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How to Train Your Dragon [movie]

I had not been following the buzz on this at all, although I knew of its existence because my twin niece and nephew are fond of the series of books by the same title.

The movie apparently doesn't follow the books all that closely. I'm also not the one to tell you about the technical aspects of the animation. However, I was certainly able to forget about it most of the time and get caught up in the story. The plot moves along at a brisk clip, with plenty of the getting stronger, training, and teamwork so beloved by us shounen manga fans. The obnoxious kid remarks and body function jokes were kept at a low enough level that I wasn't turned off, and there's a strong female peer-level character as well as an equal-opportunity obnoxious snot female character. Finally, the climax had me teary eyed - tears literally rolling down my face. YMMV, obviously, since we all know what a soft touch I am.

In a barren, rough-and-tumble Viking village called Berk, young Hiccup (named, as many of the kids are, after something nasty to keep evil at bay) is the oddball out: spacey, scrawny, and more interested in inventing things than in acquiring the martial skills considered necessary to fight off the dragons that frequently raid the place. He's a disappointment to his widower father and unable to impress his feisty age-mate Astrid, a bright, athletic girl who is showing signs of becoming the village's best next-generation dragon-killer.

One night during a dragon attack, Hiccup's ballista-like bola-launching invention apparently takes down a barely visible dragon. Of course, no one believes him. What he finds when he explores the area where he thinks the dragon has gone down eventually changes his life - and his village - forever.

Toothless, the Night Fury dragon that Hiccup captures, releases, befriends, and trains (although the training seems pretty mutual) is the cutest damn thing, and also really awesome in flight. The stills don't really do him justice - check out the video trailers online to see him in motion. Although most of the dragons have a dino vibe, Toothless has a catlike behavior on the ground and moves through the air like a cross between a hawk in flight and a shark in the water.

Astrid is by far the most competent of the several teens training to be dragon killers, and she is also one of the least girly girls I have seen in a recent kids' flick. Meanwhile, Ruffnut is every bit the equal of her obnoxious, scraggy twin brother Tuffnut. I would have liked to see more development of adult female characters, although the village's ruling elder is a woman, and we do see female warriors running around defending the village and going on the dragon nest-raids with Hiccup's warleader father Stoick.

The end sequence, where the kids and their new dragon allies come to the rescue of the doomed raiding party, is one long roller-coaster ride. I started losing it when Stoick, having rescued Hiccup when he nearly drowns trying to free the chained and submerged Toothless, dives down and free the dragon himself, and was teary-eyed until our heroes are both discovered to be alive.

I'd be interested in the take of a person with a disability on this movie. The old dragon-fighting teacher is a pretty typical stereotype, with his hook hand and peg leg, but Toothless is permanently maimed by Hiccup's original attack, and Hiccup ends up losing his lower leg in the climatic battle but is seen getting around with an innovative prosthesis at the end.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
The disability aspect was surprising and gratifying to me. Films don't usually have Three prominent disabled characters, unless they're meant to be "inspiring."
Apr. 5th, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)

I was thinking it might be so - it's all done very matter-of-factly, and no one dwells on it or implies that Hiccup is anything less because of his loss.

Apr. 4th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)
I just saw this movie today and was delighted with it on all fronts. The animation was well-done and the female teens were wonderfully strong and not at all typical fainting violets. And Toothless was absolute love.
Apr. 5th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)

It was certainly a lot more fun than I expected. The Mr. had to talk me into it, originally.

Apr. 5th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Heh, and here I would have thought with your love for kidlit that you'd have been the one more interested! What caught his eye about this particular movie?
Apr. 6th, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)

You know, I don't really know why he decided he wanted to see it! But I had somehow missed the fact that the Young Lady saw it with a group of friends last week, so maybe she said something about it to him. Or maybe it was someone at work.

My issues were first, that I was convinced it was going to be full of obnoxious juvenile smartasshood, which seems to pass for kid-friendly from a lot of the studios these days (I didn't know that this was by the Lilo & Stitch folks) , and second, I really wanted to do something outside. But first we went downtown (our local downtown), and there's a new game/CD exchange shop, so he got a new (used) game, which then of course had to be played for a couple of hours. And then it was too late to do anything like go down to the Cherry Blossoms or up to Brookside Gardens. I wasn't in much of a mood to sit inside in a movie theater at all!

So actually, that says more good things about the movie, because I really was not in any mood to like it.

(Man, LJ is really crawling for me. For you too?)

Apr. 6th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
Oooh, is it an indy game/CD place? I'll need to check it out the next time I'm in your neighborhood. (Speaking of games, did your crew enjoy Okami?)

