For all of us who fancy watching some good animation flicks, recent times have been kind. After ‘Up’ in 2009 the latest one to catch the attention of the audience has been DreamWorks Animation production ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. This fantasy film loosely based on the 2003 book of the same name by Cressida Cowell. It tells the story of Hiccup and his attempts to live up to the expectations of his family and society while his experiences prevent him from toeing the line drawn by the society he lives in. Jay Baruchel, who appeared in quite a few Hollywood hits, lends his voice to Hiccup. Gerard Butler voices for Stoick the Vast, Hiccup’s father, while America Ferreira is cast in an important role as Astrid, Hiccup’s love interest. Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, T.J Miller are some other stars who feature in the film. The film is directed by Dean De Blois and Chris Sanders. The movie is in 3-D, but is equally enjoyable in 2-D as well.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III lives in a village called Berk on a mythical island Viking with his father Stoick, who is the Viking Chief. Hiccup works as an apprentice to the village blacksmith Gobber the Belch who is also in charge of drilling new recruits to fight dragons. The village is prone to dragon attacks and so the chief occupation of the island folks is to battle and if possible kill the dragons that attack them. It is skill in combat that separates the adults from the kids in the island of Viking. Hiccup wants to continue in the glorious tradition of his family by becoming an acclaimed dragon fighter. He invents a bolas cannon and shoots down a dragon during a raid.
However Hiccup cannot bring himself to kill the dragon and decides to befriend it. He calls the dragon Toothless. However, his father fears that Hiccup’s diminutive frame would not be exactly fighting material and so he enrolls his clumsy, intellectual son for dragon training. The film tracks the blossoming relationship between the young boy and the dragon that has come to become his pet. Meanwhile Hiccup is often ridiculed at his dragon training class, but he soon impresses all using the inputs he gained through his relationship with Toothless. Hiccup realizes that dragons are not the vile beasts his people have made them out to be and so strives to impress this fact upon the people of Viking. But his efforts are in vain.
After a tumultuous sequence of events, the island folk led by Stoick discover dragon nests and set out to finish their supposed enemies for once and for all. However, Viking gets a rude shock when they discover the actual state of affairs at the dragons’ nest and they find themselves facing a giant dragon who had been served by the smaller dragons of Toothless’ ilk. In the end, rather predictably the duo of Hiccup and Toothless save the day by killing the giant dragon.
Release and Reception
The movie released world wide on March 26, 2010 to universal acclaim. It topped North American box offices in the first week of its release. However, the collection garnered by the film was seen as low and disappointing for an animation film, especially when compared to previous DreamWorks releases. The film continued its successful run and topped the charts in its fourth week, leading film pundits to reassess the movie as a success. The film was well received by critics as well and collected a number of favourable reviews from leading publications.
The film boasts of dazzling graphics and visually conveys a feel-good sensation to the viewer. It is bright and colourful and is aimed at children and adolescents. However, the movie appeals to viewers of all age groups as well. The film does not conform to a lot of practiced stereotypes usually found in animation movies for children. Thus Toothless, the dragon is not a cute cuddly thing which one instantly warms up to. Rather, it is a fierce and independent beast which could hurt if it wants to. The relationship between the boy and the beast is not a cheesy one usually found in films of this genre and stands out due to the novelty. The film does use a lot of familiar cliches however. The father who does not believe in his son, the misfit, gawky boy, the adults who do not understand the animal world, in this case the dragons, and a heroine who hates the protagonist at the start but ends up falling in love with him are all tried and tested formulae that Hollywood and film industries elsewhere keeps recycling.
The film conveys a message of tolerance, especially towards those you perceive as your enemies. It prompts you to realize that your enemies may not be as different as you think they are. The film though almost preachy sends out a message against fear, prejudice and violence.
Over all, the movie is definitely worth a watch. It is a joy ride full of fun and frolic. Indeed a visual treat.
Aju Basil James