Sunday, May 9, 2010


Released: 3.26.2010

Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Written by Adam F. Goldberg, Perer Tolan, Chris Sanders, and Dean DeBlois

"How To Train Your Dragon" flies high in the cinematic sky. It is infrequently trite, but still is at times. Nevertheless, the sensational visuals and heartfelt tale take precedence and appease with ease.

If you've had one ear and/or one eye open to the media over the past month you've likely heard the masses shouting their accolades for "How To Train Your Dragon." It is the highest rated Dreamworks Animation film of all-time in the realms of Rotten Tomatoes with a staggering fraction of 98% positive reviews. That also makes it the most critically-acclaimed film of the year so far. On a similar rave wave, it is currently ranked #182 on IMDB's zesty Top 250 list (just above Stanley's Kubrick's "The Killing"). I wonder if that will last...

With so much praise under it's wings, I went into my 3D screening of "How To Train Your Dragon" at the local Cinemark with soaring expectations. They were well met! This is the best product to come out of the Dreamworks Animation factory that I've seen since the original "Shrek" nine years ago (that said, I've missed and avoided more than a couple on their menu between then and now). This is one of the best films I've seen this year! But I've only seen four of the films that 2010 has had to offer up to this point.

"How To Train Your Dragon" is based on the first in a series of eight books from the mind of Cressida Cowell. This yarn is set in a mythical world where the people are all vikings and dragon-slaying is all the rage. In this particular thread we meet Hiccup, the son of a viking chief. Hiccup does not fit it, and it may have more to do with his different ideas than his different physical make-up. He encounters a wounded dragon in the woods and- I'm not here to tell the story, but hopefully that appetizer piqued your interest.

This movie suffers from banal characters and situations. While fairly predictable as a whole it still breathes out fiery instances of astonishment and even delivers a powerfully emotional punch or two. All in all, it is one solid piece of entertainment capable of stirring the audience's feeling. You'll surely laugh, probably hold your breath with excitement, and maybe even cry (my date did).

As aforementioned, I caught the film in 3D (absolutely deliberately) and it was dazzling. It is the most beautiful thing I've seen since... well... "Avatar." This is one feature film well-worth paying a raised admission price for that extra dimension, though I fear the days for such a chance are dwindling if not already doused. I still feel for the seven people on this Earth who never got see "Avatar" in all its depth and glory in theaters. They will likely never know what they missed. Some films are surely meant to be seen in 3D, "How To Train Your Dragon" is one of them. The dragon-flying sequences in particular are where our recent advancements in technology really shine. Movie moments showcased herein and in the likes of "Avatar" prove that CGI and 3D-application can help storytellers immerse audiences on a whole new level. It can work marvels for filmgoing experience. Regrettably, as with all power, it can be abused and used only for show, bringing nothing but nifty trickery for the audience to suck on. And lower still, some "filmmakers" are only using these abilities (sometimes as a last minute hack-job) just to get us in the theater seats.

I beseech you all to go see "How To Train Your Dragon." It is the only movie I've seen this year I'd recommend to everyone. I've always been a sucker for fantasy and I love dragons (my self-chosen Chinese name, 戰龍 [Zhan Long], literally means "War Dragon" after all). You'll see all sorts of these imaginative flying lizards and the film takes careful time to introduce us to a number of them. Not least of which is Toothless, the name Hiccup gives the rare monster he finds one eventful afternoon. It is the relationship between this special dragon and this special young man that is at the heart of the film. It works wonderfully. If I haven't convinced you to see it yet then I haven't done my job, go learn "How To Train Your Dragon," you'll be glad you did.


CONTENT: Intense action scenes, some frightening moments, and mild innuendo.


As a general rule, animated film sequels are bad news in my book. Unfortunately, Dreamworks Animation has three more sequels and one spin-off (that's right, Puss in Boots from the the "Shrek" sequels is getting his own film due late 2011) in the oven. So to anybody out there who, after seeing the latest, thinks that Dreamworks is learning their lesson, don't hold your breath. Geez... look at me... pardon my pretentious tones and excuse my cynicism. I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong. At the end of the day (or heck, even at the start of the day) all I want is a good story that is told well. As was noted, "How To Train Your Dragon" is the first of eight children's novels. Can we be expecting sequels to this one now? Well, nothing has been announced and eight films is beyond improbable, but my jaw wouldn't drop if we saw this series return to film someday somehow.

Updated 9.14.2011