How To Train Your Dragon
by M. Faust
Based on a popular series of children’s books (albeit a prequel to them), How to Train Your Dragon is a charming tale of a boy and his dragon. The boy, Hiccup (voiced by She’s Out of My League star Jay Baruchel), is a runt on a medieval island populated by burly, red-bearded Vikings. That they all speak in thick Scottish brogues—the voice of Craig Ferguson blends easily into the mix—may not be historically accurate, but as I have no idea how real Vikings sounded I won’t argue the point. As the son of the macho chief, Hiccup longs to do something of which no one thinks him capable, to become a warrior against the dragons that regularly attack their village. Working with a bolo-slinging catapult he has invented, he brings down a “Night Terror,” a breed (there are at least a dozen) of dragon so swift that no one has ever seen one. Going in for the kill, however, he discovers a wounded creature as frightened as he is, and a friendship is born.
Jet black with green eyes, the dragon, which Hiccup (inappropriately) names “Toothless,” bears more than a passing resemblance to extraterrestrial creature from Lilo and Stitch, created by this film’s directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. You have only my word for it that Toothless is also a ringer for Trixie, one of the Faust cats, though the resemblance of the dragons to cats in general is clear as Hiccup gets to know them. He learns that their attacks on his village can be stopped by removing a factor that torments them. The problem is, how does he convince his father before he launches a raid to wipe them out?
How to Train Your Dragon is the first 3D film I’ve seen where the extra dimension resists becoming merely a gimmick, with scenes of flight that are sheerly irresistible. And the film’s look benefits immeasurably from the input of consultant Roger Deakins, cinematographer of the films of the Coen brothers and many others, who designed its lighting.
Given that Dragon is a product of DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind the Shrek franchise, it is surprisingly lacking in the endless pop-culture references that weigh down so many films of this kind. Though I have to wonder: in naming the island where this is set “Berk,” were the writers aware of what that term means in Cockney slang?
Watch the trailer for How To Train Your Dragon
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