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Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon

March 26, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon – A DreamWorks Animation Release

Release Date: March 26th

Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images

Running time: 98 minutes

Dean DeBlois (dir.)

Chris Sanders (dir.)

William Davies (screenplay)

Dean DeBlois (screenplay)

Chris Sanders (screenplay)

Based on the books by Cressida Cowell

Christopher Beck (music)

Jay Baruchel as Hiccup

Gerard Butler as Stoick

Craig Ferguson as Gobber

America Ferrera as Astrid

Jonah Hill as Snotlout

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs

T.J. Miller as Tuffnet

Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) with Night Fury dragon Toothless.  Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Our reviews below:


How To Train Your Dragon Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

DreamWorks Animation has made some great films, but How To Train Your Dragon is the closest to perfection that they’ve ever gotten.  What makes this one land just a notch above a lot of their other films, even perhaps great ones like Shrek or Kung Fu Panda, is how seriously they treat the subjects.

This is the story of Hiccup (excellently voiced by Jay Baruchel), an innocent Viking who just can’t bring himself to kill a dragon, much to the dismay of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler, perhaps the best here that he’s ever been), and the other townspeople.  But then Hiccup befriends Toothless – a dragon.  He crafts a saddle, and they take to the skies.  The only problem is convincing a town of vicious Vikings that most of the dragons don’t need slaying.

Don’t let the silly names fool you – they are actually very much in tone with the story, and are never there just for cute appeal.  I’ve never read the book on which How To Train Your Dragon is based and I don’t really care to either.  From what I’ve heard, I’m almost positive this is one of the times when the movie far exceeds the literary work.

The 3D is astonishing, especially in IMAX.  The flight sequences rival Avatar, in particular one that involves a free fall, and another one of the standout sequences is a two passenger flight.  The climactic scenes are breathtaking, and are made all the better because they don’t mind pushing the boundaries of a PG.  There is never an added joke to try and lighten the mood, which is where some DreamWorks films have stumbled.  This isn’t for young kids, and that’s a great thing.

This will almost guaranteed be a better movie than the next two DreamWorks films to be released this year, Shrek Forever After and Megamind, and if Toy Story 3 ends the way I fear it might, than there’s a very good chance they’ll end up topping Pixar as well.

The interactions between Hiccup and Toothless are incredibly charming, and the action scenes actually thrill you.  It’s also got a lot of heart.  DreamWorks Animation has truly outdone themselves with How To Train Your Dragon.  A truly great movie – one of the best of the year.


How To Train Your Dragon Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

In How To Train Your Dragon, Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup, a viking teenager who wants to kill dragons like the best vikings should.  Too small to manage the tools for the job, he invents a machine that will take the dragons down for him.  When he hits a Night Fury, one of the most elusive and deadly of dragons, his whole world is turned on it’s head as he sees a side of dragons he never knew existed…

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, since discovering it on your own is magical.  The voice acting in this film is spot on, due to the talented voice cast, and animators.  The music by John Powell compliments the movie nicely, not over or underscoring the visuals/action.  I forgot I was watching a movie during How To Train Your Dragon – I was just engrossed in the film.

Last year, DreamWorks Animation jumped onto the 3D bandwagon with Monsters vs. Aliens, where the 3D was used purposefully for a campy monster movie feel.  Unlike in that film, there is no throwing stuff at the screen in HTTYD.  Here, the 3D is used as Pixar used it in Up for depth of field, and as in Avatar for incredible height while soaring through the air.  Finally, I think 3D is being used to the best of it’s potential.

Speaking of Avatar, I liked this film better.  I found it had a greater sense of adventure and wonder, slowing down at just the right moments to tell the story of the bond between a boy and his dragon.  Also, compared to another recent 3D film, Alice in Wonderland, I would recommend checking out that one in 2D, while seeing this one in 3D.  The problem with the former, is that the 3D made the picture too dark.  In this one, it does not – granted though, I saw this one in IMAX 3D.  Still, while the colours in this film are not overly cartoon-colourful, there is enough light to handle the 3D better.

The closest DreamWorks has come to this film is Kung Fu Panda, but unlike KFP, HTTYD does not rely on the same kind of slapstick humour or humorous remarks to lighten the mood when characters find themselves in peril.  Simply, Kung Fu Panda was amazing, but DreamWorks has successfully outdone themselves.  I loved this film.

In closing, this is DreamWorks’ most mature film to date.  By the end, there is a real sense of peril, as you forget you are watching a movie, let alone animation.  The whole film is beautifully designed and executed.  It takes you on a ride that soars in a way that only the best can.  This is not another animated film from DreamWorks, this is just another one of their films that happens to be animated – and it is one of their best.

Read my in-depth thoughts on John Powell’s magnificent score here.

___________________________________________________________________________How To Train Your Dragon Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, How To Train Your Dragon is DreamWorks Animation’s finest work yet.  Hiccup (voiced by Canadian Jay Baruchel), is a nerdy teenage boy, who wants to prove himself to his tough dad, Stoick (Gerard Butler), and win the girl of his dreams.   He is one of the many Vikings who live in the town of Berk.  There, the way to prove oneself is to kill the pesky dragons who prey on the village sheep.

