Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Fig 1 - How to Train Your Dragon Poster
Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, How to Train Your Dragon begins on the mythical island of Berk, where Viking settlers are seemingly plagued by the constant threat of dragon attacks. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is an infamously meek yet adept member of the village, whose brawny father Stoick (Gerard Butler) openly questions where he has gone wrong in raising him. When Hiccup miraculously shoots a Night Fury from the sky (being the most notoriously agile and mysterious dragon of the lot), he soon begins to question how dangerous their foes truly are. During Stoick's attempts to track down the dragons' lair, Hiccup is forced to train with dragons in combat whilst simultaneously sneaking off to visit his downed companion, Toothless. In bonding with Toothless, Hiccup not only learns how to passively rectify dragon confrontations, but discovers their fire-breathing friends may have more to fear than the axe-wielding villagers of Berk...

I personally believe this to be the second greatest Dreamworks franchise since Shrek (2001), in that it has an incredibly defined style and works for a wide range of cinema-goers. Having said that, unlike most 'widely-reaching' animations, the film doesn't resort to dropping in 'risque humour only adults would get', but rather chooses not to hold back during battle scenes that give the film a real sense of danger that most animations try to avoid. With this, the rocky dynamic between Hiccup and his father feels completely genuine in Stoick's typically 'Viking' mindset of requiring overt masculinity from his son. Stoick's perspective of his son as a hindrance to the clan feels incredibly true to the reality of the situation. It never feels as though Stoick is worried for his son's safety, more that he is embarrassed by his inability to comply with their lifestyle, which I'm sure is a note that would hit home for anybody who struggles relating to a parent. Incidentally, I do think Gerard Butler gives Stoick a truly three-dimensional personality in his delivery and made the town's leader a figure to be feared and respected.

Fig 2 - How to Train Your Dragon - Hiccup and Toothless
The film's art director Pierre-Olivier Vincent blends a fantastical cliff-side landscape with semi-traditional Viking architecture to engage the story as if it were coming straight from Scottish folklore (albeit with some questionable American accents thrown in). Visuals of the plucky young Hiccup being thrown around in the air, dodging and diving past great pillars of stone felt reminiscent of James Cameron's Avatar (2009) in it's ability to make the central character feel incredibly small comparatively. The look of the film is complimented greatly by John Powell's score, whose contribution awarded the film a musical nomination at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Overall, How to Train Your Dragon is a highly-recommended story of acceptance and bravery, refreshingly void of Pixar's glossy child-proofed visuals in exchange for a gritty thrill-ride that might leave you with a splinter or two.


Fig. 1 How to Train Your Dragon Poster (2010) From: How to Train Your Dragon - Directed by: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders


Fig. 2 How to Train Your Dragon Screenshot (2010) From: How to Train Your Dragon - Directed by: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders


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