Aside from “Kung Fu Panda” and the first two “Shrek” films, DreamWorks Animation hasn’t really produced any good films. They’re often over-stuffed with pop-culture references and just seem sort of…lifeless. (Examples: “Madagascar”, “Bee Movie”, “Monsters vs. Aliens”) Which is why I was somewhat hesitant to see “How to Train Your Dragon”. The movie does differ from DreamWorks’ previous body of work in that it isn’t laced with blatant references to pop culture, but it’s still a generally bland, uninteresting offering.
This is likely due to the fact that every single aspect of the film has been done before, and better. Strained relationship between father and son? Check. Misfit who wants to impress the girl and eventually does? Check. Epic action scenes at the end that although are visually impressive still feel forced and tacked-on? Check. There just wasn’t a real aspect of the film that really wowed me, not even the widely-praised 3-D effects.
The film is set in a village of Vikings quite some time ago. Although its a generally amicable environment, there still is one major local problem: Dragons frequently ravage the village, damaging the village and harming its inhabitants. Masculinity plays a really large role in this village’s culture, and as a result the general mind-set amongst the people concerns killing dragons. Enter Hiccup, a scrawny young teenager who wants to impress his father and his crush, Astrid by slaying a dragon. Yet when he encounters one, they instantly take to him. Hiccup begins to (assuming the title hasn’t informed you) train a dragon to be civilized.
The voice acting is quite good. Gerard Butler is amusing as Hiccup’s masculine father, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are funny as his obnoxious school-mates, and Jay Baruchel as the protagonist is quite good. My real problem with this film is that the plot is generally quite uninspired. The characters are interesting and varied enough, but the scenarios they encounter in this film are far too akin to that of other, better movies. A major problem I had with the musical score: It was over-dramatic, loud, and was literally in every scene of the film. There’s many moments that should have come off as low-key and dramatic, but there was music playing that would have adequately suited one of the film’s eventual battle scenes.
There’s one scene in “How to Train Your Dragon” when the main character and his friend ride a dragon, and as they accelerate past a large body of sea, you (the viewer) feel a rush of pure joy. Its moments like this that not only 3-D was made for, but film-making at large. It’s really quite a shame the rest of the film couldn’t maintain the sense of sheer ecstasy that it displayed so well in that moment. (P.S.: The 3-D isn’t worth it for this one.)