By Ed Sum
Dreamworks has a solid product with How to Train Your Dragon. Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Cressida Cowell, this movie version makes for a refreshing take in dragon folklore. With allusions to the tales of yore, the cartoony caricature driven CGI world created here does more than stir the imagination. It harkens to a potential saga in the making. With more books in this series, there is potential to adapt the later novels. And the altered storyline is something that writer Chris Sanders is not too worried about.
This veteran in the animation scene is better known for his work in the Lilo & Stitch series, and he repeats his winning formula for Dreamworks. If one looks carefully, Toothless the dragon looks a bit like the alien Stitch.
And instead of a girl meeting an extraterrestrial, the tale takes a spin in a world of fantasy where a young boy, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) encounters a dragon. His Viking village is at war with the entire dragon race and in order to train the next generation to fight against them, Hiccup goes to school. With this film, what he does is play hookey instead. Little do his classmates know, he is rehabilitating a serpentine beast behind everyone’s back. But it’s a question of who is training who, and those moments are particularly engaging. Just like Lilo and Stitch, there are a few adorable moments as the two bond.
When they take to the air, the aerial aerobatics they undertake are more breathtaking than what Avatar can do. James Cameron can learn from this film.
Photo-realism can only go so far, and the cartoony flavour helps to make this movie particularly enjoyable for the one important message it delivers—it’s possible to make alliances.
And no battle can come out scar-free. This touch of realism is important and this helps make for a solid film. And with the success of the Dragons: Riders of Berk television series showing that Hiccup, Astrid, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Tuffnut and Ruffnut have learned how to do more than tame their dragons, the saga is going to be grandiose. The next series will be titled Dragons: Defenders of Berk, and there they will have to fend against Alvin and the Outcasts. When considering the cliffhanger that the series ended with, the denizens of Berk may well have to get ready for an invasion. Life is not so secluded anymore, and Hiccup may well have to start learning the lessons required to be the next king. While the books have never been a a proper bible to the animated series, the few plot points that are coming to the fore are starting to look familiar.
Both the novels and animated series can be enjoyed as its own separate entities. And when the wait is going to be long for the next part of the saga, second movie included, something must be done to tide fans of this series over. And reading is a good way to pass the time.
5 out of 5