A quick look to the board to check the progress of both Pixar and Dreamworks Animation can tell a lot about the unevenness of the rivalry at times. Pixar makes a film about a cooking rat, while Dreamworks does a film about a rat in a toilet. Pixar makes a film about toys coming to life, Dreamworks makes a billion dollars off a green ogre in a swamp. While I’ve loved practically everything PIxar puts out and almost always side with them in the fight. (Up and Finding Nemo are two of my favorite films of all time.) Dreamworks has made a valiant effort more than once with Shrek 1 and 2 and Kung Fu Panda. Now as Pixar enters a third lap with Toy Story 3 and is planning a second turn at the Cars franchise, Dreamworks Animation is trying something new with the movie adaptation of the story “How to Train Your Dragon”, and the result is nothing short of amazing. The film follows a village of vikings in a constant war with a number of species of fire-breathing dragons. Over the years the elder Vikings pass on the tradition of slaying the dragons. That is until the lead Viking’s son, Hiccup who has no interest in being like his father, comes across a legendary dragon he took down with one of his inventions. After he realizes he cannot kill the dragon, he realizes there’s the hidden aspect of training and riding dragons.
While some of Dreamworks’ recent projects in the animation/character design department have been a little hit or miss (the humans looked sorta wonky in Monsters vs. Aliens, everything in Madagascar is animated in a weird way), How to Train Your Dragon 3D finds a comfort zone and sticks with it. There are some gorgeous shots of different lighting situations that bring out the film’s beauty that go along with the fire and aerial they get that coincide with the movie’s greatest strength. If there’s one particular thing HTTYD dows perfectly, it’s the immersion and true feeling of flight. From the first training flight sequences to the epic climax, the film gives you a true sense of wonder every time Hiccup and Toothless take to the skies. Dreamworks Animation utilizes every animation capability known to man to make an awe-inspiring experience. Especially when the camera is taken behind into a third person perspective that evokes a true sense of wonder I doubt will be topped this year. It even brought me as an audience member to my nerve’s end as Hiccup began to fall, and thus you as well, to the ground to an early demise. These scenes rival the shots of the true awesomeness of flight, and capture the full range of wonder there is to be had.
This combines in a great way to provide an awesome 3D experience that is in some ways better than Avatar. Whereas Avatar really just pushed that bar so that we could look at 3D providing that extra layer of dimension, HTTYD pushes it to the limit and wholely captivates you. The film also hits a great stride when it comes to the superb voice cast. Unlike other Dreamworks Animation films that incorporate a large list of A-listers when it doesn’t particularly help the movie at all, this one brings to the table relative newcomers like Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and TJ Miller who are all in the right dynamic. Not only are the characters of a solid build but in their off-screen work but in on-screen they’re written in a great way that gives them all a distinct style. It’s also worth mentioning the score of the film is a soon-to-be favorite of mine, it’s truly fantastic.
As I stated earlier, this film really takes a stab at Pixar with not just it’s overall grand quality but the strength of its story and where they take it. There’s a unique balance of both simple nature and extended concept that any college student could adapt a meaning or moral plague to that can’t be neglected. You can dig deeper and deeper, but there’s a core meaning here you can leave the theater with that will stick in your mind. That being said, a few of the story elements can feel somewhat cliche, and while that’s not a bad thing, it definitely just feels a bit off-kilter and somewhat rushed towards the final act. An extra 30 minutes could have helped the film a little. These are very very very minor complaints, without a doubt this is a film that deserves to be seen and earns your $10 + of your hard earned money for a ticket, regardless of age, and especially in 3D. How to Tran Your Dragon is a film like no other, it brings a sense of childlike wonder like no other, and in short, soars.
5 out of 5