“How to Train Your Dragon,” is the story of Hiccup and his relationship with the dragon he catches and his father Stoick. The main drama revolves around Hiccup being outcast among the Vikings and dealing with the threat dragons who are destroying the Isle of Berk, the home of the Vikings. From here the drama unfolds.
“How to Train Your Dragon,” was one of the few truly good Dreamworks stories since their 2D animation days and like all profitable stories became a Franchise getting a television show and some short movies within the Universe…as well as the sequel that I plan on seeing for the next review. What helps this series I think is the fact that it is based off a book series by Cressida Cowell so there already is a lot material to take inspiration from for the characters and setting.
Without further ado, here is my assessment of the film:
Pros: The Music – The music is fantastic and I definitely plan on listening to it again for my own stories. It has Scottish themes in the sound and also uses silence for tension at just the right points and a soaring score when Hiccup and his dragon Toothless take to the air.
The animation – The animation is Pixar quality. Unlike most of the crap Dreamworks was putting out around this time this one was made with love. They even go into why certain characters look the way they do…such as the different types of dragons, or Gobber who lost a hand and a foot fighting dragons.
The characters – The characters get really fleshed out. There are some their for comic relief, like most of the teens who become Dragonriders (Astrid is the only one of them who really gets any exploration…the rest are stereotypes (the jock, the creeps, the nerd). But they are still handled with respect and given a moment to shine. Not a single minor character is useless or does nothing. The main characters of course get some great development which I’ll go into further down in the relationships they are a part of.
The Dragons – Their designs are awesome! From fat and thin to sleek, to many heads or one…they also are like cats and dogs in personality which makes their interactions enjoyable as well as the process of training them that the Vikings eventually go through thanks to Hiccup and Toothless.
Special recognition to Astrid (the toughest character besides Stoick) and Gobber who is actually funny and a pretty great mentor the kids and Hiccup, and of course Stoick for dealing with the conflict of being a leader and his relationship to Hiccup.
Hiccup and Stoick/The Father and Son Relationship – This is the relationship that really drives the story. Stoick is all about fighting and cannot see beyond the old ways in relationship to dragons for most of the film their difference is reflected in his son too, who he is unable to accept for most of the film. This creates great drama and tension between the characters leading to some amazing payoff at the end (the ending gets it’s own entry).
Hiccup and Toothless – This relationship is wonderful in that it is part of Hiccup’s journey to accept himself. Toothless needs his inventive skills and Hiccup owes Toothless a debt for breaking his tail in the first place. There journey from distrust to friendship is the other driving plot in this film and it is from this relationship that Hiccup is eventually accepted by the tribe and his crush Astrid.
The first and second flight – The first flight is when Hiccup is learning how to fly with Toothless, it here the sensation of flying and falling are the most strong. It is a great scene and shows where Hiccup gets his confidence more fully.
The second flight is the first time he breaks down a bridge with Toothless as he shows Astrid that Toothless is safe and it is here where the romance begins as well as Astrid’s apology to Toothless for initially trying to attack him.
The final fight – The Boss Fight with the Alpha Dragon is fantastic. We get to see human ingenuity with Hiccup and the Dragon riders against the biggest and deadliest dragon of them all. We also see Stoick finally appreciating Hiccup’s perspective and the love he’s felt all this time and hid. One of the best scenes of the fight when the Dragon takes off and Toothless destroys it’s wings. The final battle also has consequences leaving Toothless injured and Hiccup losing a foot.
The Ending – Is fantastic…dragons and Vikings working together and in it both of them profiting from it. Stoick has also finally learned to accept and appreciate his son. Hiccup and Toothless have also exchanged roles as Toothless helps Hiccup walk as Hiccup had taught Toothless how to fly. There is also his ending monologue which ties back into the beginning (My village sucks, we’re tough and we got unique pests (original) to the new one (We’re tough, our village sucks and we have the best pets).
Okay: The Romance – It could have been better. Astrid hates Hiccup for a long time because he isn’t like a traditional Viking and she see’s him as putting the tribe at risk to the dragons. Once she sees his perspective she falls in love, but I wish it had been more gradual. It isn’t bad, it just could have been handled better.
Astrid – I would have liked to see her save Hiccup once in the last battle. They set up this really cool character, but once she became romantic partner her role was diminished, especially in the action in regards to Hiccup. She even has a damsel in distress moment (which is more redeemable I guess in that she saves him a bunch during training before he learns how to train Toothless).
“How to Train Your Dragon,” still stands as one of the best Dreamworks films and one of my favorites. The themes are handled beautifully and the animation is still amazing to watch today. I look forward to seeing the sequel and how they handle this new world where Dragons and Vikings live in harmony. I highly recommend this film for anyone looking for a good action/adventure/fantasy film with a larger point and great characters.
My Score for “How to Train your Dragon” is 9.5 / 10.