Fiery, 3D and very cute
Dir: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
How to Train Your Dragon 3D is a DreamWorks Animation film following the adventures of a young Viking boy called Hiccup and his unlikely friend. The film is an adaptation of a children’s novel of the same title. Initially the film was set to be very accurate to the book but this was changed after it was decided that the original story was aimed at too young an audience. The final version features various changes including a much larger dragon that Hiccup can ride. The film is written and directed by Lilo and Stitch directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois.
How to Train Your Dragon 3D takes place in the town of Berk, a Viking settlement in a particularly inhospitable location. The main difficulty facing the citizens of the unfortunate town is the regular and extremely destructive dragon attacks. Hiccup explains early on that while the town is old, it has a lot of new buildings (as they don’t tend to last very long). The Vikings aren’t without defences though; a wide array of large burly axe wielding warriors is always on guard to take on any scaly fiends that should attack the settlement. The problem for Hiccup is that he isn’t one of them.
Hiccup is a small, relatively weedy (by comparison to the monstrous Viking warriors) young man who has shown something of an inaptitude for slaying, felling or otherwise combating dragons. Things soon change for Hiccup when one of his contraptions brings down a Night Fury- the rarest and most deadly breed of dragon. Hiccup manages to track down the fallen beast but he can’t bring himself to kill it. He soon finds himself befriending the creature and helping to repair the damage he caused to its tail wing. Unfortunately, Hiccup’s new friendship is threatened when his father, the leader of the town, wants to make him a “real Viking” by having him train to become a dragon slayer. Hiccup has to balance his life as a Viking with his developing friendship but it isn’t long before a bigger threat emerges.
The voice acting in How to Train Your Dragon 3D is of a high standard and when combined with the extremely witty dialogue throughout it makes for a funny and charming experience. Jay Baruchel does a fantastic job as Hiccup, the frustrated but level headed Viking. America Ferrera also brings a fun and quirky voice to the part of Astrid, Hiccup’s initially antagonistic love interest. Gerard Butler makes for a tough and relatively classic Viking king as Stoick the Vast- Hiccup’s father.
Complimenting the strong voice acting cast is the decision to avoid having a voice for Toothless- the dragon itself. Toothless comes across as a character so well largely because it doesn’t have any dialogue. The animation alone is enough to convey the cute, charming and sometimes mischievous mannerisms of the dragon.
The animation of How to Train Your Dragon 3D is of the usual high quality we’ve all come to expect from DreamWorks Animation. The world is artfully crafted from the initial attack on the war-torn Viking town to the subtle facial expressions of Toothless. The flight scenes in particular are superb, with Toothless making graceful movements through the air. In fact Toothless is pretty much always elegantly portrayed, moving more like a cat than a lizard.
The 3D effects are excellent, augmenting the already well designed eye-candy of the film. From the explosive dragon attacks to the more down to earth moments, the 3D is well used throughout. DreamWorks have also learned from the impressive aerial scenes in Avatar and the 3D technology is put to great use on the awe inspiring flight scenes.
The story itself ranges from sweet to hilarious with a strong pace from the outset. The world is introduced quickly and humorously thanks to Hiccup’s narration and the characters are all given time to develop. One small problem with the narrative is that it takes sometime for the real threat to emerge. While Toothless is quickly thrown into Hiccup’s world, it takes a little too long for them to actually face any real challenges. That said, the extra time gives us a chance to get to care for these characters and the dynamic between the two is more than sufficient to keep us entertained until the real danger reveals itself.
All said, How to Train Your Dragon 3D guarantees a fun and heart warming experience. It’s been a while since a really good dragon film has come to the screens and few have brought such an original dragon concept along for the ride. The effects are dazzling, the dialogue is hilarious and the story is engaging; this is a film that will keep the kids and the adults entertained and you’re sure to leave the cinema with a smile on your face.