Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon 3-D Movie Review

The first Oscar nominee has just been released. It is How to Train Your Dragon, and I predict it will be nominated for best animated feature. Like Beowulf (2007) this movie makes the best use of 3-D technology. For some reason, computer animated films do much better in the 3-D area than the mix of live action and CGI. Perhaps, it's because there is more of a conscious effort of the director and the computers to realize every shot in 3-D or maybe there are just more "money" shots, i.e. shots where objects are coming at you. Regardless, when you see How to Train Your Dragon, in 3-D you'll marvel at the hairs on the fur or the texture of a dragon sticking out.

Special effects and 3-D technology can't make a good movie. It requries a good story, direction, script and acting. How to Train Your Dragon has all of these. Based on a children's novel by Cressida Cowell, it's the story of young viking named Hiccup. (Jay Baruchel) His village is at war with dragons, who have the tendency to ocassionally seize their sheep. Hiccup's father, Stoick, (Gerard Butler) is leader of the village. To show his father, he's become a man, Hiccup attempts to kill a dragon, the elusive night fury, so fast a dragon, that no one has seen one. You see dragons come in all different kinds. See video below. Hiccup's plan is to use a special machine that he has built to bring one down. During an attack Hiccup does bring a night fury down. The next day, Hiccup goes to find the dragon and see that he has trapped it with a net. He makes an attempt to kill the dragon but when the night fury looks at him, Hiccup realizes he cannot.

Hiccup decides to befriend the dragon. He loses interest in dragon killing to the chagrin of his father. So he enrolls Hiccup in dragon fighting class run by Gobber. (Craig Ferguson) Now Butler and Ferguson's Scottish accents are in full bloom. I didn't know that Vikings were Scottish. And the filmmakers are making Scandanavian barbarians into lovable people. Really? I mean the real vikings were not like the NFL Minnesota types. Anyway, while Stoick is on a crusade to find the dragon nest, Hiccup is trained in the way of dragons. At the same time, he's making a friendship with the dragon, which he now calls Toothless. It's this friendship, a kind of boy and his dog story, that teaches Hiccup that his people have it all wrong when it comes to dragons, from their weaknesses to their actual threat to the village. It's a well done message in tolerance that teaches as well as entertains.

The special effects are astounding. Yes, the flying sequences are as good as Avatar. The 3-D is worth the extra dough you have to pay. There's depth and like good 3-D, there are multiple "money" shots. John Powell's score also deserves kudos. I can see it capturing a nomination for best score. His writing emotes the burgeoning friendship. It captures the soaring wonder of Hiccup and Toothless' flights. The direction is crisp. The writing does not dumb down the material for little children. Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson and America Ferrera as love interest Astrid are excellent and make you belive that these characters actually existed.

How to Train Your Dragon is the first excellent film of the year. See it in 3-D. See it again in IMAX. In my town, there are limited IMAX theaters, so Alice in Wonderland is still playing. That's going to be a problem with the upcoming 3-D movies coming out. Regardless, How to Train Your Dragon is an action packed, funny, and warm film. The grade is A.

Here's the trailer.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Wasn't gonna see it, but now I might have to reconsider...