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!

This Will Be A Novel Long Remembered

29-Dec-06 11:28 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 6 comments.

I recently watched all three original Star Wars films for the first time since seeing them in theaters in 1997 (I bought the DVD set in the fall of 2004). But before watching episodes IV and V, I read the novelizations, as I also did immediately after episode VI. In any such converstion of media, the source material is almost always superior, and this was no exception: the books were vastly dependent on the on-screen action to detail what was happening. The most enjoyable novelization of the three was Return of the Jedi, which offered some useful insight into the characters' thoughts: Han Solo's evolution toward selflessness; Luke's struggle with the Dark Side; Vader's machinations against both his son and emperor. I had hoped for a bit more detail into Vader's final redemptive act, but none was forthcoming.

The only other movie novelization I've ever read was Attack of the Clones, which had numerous exclusive scenes (both deleted from the movie and created by the book's author). I guess I was hoping for a similar treatment from the original trilogy.

In related news, IGN.com recently posted its "Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time". George Lucas had the winning entry, of course.