IMDB #174 How To Train Your Dragon

Hey, I reorganized the list, and what should appear around this spot but recent smash-sucess and word-of-mouth phenomenon How To Train Your Dragon! Considering it passed The Return Of The King and The Big Lebowski to become the film I've seen the most times in the theater, I just had to include it in the countdown.

And it did a rare thing climbing up onto the list after starting just below it- normally a film will pop up much higher than it should be (coughKick-Asscough), and then fall several spots (or off entirely). When a film starts rising months after it's released, you know it's a keeper.

The Key Players:

Directors and co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were veteran animators that both ended up at Disney, both contributing to Mulan in various roles before teaming up for 2002's Lilo & Stitch. They moved to Dreamworks Animation in 2007, and took over production on Dragon about halfway through the process.

There's a voice cast that includes Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and notably Scotsmen Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson, but who really cares?

Click for More...

The Story:

In the viking village of Berk, dragons raid the livestock and burn the houses almost daily- killing one is everything for your status, which is why awkward, teenage blacksmith's apprentice Hiccup is desperate to do so.

In a breathless opening attack (in which he voiceovers all the requisite back story while dragons swoop and swarm to keep our attention), he fires a homemade bola contraption at the rarest dragon of them all: a Night Fury, a deadly fast and powerful dragon no one's ever seen- and he actually hits it!

Though he also causes some mayhem when another dragon nearly eats him, leading to a scolding from his father Stoick, the village's brawny chieftan. No one believes that he brought down a night fury, but sure enough he finds the felled, jet black creature in the woods. Only he can't bring himself to kill it, no matter the dates he might get. He sets the dragon free, and soon befriends it, finding it confined to one pond because of a damaged tail.

Just as he learns to befriend them, his father puts him in training to kill dragons, leading to a great sequence where he excels at dragon fighting by rendering them harmless using tricks gleamed from his new best friend (like scratching under their chins, or dragons' distaste for spotted eel). He names the Night Fury 'Toothless' and even makes a new tail fin for him, and they learn to fly as a team.

But surely such a forbidden friendship can't last.

The Artistry:

Go here and here for reasons this film is awesome. In this space, I present a list instead:


1. A dragon clearly flies across the starlit sky during the opening Dreamworks logo.

2. Hiccup has a small scar on the right side of his chin, probably from an earlier blacksmith-apprenticing-related mishap.

3. It's implied in the film, but he's clearly an avid inventor: there are plans and scale models visible at his workbench for the bola-launcher, his various Toothless flying aids, and a machine that casts a net.

4. There's nothing extra at the very end of the credits (I thought it would be foolish if I'd seen it X number of times and missed an easter egg).

5. I am not the only person who saw it over and over, based on its return to the top of the box-office in its fifth week.

6. If you see it enough, the fact that America Ferrera (tv's "Ugly Betty") voices a pale, blonde Scandinavian character will cease to bother you.

7. A toy Night Fury dragon (though not, specifically, Toothless, which is dumb) costs $12.50 and is only sold at Wal-Mart.

8. If there is any dust on the projection lenses at the theater, imperfections in the screen, or smudges on your 3D glasses, you will notice them when Hiccup and Toothless fly through white clouds a couple of times and you will find it distracting.

9. A scene near the end, when Hiccup and Toothless are both falling into a wave of fire, reminds me a whole lot of the core detonation at the end of Star Trek.


After discovering his son's "betrayal," Stocik takes Toothless and uses him to find the dragons' nest- unbeknownst to him it's inhabited by a mountain-sized queen-bee-type dragon that intimidates the others into bringing food back- hence the raids. The behemoth is poised to destroy all of the tribe's warriors, until Hiccup arrives (riding the training dragons with his fellow classmates, who bought his "we don't have to kill them" message a lot faster) to save the day.

He and Toothless destroy the giant enemy of dragon and man alike- though it looks like Hiccup dies in the aftermath at first- turns out he just lost a foot, a rare acknowledgement of mortaility in the cartoon world, and he gets the adoration of the town and the girl of his dreams.

Berk learns to live in harmony with dragonkind, and I get to wait until 2013 for the sequel I might even be more stoked for than The Dark Knight.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Higher and higher, to paraphrase Jackie Wilson. Maybe the most fun I've ever had at the movies.

The Legacy:

Too immediate to qualify, but it is Dreamworks' new "franchise" with the ending of the Shreks just now.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

This whole 'test drive' sequence is probably my favorite two and a half minutes of any film this year (narrowly edging the hallway fight from Inception). Not that this YouTube video is anything like seeing it in 3D, of course.

Leftover Thoughts:

-No dragon-related puns in this entire post. That's not how I roll. I'm thinking of a weekly feature called "Pun Roundup" (or should the title itself be a pun? DECISIONS!) where I find the most egregious puns on movie titles out there.

-I cannot tell you how much I wish this would get an encore in theaters instead of Avatar.

Coming Up...

173. The Grapes Of Wrath

172. Twelve Monkeys

171. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

0 Response to "IMDB #174 How To Train Your Dragon"

Powered by Blogger