Monday, 23 July 2012

How to Train Your Dragon

Let's be honest, when you're bored, in the mood for a laugh, and you want to watch a good, entertaining animated film, we all go hurtling for the Pixar options. With the likes of Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Up, that's not's understandable. The only other possible option is Dreamworks Animation. They've come up with the likes of Kung Foo Panda (ridiculously overrated in my opinion) and Shrek (again....). But, for me, How To Train Your Dragon is Dreamworks' first proper effort that can go down as beating Pixar, as this really is an outstanding piece of film making. 

How To Train Your Dragon tells the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a young boy living on a small, isolated island in the Viking Period. He is surrounded by tough, sword-wielding dragon killers, and children his age inspired to follow that reputation. Hiccup, however, is different. He realises that instead of killing dragons, the village should befriend them, and soon embarks on his mission to change the way his village thinks. The only thing standing in his way is his father (Gerard Butler), the leader of the main tribe who simply doesn't understand his son. With time running out and the village coming under attack, can Hiccup change a whole village's views and opinions on something they've spent a lifetime working on? 

Frankly, at the Oscars, this film was robbed. The Best Animated Feature trophy should currently be sitting on DreamWorks' rather empty trophy shelf. But, Toy Story was hardly going to lose it. Any other year, this would have got it. Undoubtedly. 

The animation in HTTYD is mesmerising. A high majority of the shots could easily be real; that's how amazing the animation is. One scene in particular stands out. Hiccup's father is looking up at the sky and mouths the words "What the..?". The thing is, he doesn't have to say it. The animation is so clear, and so easy to understand, that we can work out what he's saying by his mouth movements. Now, I don't know about you, but that seems pretty incredible to me. Also, the cinematography is beautifully edited and makes every location seem as real as possible. 

The plot is subtle, it's Avatar (another overrated film).....but better. It's so easy to follow, yet contains some really deep and heartfelt moments. The jokes and one liners are easy to follow and see, and makes this film suitable for all ages. I wasn't able to see this in the cinema, I waited for the DVD, but I've heard the 3D was incredible. You can see, when not watching the film in 3D, the moments that would stand out when seeing it in 3D. Subtle, but highly effective. 

This being an animated, Dreamworks produced film; there is a good amount of comedy tucked away between the dramatic and heartfelt story. The film struggles at the start, it's not bad, it just starts to drag. But the moment that Hiccup meets Toothless (his adorable dragon), magic is made. Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois made these moments well. And the scene where Toothless rests his head on Hiccup's hand? Beautiful. The direction here was phenomenal, making you feel simultaneously happy, yet emotional...which is a damn hard effect to pull off through animation. 

Another highlight of this film is the score. It's incredible. The music uplifts the film, and gives it a surprising amount of depth and emotion. They have dramatic pieces, and really emotional, slower tempo tracks, but overall it's fantastic. Another Oscar rob? No, Original score should have been Inception. This wasn't as original, as all the tracks have a Scottish twist to them, echoing the location. 

My one problem with film, albeit a minor one, is wondering how all the adults have strong, dominant Scottish accents. This included Hiccup's father...but Hiccup has an American voice? Now either Dreamworks' didn't think that through, or Hiccup is going to get told some strange news, involving the word "adoption", when he's a bit older. 

To Summarise: Mesmerising animation, a terrific score, good laughs and surprisingly heartfelt moments make How To Train Your Dragon the first Pixar-worthy animated film in a long time.

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