There are many species of dragons in Berk; and the most elusive is the Night Fury, a panther like creature that few have seen, and none have caught.  When Hiccup manages to secretly capture one, he can’t bring himself to destroy the animal, which he names Toothless.  Hiccup secretly trains his new friend, as well as trains his classmates at dragon slaying school to befriend the misunderstood dragons.  This all leads to an exciting climax toward the end.

How To Train Your Dragon is perfect in every way.  The visuals are stunning, particularly during the flying and underwater scenes.  The script and dialogue is excellent, the voice casting and acting is perfect, and the sweeping Celtic score by John Powell is beautiful.  While visually similar to Avatar, this is a totally original film, and it got a “thumbs up” from James Cameron.  How To Train Your Dragon is especially stunning in IMAX 3D, but would still be amazing in RealD or 2D.  This is an amazing movie that should definitely be seen in theatres.


How To Train Your Dragon Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

DreamWorks has just raised the bar for animation in general and 3D in particular.  How To Train Your Dragon is a highly entertaining and superbly animated story about Vikings and Dragons.  When the Viking chief’s son, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) tries to win his father’s approval he finds himself with a dilemma – can he really force himself to kill a dragon and prove himself to be a real Viking.

There is a wonderfully authentic Viking feel in this movie.  The colors, the textures and the thick Scottish accents the Vikings all have work.  Even the dragons, mythical creatures that they are, feel real.  This is not a cute and cuddly movie.

The story really takes off when Hiccup finds the feared Night Fury dragon that he injured and realizes that he can’t bring himself to finish off the beast.  Instead, a bond forms between Hiccup and the dragon he names Toothless.  Over time he realizes that Toothless can be trained to fly with him on his back.  It’s in the flying scenes that How To Train Your Dragon really soars.  The flying sequences are amazing to watch.  The score by John Powell with its wonderful Celtic feel makes the flying sequences even more magical.

The scenes with Hiccup and the other young Vikings at Dragon fighting school provide plenty of humour and action.  Hiccup wins the others over with his ‘dragon whispering’ ways and even wins the attention of Astrid (America Ferrera), a fearless female Viking trainee.

I really liked everything about this movie.  The story, the animation, the voice acting, the music score all work well together.  The 3D animation brings it to perfection.  There is a wonderful sense of depth in all the scenes.  Watch for the falling ash scene in 3D.  How To Train Your Dragon is a perfect choice for all but the youngest viewers.


How To Train Your Dragon Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

How to Train Your Dragon is the latest feature from DreamWorks Animation, seen in IMAX 3D.  The film opens with an introduction to his Viking village by Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a skinny blacksmith’s (Craig Ferguson) apprentice whose clumsiness is an embarrassment to his father Stoick (Gerard Butler).

Having to defend themselves from nightly raids of various dragons stealing their sheep and destroying their buildings, the huge Viking warriors value their skill with all sorts of weaponry.  Hiccup tries to prove his worth by taking down a dragon with a rope launched from a catapult, but when he goes to retrieve it and looks into its eyes he does not have the heart to kill it, so he sets it free.  The dragon turns out to be as friendly as a dog, but is unable to fly because its tail fin is damaged.  Hiccup fashions a leather tail that works, and then learns to ride the dragon’s back with a saddle designed for it.  His newfound skill at wrangling rather than killing dragons is only appreciated when they are needed to fight the huge dragon that the other dragons have been supporting.

The film is a joy both to watch and hear, and would stand up well in 2D, but is spectacular in 3D, particularly in the aerial scenes.  The voice acting is fine, especially the adolescent attitude from Jay Baruchel, and the use of Scottish accents for the elders is an amusing touch, reminiscent of Happy Feet and Shrek.  The dragon sounds are always interesting, resembling by turns dogs, lions, horses, bats in their cave, and jet planes in flight.  No doubt real Vikings would not appreciate the stereotypes of horned helmets, long beards, and invocations such as “almighty Thor” and “Odin help us” but they are not around any more to complain.

The brilliant score from John Powell has both symphonic sequences in the big scenes and lighter tracks with a Celtic feel, using [Scottish] war [bag] pipes and a [Norwegian] Hardanger fiddle.  Just be warned that the violence may not be suitable for small children.


Consensus: How To Train Your Dragon is one of DreamWorks Animation’s best films to date and their most mature work, with 3D that complements things beautifully and adds a real sense of depth, especially during the spectacular scenes in the air. **** (Out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 5:32 pm

    The tone moves smoothly from cartoony humor to exciting action, and the visuals – including some soaring flight sequences, augmented with subtle 3-D – are wondrous. Good review, check out mine when you can!


  2. Brittany Davis permalink
    December 28, 2011 12:29 pm

    I love this movie! One of the best animated films of last year. The flying sequences are awesome, the voice acting is perfect, the animation is a feast for the eyes, the chatacters are appealing, and the movie’s just downright touching. This and the stop-motion animated film “Coraline” arey favorite animated films.


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