Monster Manual: Dragons

As a fantasy buff, dragons kinda come part and parcel with the territory.  Friday Fiona and I went to catch How to Train Your Dragon (loosely based on a book of the same name, apparently).  I went in without much foreknowledge of the story or the movie, except knowing it was by Dreamworks Animation…

Potential spoilers ahead!

And you know what?  Colour me impressed, Dreamworks.  You surprised me with this film.  It’s actually really great to see Dreamworks Animation seemingly breaking out of its shell (kind of a propos, I guess) and stretching its storytelling legs.  Dragon was delightfully free of big ticket stars, cheap anachronistic laughs and non-stop pop culture references.  Instead we find a pleasant and even somewhat charming story that’s told in a pretty half-decent fashion.  OK, it’s still surrounded many standard Dreamworks Animation productions but maybe this (and the transition-ary Kung Fu Panda) signals a potential birth of something greater.

  • Ok, most important and first things first:  the very cat-like Toothless is the cutest dragon EVAR put onto film.  I’m not even into dragons that much and I wanted to take him home.  Sleek like a stealth fighter and a black leopard all in one.
  • The 3D was, for the most part, unobtrusive and well used in this film.  If anything I think they actually could’ve used it to even greater effect in some of the flying scenes, and that’s a good problem to have (rather than overusing it)
  • And the flying scenes are quite exhilarating, destined to unleash the kiddish glee in you.
  • As I said earlier it was amazingly refreshing not to have some reference every four minutes to pop culture, or a parody of something, or a sly wink, or risqué double entendre, even when they might have gone for the obvious joke.  (Not that there weren’t some calls to pop culture, it was simply nice that they were few and far between)
  • And it was especially refreshing when Hiccup ended up hurt at the end, and didn’t walk away unscathed.  Wow.  For a moment I thought they might actually have him not have made it.
  • The storytelling wasn’t, by any stretch, Miyazaki level of quality but was quite serviceable, and the pacing felt actually pretty good for a 90 min movie.
  • The dragon designs/types were a bit heavy on the caricaturish side but were inventive and the ‘book’ within felt downright RPGish, woo!

All in all I give it a solid Fair rating, fun and quite worth seeing in 3D for a few hours of amusement and glee.

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