Given how gimmicky Dreamworks’ “Monsters vs. Aliens” in 3D ended up being, viewers are rightfully reluctant to give “How to Train Your Dragon” a try in the same medium. However, Dreamworks didn’t focus on just the technology this time; they actually focused on the storyline and came up with something fresh. It helps that the movie was based on an already popular series of children’s books.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, “She’s Out of My League”) is the unlikely hero in this tale of a Viking village plagued by dragons. He is clumsy and talentless compared to his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler, “The Bounty Hunter”), who is the chief of the village. He has hero issues, daddy issues, girl issues and issues about possessing an actual conscience.
It may sound a bit formulaic, but the writing is quite good. Instead of many dragons of only the fire-breathing variety, the writer created several types of dragons that do different things. There are deadly Nadders, two-headed Zipplebacks, Gronkles and the dreaded Night Fury.
The visual interpretation of these creatures is also creative, although the dragon that becomes known as “Toothless” ends up looking quite a bit like the Disney character Stitch. However, there is a very distinctive style in the art that makes the Vikings and the dragons look amazingly bulky and solid. They are big, beefy and obviously worthy opponents. There are also moments in clouds or fog that feel downright ethereal.
This is a movie that needs to be seen in 3D. It possesses a ton of beautifully orchestrated flying scenes that will leave audiences breathless. These are not devices meant to impress people with technology; instead they are sequences that fit seamlessly into the plot. Dreamworks can be proud of the fact that they finally made a 3D movie worth watching.
“How to Train Your Dragon” engages the hearts and minds of moviegoers, unlike the other aforementioned Dreamworks’ movie. Viewers will care about what happens to these characters right up until the very last tense moment, and they will continue to care even after the movie is over. There is certainly room for a sequel.