Flying High with How to Train Your Dragon

16-Apr-10 2:48 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 4 comments.

Currently playing in theaters is How to Train Your Dragon, a CGI film based on the first in Cressida Cowell's series of children's books. Set in a Nordic village, the story is that of Hiccup, the Viking chieftain's son who's more intellectual and sensitive than his brawny, boisterous brethren. Their island is constantly besieged by dragons, which come in dozens of breeds, the most terrifying of which is the mysterious Night Fury. When Hiccup secretly captures one of these creatures of myth, he must decide if his loyalty lies with his family or with his heart.

At its root, the tale is a familiar one, with aspects of everything from Old Yeller to Avatar. The main plot focuses on the developing relationship between a boy and an animal, the latter which behaves in ways very familiar to any dog owner. As each character has or is building a relationship to each other, there are no true villains in this story, which makes for some incredibly tense moments: everyone is simply trying to do what's right based on the information available to him or her, sometimes leading to decisions that hurt others. The audience can hope only that everything turns out for the best.

Any film with dragons perforce features plenty of flying sequences, and How to Train Your Dragon's are to die for. There's excitement as rider and beast learn to coordinate their movements, bliss as they experience sights never before seen by man, and tension as the duo act in harmony to save their loved ones. I dream, both asleep and awake, about being able to fly, and Hiccup's experience are some of the most enviable I've encountered — and that's based on a 2D showing of the film; it's also available (as most CGI films are nowadays) in 3D.

The imagery is accompanied by excellent voice acting. Those I recognized were Gerard Butler (300) as Chief Stoick, with bit parts played by David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Jonah Hill. Most notably, 28-year-old Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup with great zeal, imbuing the character with sarcasm, frustration, and wonder.

How to Train Your Dragon is rated PG and is an appropriate experience for parents to share with their children. Some of Hiccup's tactics defy logic, his flying companion ultimately conveys little of the fear found in Tolkien's dragons, and the final action sequence reminds me of Iron Man's. But the conclusion doesn't uniformly leave the village and its inhabitants better than before — an unexpected twist that can prove a valuable talking point for families.


You Say 'Cute,' I Say 'Special'

On his Facebook page, fantasy author R. A. Salvatore commented about this film, "I'm not a big fan of 3D … but this one gets a big thumbs' up from me. The graphics were simply amazing, and the story was charming." I'll add my own endorsement to that weightier one. Will the remaining seven books be translated to film? We can only hope!

Bored of the Rings

16-Oct-07 1:00 PM by
Filed under Humor; 1 comment.

R. A. Salvatore once opined to me that today's readers grew up predominantly with the visual medium of television. Accustomed to quick action and short narratives, they don't need the amount of detail that J. R. R. Tolkien invested in his novels.

If so, maybe that explains that why I can't bring myself to read Lord of the Rings. Believe me, I've tried, at a variety of points in my life; but no matter how (im)mature I am at the time, I just couldn't get into it. I'm not against the concept, though; like with Shakespeare, I just need the story delivered in another medium.

So combine LotR with comic books, add an acerbic wit, and what do you get? The DM of the Rings, a web comic that uses stills from the live-action films to theorize what LotR would be like played as a Dungeons & Dragons game. Observe as the party is railroaded to key locations:

DM of the Rings #1

Indulge in out-of-character conversations on the slopes of Mt. Cahadras … DM of the Rings #2
DM of the Rings #3 … Dread the coming denizens of the Mines of Moria …

and resolutely defend the residents of Helmsdeep.

DM of the Rings #4

This satirical narrative encompasses the entire film trilogy but focuses on Aragorn's party and their perspective on the second and third films. As a former role-player myself and current fan of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic book, I loved this unique and irreverent take on a classic tale. A couple of marathon sittings will make an enjoyable experience of its 144 strips. When you're done, go behind the scenes in Fear the Boot's interview with the comic's artist, Shamus Young. You may also enjoy Darths & Droids, a similar approach to Star Wars Episode I.

(Tip of the hat to Showbits reader GeneD.)

Dungeons, Dragons, and Janes

21-Aug-07 9:44 AM by
Filed under Films, Potpourri; Comments Off on Dungeons, Dragons, and Janes

Hiphopguy23 saw Becoming Jane in the movie theater last week. There were many scenes where the life of Jane Austen could've used more imagination.

Is it wrong to imagine there is a rogue climbing the wall of the ivy-covered castle?

Or to picture a hired assassin blending into the background during the royal ball?

Or to make believe when a couple goes for a romantic walk in the woods that a group of elves is hiding in the brush, waiting to ambush them?

Or before the couple lean in for their first kiss, to imagine a renegade barbarian unsheathing his bastard sword out of jealousy?

Hiphopguy23 is just wondering if these thoughts are normal.