So admittingly I came to the dragon party a little late. Upon hearing of the release of the sequel, I figured I better watch the first one (lest we end up in a Matrix like situation again...). Having heard all the glowing reviews, I wondered if I was being set up. Nothing will hurt a movie more than unfulfilled expectations. I am happy to report that HTTYD doesn't suffer from over hype, it was truly moving and affecting, as any good PG movie should be.
The plot is not that unusual- out of place kid doesn't know where he belongs and the movie is the story of how he finds himself and acceptance. To those around him, and especially his dad, he can do no right. Every other Viking is strong, war ready, and out for dragon blood. Our misfit hero Hiccup (even the name tells you he's out of place) is more studious, pretty un-athletic, and a bit of a rebel. He is a Viking and does want to kill dragons; except he isn't going to use a sword. He's built himself a contraption, something that will finally prove to his dad the King and the rest of the Berk village that Hiccup isn't a loser.
Per formula in these coming of age stories, the first go round is a bit disastrous, and Hiccup is no exception. His contraption not only fails to get a dragon, wanton destruction ensues which only enrages his father. Our hero is nothing if not persistent, and wants to prove his contraption wasn't a complete and utter failure. He follows the trajectory of the damage and finds the uber menacing, very rare, Night Fury dragon. To look at Toothless is to see Dark Night costuming meets Dragons (which is still pretty bat like come to think of it). Programmed to do what Vikings and Dragons do, they are about to engage in battle, however Hiccup can't kill Toothless who turns out to be a surprisingly unfurious dragon who lets Hiccup go. This secret encounter weighs on him, what kind of Viking can' kill a dragon? What is wrong with Hiccup?
While he ponders, Hiccup does what he knows and designs a tail flap for Toothless. In the process the two outcasts bond- Toothless a dragon who can't fly anymore and Hiccup the Viking who isn't out for dragon blood. The bond grows stronger when Hiccup does some pretty advanced engineering and starts riding Toothless, which helps the dragon guide and steer. Hiccup discovered that what the Vikings had thought about dragons was false- they weren't killing machines, they were gentle creatures. If only all war lords would take the time to see the world through their enemies' eyes, perhaps there would be less violence. We have more in common than differences, if only we took the time to try and get along. It isn't the easiest way, but wouldn't the world be better off if more of us followed in Hiccup's footsteps?
Two misfits who find each other doesn't make for sweeping revolution, but Hiccup does become something of a dragon whisperer overnight. This confounds his peers, who don't get the transformation. When the time of the final battle royal comes, Hiccup can't kill the dragon, and there is a fall out. At this juncture, I may have missed some of the plot details, because I have since watched the sequel, but there is a melee in the village. Turns out Hiccup can be convincing when asked, and persuades his dad and the village that dragons aren't forces of evil. Dragons and Vikings learn to live in harmony, by which dragons are now treated like domesticated pets. The cost was an injury to Hiccup during the melee in which he lost his leg; some may say that only strengthens his bond with Toothless. They are now both damaged goods. I however am not one of those people. For a PG movie, I felt that part was a little excessive, but compared to what happens in the sequel this was nothing.
A coming of age story that proves that caring and understanding can overcome war, and that two enemies can find a way to get along. The personal journey of the hero was well executed, it was through some trials and tribulations that Hiccup found out who he was. And it was interesting enough for us to stick around and find out where his journey takes him next.
Note that I haven't seen 'How to Train Your Dragon 2', my invite somehow got lost in the mail when Lisa went to see that one ;), and the only reason I own this particular movie is because I have a 3D TV and this like the only 3D Blu-Ray I own, on deep discount no less because I'm cheap like that, so I finally decided to watch it after Lisa's glowing review of this film. As a side note, it turns out I hate wearing 3D glasses at home as much as I hate wearing them in the theater and just watched the regular old DVD version included in the package about five minutes in.
This film is very good and completely deserving of all of her praise. The animation is flawless, the score is amongst the best I've ever heard and while I don't think 'How to Train Your Dragon' has the emotional punch of the Pixar's best, it is just as majestic in its presentation, if not more so. Kind of wish everybody in Berk wasn't so mean to Hiccup all the time, but what can you do.
One small quibble though, and this is a bit a spoiler but in the end Stoick, Hiccups father, was distraught because he thought Hiccup had died in defeating the grand dragon at the end, and he was understandably upset. But should he have been? Maybe for a little a while, but isn't it the goal of every Viking to die a glorious death. I mean Hiccup would've have just made the ultimate Viking sacrifice. Seriously, for a Viking death it doesn't get any better than that. Plus he'd already be on fire and stuff and wouldn't have to floated out to sea or anything. I'd be the proudest Viking dad EVER! Just saying.
Anyway, great movie.