How to Train Your Dragon - ****
Starring: (Voices) Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill
Review: Wow. This movie was awesome, I was totally blown away. Now that I am done with my one-liner movie review superlative, I will tell you why I thought the movie was so good.
First of all, the quality of the animation and the 3-D is about some of the best I have ever seen. The character designs and the animation were just awesome. Not only has Pixar had a monopoly on quality animated movies/storylines but they have monopolized the most quality animation around as well. This movie may have tipped the scales a little bit away from Pixar now, which I did not think would ever happen.
The movie centers around Hiccup who is a Viking in the village Burke. Hiccup is an apprentice at the blacksmith's shop where he helps forge weapons the other vikings use to kill dragons. Hiccup is much too weak and clumsy to kill dragons like vikings are supposed to do. This disappoints Hiccup's father greatly (who is the village chieftain and supreme dragon killer). It is Hiccup's mission to win the respect of his father and become a village celebrity by bringing down the biggest, baddest, scariest dragon nobody has ever even seen, the Night Fury.
One night, while under attack from the dragons, Hiccup sneaks away and shoots down a Night Fury with a net. He emplores to his father and the village he shot down this dragon but nobody believes him. The next day he sneaks off to where he saw the dragon land and finds it captured and wounded. This is Hiccup's chance, the Night Fury that nobody has seen is sitting there ready to be killed by Hiccup. Only Hiccup can't do it so he cuts the Night Fury free.
Hiccup later returns to find the dragon still there as it is injured and can't fly away. Hiccup decides to feed the dragon and eventually becomes friends with it. Hiccup devises a way to repair the dragons injured tail and learns how to fly.
This is where the movie really starts to take off. Through his learning how to fly Hiccup and the dragon (who Hiccup named Toothless) become great friends. The flying scenes during these sequences are nothing short of amazing, especially in 3-D. You have seen on the commercials some critic praising these scenes as "giving Avatar a run for it's money." I dismissed this as just usual critical prose, but after seeing these scenes I realized it wasn't. These scenes are better than the flying scenes from Avatar.
The joy that you get from watching these scenes goes hand in hand with the joy the characters are experiencing. This is what the movie does best, it is able to capture the joy the characters are feeling and display it perfectly to the audience.
The heart and soul of this movie lies in the character Hiccup. Desperately seeking the approval of his father and wanting to fit in in his village, Hiccup will do whatever it takes. However, he meets a creature that changes his life and changes everything he thought he knew about dragons. He uses this to attempt to change his villages thoughts on dragons so that he can keep his pet and his new best friend. This is of course a very difficult task as vikings no nothing more of dragons than that they take their food.
Through his ability to become friends with and understand Toothless and the dragons, Hiccup is able to change his village's understanding as well and in effect "change the world." In the process he is able to win the love of Astrid (which is actually and effectively done love story in the context of the movie), and become somewhat of a celebrity along with winning the respect of his father. The supporting characters all get pretty well developed as characters and are not just cardboard pieces used to propel the story. Hiccup's dad constantly struggles with how to deal with his son who is different, Astrid struggles with losing to Hiccup even though she is seemingly more talented in every way (and her developing feelings for Hiccup), and Grogger is the wise sage around to provide advice and help the main characters, but which is done in a relevant way.
All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable movie and I would say it's definitely worth your time.