*As always… Spoiler Free*
I work closely with Paramount and Dreamworks and I have the privilege of usually being exposed to their titles very early on in the development process. How to Train Your Dragon was no exception. Last October, my partner in crime Harry, and I, were invited along to BAFTA headquarters for a preview of the film. From the moment the footage started we knew we were in for something special. Large parts of it hadn’t even been animated yet, but we both walked out with a mixed party bag of emotions. We were exhilarated and frustrated. What we had seen was simply incredible and the frustration was simply the fact that we enjoyed the taster so much that we wanted to watch the entire movie there and then!
How To Train Your Dragon is hot off the press from the studio that brought us the awesome Shrek and one of my personal favourites, Kung Fu Panda. Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, this is an animated comedy/adventure with something for everyone. The story centers around the Viking teenager Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, who lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. Initiation is coming, and this is his one chance to prove his worthiness to his tribe and father. However, when he encounters, and befriends, an injured dragon, his world is turned upside down.
I always had my suspicions that this would be a winning film and I can honestly say it’s well worth a watch. Unlike the somewhat average Monsters vs. Aliens last year, this is a colossal return to form for Dreamworks. With this film, you really become aware of each and every element that is used to draw you into the Norse landscape, cultural traditions and heritage. The music throughout is emphatic and the scenes in which Hiccup and Toothless the dragon soar and descend at great speeds is a pulsating and exhilarating visual treat, which is only further enhanced by the 3D. The story line, whilst it is simple and the script isn’t perhaps brimming with as many quotable lines like Shrek or Kung Fu Panda, it is well paced and apart from a small section in the middle that dragged slightly, there is a constant bombardment of twists and turns, both in the plot and in the aerial acrobatics of the dragons. There is of course the obligatory sad moment in the film and I have to admire the film-makers for sticking to their convictions with regard to the fate of our hero. I genuinely didn’t see it coming! Thankfully it won’t make you sob in the same way that Up did for countless people around the world, but what it will make you do is… smile. I left the screening with a facial gesture a mile wide.
The beauty of the film derives from the film-makers staying faithful to the original source material written by Cressida Cowell (this film has been in development for over 6 years) and whilst I was watching, I found that I was considering, quite heavily, which dragon I would invest in if Tommy would let me have a pet in the flat. Hey! It could happen… Back to the review… Each dragon has its own personality and you can’t help but warm to each and every one of them, as the Vikings’ perceptions of these wild, flying reptiles is slowly changed throughout the course of the movie. The “Pay off dragon”, which I shan’t go into too much detail, is epic. The final scene is so immense you’ll probably need to make sure you take a spare change of shorts with you. I didn’t and was left with a cold, degrading tube journey back to the safety of Camden. Anyway… The voice talents are perfectly cast in the movie, with the standout characters being voiced by Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), who will soon appear in She’s Out of my League (which I have seen and is hilarious) and Gerard Butler (Stoick), who has such a warming Scottish accent I can’t get mad with him for the smelly rom-coms that he’s been knocking out recently. I was also over the moon when I heard everyone’s favourite ladies man Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing Fishlegs. He has some of the best lines and his voice is perfectly suited for his rather rotund character.
But wait! One might be forgiven for saying, “Surely your opinions are biased Rob you filthy pirate hooker! You sort of work for Paramount!” However, to that I would say “No. How did you get this number?” Having worked on several titles over the past few years at Feref you soon know what titles are good and which ones are bad. Whilst I am actively encouraged to up-sell films like Dance Flick and G.I Joe, this is MY blog and on here honesty is the only policy. Now, let’s all just get along and play naked twister.
Dreamworks aren’t Pixar, we all know that, but based on this fantastic new addition to the Dreamworks family, How to Train Your Dragon will certainly tick many of the boxes that a Toy Story or a Finding Nemo of this world would. If you get the chance definitely go and see it. If your partner, child, parent, pet goat doesn’t want to, give me a shout and I’ll come with you instead. Oh and to fully understand why I enjoyed the film so much, make sure you watch in full 3D awesomeness! Arguably my experience was enhanced by the face-painting, Viking photo-shoot, food, drink and the infectious laughter of the children during the film, just trust me when I say that, you could go on your own and sit in an empty cinema and you’d still leave with your heart racing and a desire to hop on the back of a Night Fury and head down to Waitrose.
Right, that’s your lot…
How to Train Your Dragon is at cinemas everywhere March 31 – View the trailer here
Thanks for reading.