How To Train Your Dragon
Dreamworks often seems to stand in the shadow of Pixar, as the slightly more rough and ready of the two. If film studios were dog show entrants (and we often like to think they are), Pixar is the sleek greyhound to Dreamworks’ mud-stained Beagle. Though Dreamworks has a patchy record, (errors include Shrek 3, KungFu Panda, Madagascar: Escape Of The Penguins Or Some Shit), they do have the element of surprise in their arsenal: you never know what to expect from them. It’s possibly even because of their slightly dodgy track record that How To Train Your Dragon comes as such a wonderful surprise. Well played guys. Very well played.
The film opens with a jaw-droppingly brilliant battle sequence, between a small Viking village and the dragons that plague it. Over the top, our slightly bored protagonist – Hiccup – explains that this is his home. “The only problem here” he states as a sheep gets carried off by a pair of scaly talons, “are the pests”. That, however, is definitely not Hiccup’s only problem. Though his Dad is the toughest Viking around, Hiccup is skinny, geeky and clumsy, with as little chance of becoming a great dragon-slayer as getting a girlfriend. However, when he finally manages to shoot a dragon from the sky, no one believes him. He goes on search for the beast himself, confident that if he kills it, he’ll finally be accepted. But can Hiccup bring himself to kill the creature he’s captured?
A Dragon Flick With Bite
Wonderful visuals aside (the flying scenes truly have to be seen to be believed), there’s still a lot to love in this film. The humour is quick and sharp, again showing off Dreamworks strengths at their best. From the start the tone is distinctly unsentimental, with a beefy Viking consoling Hiccup after disappointing his Dad yet again, “Oh now, don’t be upset. It’s not about the way you look, it’s what’s inside that he can’t stand”. It’s a quirky humour we’ve seen from Dreamworks before, in films like Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – and it’s this comedy edge that makes this studio really stand out.
A Dragon’s Life?
Admittedly though, whilst the plot is engaging and exciting, there’s not much we haven’t seen before. Team Dragon borrow heavily from Pixar’s A Bug’s Life to create its story, and there are a few token characters – such as the standard ‘tough girl’ love interest, which is a bit of a shame. It would have been great to see the originality of the visuals matched by the story.
But all in all, How To Train Your Dragon will make you laugh, cry, gasp, and by God will you wish you had a dragon. Good work Dreamworks, we’re glad we buckled up for the ride.