I hadn't really paid any attention to this movie so I don't know if any of the reviews/promo stuff mentioned that it was Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois collaborating again, but that's a definite selling point for me now! (So I presume you've seen and liked Lilo and Stitch? As I was saying back in that old thread about Gojyo and other abused-kid characters, it's a huge favorite of mine -- I get a little weepy and a whole lot homesick watching that one.)

Speaking of outside stuff, did you get a chance to see if your game schedule will work around Sakura Matsuri this weekend or not? And speaking of animation and movies, do you and your folks have any interest in The Secret of Kells? I've been meaning to head downtown to catch it (it's playing at the little arthouse near Metro Center), and I'd gladly delay that trip if y'all wanted to come along.

(Yep, LJ's been seeming sporadically glacial since last night for me...)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 5th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
The sociology that I found interesting was when the trainees seemed to think that getting horrific battle scars was the height of cool.

Well, even outside of a warrior society, isn't it fairly common for kids, especially ones young enough to have not hit the really intense adolescent body-image/appearance worries stage, to think that scars and injuries are kind of cool in a really gross way?
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 5th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)

I think it was a combination of adolescent daredevil behavior and the idea that risking yourself to kill dragons was what the most admired adults in the village did. I don't think that most of them really expected to get anything more than dashing-looking scars, any more than high school football players expect to get paralyzed by neck injuries.

And no, your other cousins and class mates didn't deliberately stick limbs in harm's way for the sake of harm - but I bet they continued to work at adult-type farm responsibilities, because being trusted to be competent to do things that are hard feels good to most of us.

Teens are often very stupid about risks, though. The teen-aged boys on our block here will stand out in the street to talk even though there are perfectly good sidewalks, not to mention their own front walks and lawns. It's more cool to make the drivers have to slow to a crawl and maneuver around you. Let's forget about the fact that cars will bucket along the street here at 30 mph despite the narrowness and the speed bumps ... .

Apr. 5th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, just from the scenario described it sounds like there's an element of rite-of-passage about it? Fighting dragons is cool and grown-up and having a cool-looking scar is a visible sign that you're not a kid any more, either; and with that typical adolescent sense of immortality, they're dreaming of fighting and getting cool scars without ever really believing that they could be more seriously maimed, crippled, or even killed? It sounds like the fighting and recognition of maturity is the real goal here and the scars are just a bonus.

I grew up around a bunch of surfers and skateboarders and they tended to get banged up fairly frequently -- they certainly weren't deliberately trying to injure themselves, but reef rash and encounters with stinging/spiny creatures or asphalt scrapes and bruises just were inevitable parts of their hobbies. They could have avoided those injuries all together if they'd favored more sedentary pursuits, and the occasional news stories of drownings, shark attacks, etc. all served as reminders that these fun activities carried rare but potentially more serious or even fatal risks, but that never really seemed to discourage any of the kids who had a serious passion for their hobbies.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 6th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC)
Eh, whether or not the writers intended that sort of interpretation, that still doesn't make your reading any less worthy of a point to raise for discussion! :)
Apr. 5th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
Ooooh...looks like the co-directors and writers are the same team who did Lilo and Stitch, and were involved with Mulan too, so no wonder this has a lot of heart and unconventional/actiony girl characters. I may need to go check this one out...

Um, but how distressing would you say the dragon-slaying-and-maiming might be to someone who's extremely fond of lizards?
Apr. 5th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)

It's definitely done on a young-kid-friendly basis. The WaPo "Family Filmgoer" rated it OK for age 8 and up. Although the dragon-killing-training involves captive dragons that are theoretically there to be killed, it never actually happens. Stoick at one point says angrily that the dragons have killed hundreds of Vikings, and Hiccup retorts equally angrily that he Vikings have killed thousands of dragons. However, I don't recall a vivid depiction of any deaths in either direction.

You will absolutely love the lead dragon (being somewhat cryptic here because I'm not sure whether you skipped the spoilers).

Apr. 5th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Gotcha, sounds good -- I think I generally have a much much higher tolerance for movie violence than you, but lizards and dogs have a way of sidestepping the part of my brain that can sit back and enjoy humans wallowing in fake blood. (And no worries about spoilers, reading them is what got me intrigued by this in the first place.)

(If you've seen that Hagio Moto we were talking about earlier, I think you can see why panel after panel had me wanting to reach through the fourth wall and scream at Rika "DON'T LISTEN TO HER! YOU'RE NOT UGLY! YOU'RE ADORABLE! AWWW LOOKIT THE LITTLE SPIKES AND THE SWEET SCALY NOSE!")
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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