1 down, 99 to go…
I’ve always been a big fan of animated films with heart, ones that make you want to cry as much as they make you want to laugh. I’m not a crier per say, but I like my animated features to make me feel like maybe, if I wasn’t so emotionally cripple, I’d cry. (See above: Toy Story 3, Despicable Me.) How To Train Your Dragon had exactly that effect on me. I remember seeing the trailers when it first came out, and beyond a cursory thought of, “Man, that title sounds almost pornographic…” and a giddy little thrill when I saw Jay Baruchel voiced the lead (I get a giddy little thrill every time Jay Baruchel is in anything. Even terrible Nicholas Cage films,) I didn’t give the film much thought. It was one of many, many “3-D animated wonders!” making the rounds at the time and I couldn’t be bothered. I’m glad I finally got around to watching it though because holy crap, did I ever love it.
Basic breakdown: Kid viking wants nothing more than to impress his super stud viking of a father. He decides that the only way to do that is to kill a dragon. Problem is, when he finally gets face-to-face with one, he realizes that not only can he not kill it, he kind of likes the big-eyed cutie. And really…
can you blame him?
So, instead of learning how to kill and maim dragons, out hero Hiccup (Worst viking name ever?) focuses on learning how to train and control them. Of course, once the other vikings find out, calamity ensues, typical animated fare. There was also the standard father/son issues:
Father: You’re different and I don’t like that!
Son: Why can’t you just accept me for who I am!
Father: NEVER! Or at least not until the climax of the movie when you prove yourself a hero!
But what I enjoyed was how the story was darker than I would have expected. I’ve noticed this trend in animated films over the last decade or so and I gotta say, I enjoy it. I like animated movies that don’t pander to their audience, that treat kids like they have the intelligence to understand that happy endings can come in different forms. I won’t spoil the end for How To Train Your Dragon, but I will say it managed to both tug at my heartstrings and make me gasp, but then make me smile and cheer and feel uplifted. It was a realistic ending and I appreciated that. I think most kids would too. And if I wasn’t a robot, yeah, I probably would have shed a tear.
Also, I’d like to note that this movie was gorgeously animated. Particularly all the flying scenes – the clouds, the sunsets, the breathtaking landscapes – kudos to the Dreamworks animators. Kudos also for their rendering of Toothless, Hiccup’s dragon buddy. The detail they can get across with facial expressions still floors me.
So now, after having spent an hour and a half with Hiccup and his viking village, I’ve decided that a) I need to go buy this movie, and b) I really, really want a dragon. But, then again, I’ve wanted a dragon most of my life, so this wasn’t really “learned,” so much as “reestablished.” Regardless. Someone buy me a dragon.