How to Train Your Dragon is hands down one of the best Dreamworks films to come out in years. It goes to show that when they drop the saucy wink-at-the-camera humor shtick and get their hands on a good story with some heartfelt characters they can really wow. It follows the unlikely friendship between a boy and a salamander-dog-cat-dragon thing. What could easily have just been a boy-and-his-Pokemon type plot delivers a compelling and beautifully animated tale. Vikings and Dragons are at war and bumbling young Hiccup finds himself caught in the middle when he passes up his one chance to redeem himself with the village when he can’t bring himself to seal the deal. Caught in a world where a man is measured by his worth as a warrior and the weak are culled he must choose between what he believes is right and the respect of his peers and father.
The animation is simply beautiful. The screen is stunning to look at from the sprawling sun-set skies right down to every glistening arm hair. The creatures are quirky, emotive, and full of character and the fire and flying scenes are particularly impressive. I saw it in 3-D, it felt refreshingly subtle and added gorgeous depth to the scenes that made seeing it on the big screen a real treat.
The story and plot seemed much more thoughtfully crafted than most of films to come out of that studio, and the extra care pays off. There is a strange tenderness to it that catches you off guard and tugs at your heart strings in ways you may not expect. The film offers a surprisingly poignant perspective on the strength of those otherwise discounted as outcasts, weak, or crippled and shows the vulnerability and power of the bond shared with those you depend on.
Sometimes it is more reassuring to cling to the idea of a savage and heartless monster to rally around to fight together, then to accept how much we may have in common with our enemies and admit how much being scared pushes us to attack what we feel threatened by. The movie provides insight into the heart of prejudice in a way that drives the point home more than any can’t-we-just-get-along musical number. We set out to train a dragon, but in the end the hardest beast to tame is fear. Even if in the end, everybody still rallies around a heartless monster to fight together, but it’s a giant T-Rex the size of a mountain, so it is totally different… work with me people. Just go see it.