How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Animation | Adventure | Comedy
  • Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
  • Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera


Long ago up North on the Island of Berk, the young Viking, Hiccup, wants to join his town’s fight against the dragons that continually raid their town. However, his macho father and village leader, Stoik the Vast, will not allow his small, clumsy, but inventive son to do so. Regardless, Hiccup ventures out into battle and downs a mysterious Night Fury dragon with his invention, but can’t bring himself to kill it. Instead, Hiccup and the dragon, whom he dubs Toothless, begin a friendship that would open up both their worlds as the observant boy learns that his people have misjudged the species. But even as the two each take flight in their own way, they find that they must fight the destructive ignorance plaguing their world.

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  • The perceived creative gap between America’s two animation giants – Pixar and DreamWorks – gets smaller with the release of How to Train Your Dragon. DreamWorks’ new animated film rides primarily on the wave of their previous triumph, Kung Fu Panda (2008), an engaging and hilarious tale of a fat, lazy panda destined for greatness.

    Here, an Oriental element is incorporated again – the dragon. The dragon is seen as an Eastern mythological symbol of power (or fear), one that is deeply rooted in (mostly) Chinese tradition more so than in Western culture.

    John Powell’s original music (one of his best scores in his career) also has an Oriental feel that adds to the mysticism associated with such creatures. Interestingly, the idea that How to Train Your Dragon is set centuries ago during the era of the Vikings gives it a cross-cultural relevance.

    Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, 2002), this film is a showpiece event, a statement of intent by DreamWorks to prove to Pixar that they do not have a monopoly on making high-quality animated films with a heart.

    An early contender for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, How to Train Your Dragon revamps formulaic material and tells its story with incredible energy. Hiccup is a timid but resourceful son of a Viking chief. Their village is always attacked by dragons that steal their food and damage their property. Hiccup’s father has sought to look for the dragons’ nest for years to wipe them out once and for all but is unsuccessful.

    In the tradition of the often told story of a weak, ostracized character rising to fulfill his destiny as the hero, How to Train Your Dragon offers some surprises as the film gives the average viewer more than what he would expect.

    The heart of the story belongs to the well-developed relationship between Hiccup and his new friend Toothless (also known as Night Fury which is the most feared dragon in existence). This secret relationship also addresses pertinently an overarching moral theme – don’t fight fire with fire because you will inevitably get a bigger fire. Instead, communicating love and understanding will reap far more promising rewards.

    The need to “look at the bigger picture” is also highlighted in the final act where an intense sequence involving a massive battle between the Vikings and a gigantic dragon not only reveals the severity of the situation that the former find themselves in, but also provides a thrilling and climatic end to a very satisfying film.

    GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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