his father to be proud of him and to make him happy, but he’s not going to do something he knows is wrong, just to get his approval. His poor dad is cute too. He’s at his wit’s end trying to cope with Hiccup’s blunders and awkward attempts to be Viking-like. He wants to protect him, and yet he wants him to toughen up at the same time. When he finds out that Hiccup has been kicking butt in the training area he’s overjoyed at the prospect of his only son following in his footsteps, but more importantly, about finally having something to connect them and bring them closer as father and son.
Astrid, as far as heroines go, isn’t terribly outstanding. While she is rather fantastic, as most of the Vikings are, she’s not terribly sympathetic and the romance between her and Hiccup is really spontaneous. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If a boy took me on a dragon ride I would fall in love with him too. But she does go from pretty much hating Hiccup’s guts for more than half the movie to liking him quite a bit in one scene. Still, it’s not poorly done or anything. It feels very natural in fact.
The ending to this movie is slightly different from your classic “Disney” ending. Usually everyone comes out unscathed, except for the baddies, and they live happily ever after. This one, Hiccup almost dies and actually comes out of the experience without a leg. I don’t know if I can think of any other childrens movies that take of a piece of the main character. It’s also 2 in the morning, so that might have something to do with it. But yeah, I thought that was a step up from the usual happy ending. Sure he’s a hero to his village now and he can live with his best friend without fear of being discovered and he can be himself without being judged or ridiculed, BUT he also has to live without his left foot, which has been replaced with a “mechanical” one, learn to use it and deal with the emotional scars that come with it.
So there you have it. This movie was absolutely wonderful. It was super cute, super fantastic and very heart warming. The animation is lovely the characters are lovable and the dragons are obviously the best part. Go watch it. Now.