How To Train Your Dragon – Movie review

Yes, it’s Kid’s Club at our local cinema on Saturday, so today we went to check out How To Train Your Dragon, the latest animated adventure from Dreamworks.

How To Train Your Dragon is set on a remote island where a stubborn tribe of Vikings live, constantly warring with the dragons that blight their territory. Being a warlike race, the Vikings have been doggedly trying to exterminate the dragons for generations. Enter the oddly named Hiccup, the son of the tribe’s leader, but a skinny misfit who doesn’t fit in among the beefy warriors.

The Plot

Hiccup’s desperate to slay a dragon of his own to gain the respect of the other villagers. But when he eventually brings down a Night Fury – the deadliest dragon known to the Vikings – he finds he can’t bring himself to kill the creature. Instead, he befriends it, and helps to repair the dragon’s tail with a creation of his own. When his father forces him to train to become a dragon slayer, Hiccup ends up using his new knowledge of dragons to tame the creatures rather than hurt them.

The movie paces itself brilliantly, allowing time for Hiccup to develop a relationship with Toothless and realise his tribe have been misunderstanding the dragons for years. We see how bemused the villagers are when he uses other methods to tame the dragons rather than fight them. The introduction of a dragon’s nest on a hidden island allows Hiccup to see exactly how wrong the Vikings have been, and provides a setting for the climax – a battle between the Vikings and the enormous dragon that’s compelling the other dragons to feed it constantly.

One of my biggest gripes with kids’ movies is when they rehash stories from other genres and create something unimaginative. How To Train Your Dragon doesn’t suffer from this problem in the slightest. It’s a fantastic story, packed with action, emotion and surprises, even for the adult viewers.

What I Liked

I loved the choice of Scottish accents for the Viking characters, although I was constantly put off by Astrid’s American accent (voiced by Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera). Still, we had a range of Scots actors from Gerard Butler right down to our very own [[David Tennant]]. Maybe the accents were a subliminal reminder that the fourth Shrek movie is en route, but it didn’t distract me too much.

The action is fantastic – there are moments where a sudden appearance of a dragon will make you jump in your seat, and the scenes with Hiccup riding on Toothless’s back are glorious. I expect they’re even more glorious in 3D, and my daughter and I agreed this is one to see again in 3D to get the full effect. Even without that, the CGI is fantastic and we were all completely immersed in the story.

There are plenty of quips that the adults will love – when Hiccup’s father presents him with a helmet made from his mother’s breastplate, then taps his own helmet saying “I like to keep her close” was a particular favourite. And maybe it was just me, but after the battle with the ‘queen’ dragon, I was welling up a little when Toothless opened his wings and revealed an unconscious Hiccup safe inside.

The Message

To be fair, the message of How To Train Your Dragon isn’t rammed down our throats. It’s the age-old story – people fear what they don’t understand, and they seek to destroy what they fear. The relationship between Hiccup and Toothless shows that by taking the time to understand and build a relationship, those old prejudices can be overcome.

It’s profound, but it doesn’t overshadow the fun of the movie.

Verdict

Fantastic movie. I walked out of the cinema feeling uplifted and refreshed. How To Train Your Dragon delivers a fun adventure, and although it might be a cliche, it’s a rollercoaster of adventure that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

I always look around to see how the kids are responding to the movie, and they were rapt for the duration of the screening. There were moments when they were scared, especially when the big dragon broke loose from the mountain, and they tried hiding under my arms at points. But they had plenty of laughs, including my daughter at the naughty breastplate gag I mentioned earlier!

Great movie – heartily recommended. If we see it in 3D, I’ll let you know what the difference was.

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