In Review: How to Train Your Dragon
Not Just For Kids
This past Wednesday, I had the good fortune of seeing How to Train Your Dragon in an empty theater. It should be noted that it was a late showing and on a night when few people normally venture out to see a movie and therefore has nothing to do with the quality of the movie. I only mention this detail because it was the first time in a long time when I could thoroughly enjoy seeing a movie in a theater. However, I have a feeling I would’ve enjoyed the movie itself even if the theater had been packed.
Set in a mythical Viking world, How to Train Your Dragon serves as a reminder that the best friendships begin when you least expect them to. The film opens with the first of many battles. You see every night or so the island of Berk is attacked by dragons of various shapes and sizes. It is up to the Vikings led by their Chief, Stoick the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler) to defend the island. On this particular night, his only son, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), has decided to help the Vikings by using one of his inventions to capture a rare dragon called a Night Fury. Though his invention works and downs the Night Fury, Hiccup is a bit of a runt and requires his father to help him flee another dragon. Instantly, it becomes clear that Hiccup is not only an embarrassment to his father, but to the entire village. The following day, Hiccup goes to the forest to find and kill the Night Fury. However, he is unable to kill it and instead sets it free. Later that day, in an attempt to turn Hiccup into a true Viking warrior, Stoick enrolls his son into a dragon training program that is lead by Gobber the Belch (voiced by Craig Ferguson). He then leaves the island along with many of his warriors to seek out where the dragons are coming from. Wanting to prove the Vikings wrong about dragons, Hiccup returns to the forest to find the injured Night Fury. Though they are fearful at first of the other, Hiccup and the Night Fury (who Hiccup names Toothless) quickly become friends. After some time, with the help of a Hiccup made prosthetic tail, Hiccup has trained Toothless to be an obedient dragon to the point that Hiccup can soar around the island on Toothless’s back. However, when another Viking teenager named Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) sees Hiccup and Toothless interacting and threatens to alert the adult Vikings Hiccup suddenly realizes how much danger he has put his dragon friend in. Will Astrid tell on Hiccup? Given the chance, can Hiccup teach the other Vikings how to train their own dragon? What will happen when Stoick finds the Dragon’s Nest? To learn the answers to these questions, you must see the movie.
Co-directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon is the most visually stunning children’s movie since Disney’s Up. I wish the movie had been longer because it was so much fun to watch. The computer animation is so well-done that even at a 2D screening you feel as if you’re flying along with Hiccup and Toothless. Plus, the story is interesting and holds your attention till the credits roll. The only complaint that one might make is that there is a lot of violent scenes, but anyone who has seen this movie’s coming attractions knows this beforehand and will not be surprised.
As cheesy as this will sound, How to Train Your Dragon should have been called How to Train Yourself to Thrive as an Outcast. Like Hiccup, many of us have been made outcasts because we don’t fit into the common consensuses’ mold. We’re actors in a school full of athletes. We’re bookworms in a class full of slackers. We’re the odd ones out due to our political/social views and our general outlook on the world. Like Hiccup, we want to catch our own Night Fury, but, once caught, we don’t know what to do with it. We seek out others like us, but foolishly runaway from those same people because, while they may share in our same interests, they don’t dress or look like us. Thankfully, we Hiccups usually come to our senses and rejoice in our new friendship. How quickly our differences can fade away when we become friends.
As stated before, except for my guest, I was alone in the theater. Having complained about rude audience members after too many recent movies, it was refreshing to not have that complaint this time. While it would’ve been fun to have heard children react to the story, it was relief to not have to listen to obnoxious teenagers yell things at each other and to be walked past by couples wanting to leave early because they obviously bought tickets to the wrong movie. Having the theater to ourselves, we could enjoy every second of the movie and feel like we didn’t miss a move. I hope that when you see How to Train Your Dragon you are treated to the same viewing experience as we had. Just because it’s a movie about Vikings and dragons doesn’t mean audience members have to act like them.
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