In commemoration for the upcoming third and final installment of this franchise, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD (2019), I’m take a trip down memory lane to experience these movies one more time. In addition, for my review of the sequel, click the following link: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014).
Cast: Jay Baruchel (GOON , FANBOYS , and the upcoming THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS ), Gerard Butler (HUNTER KILLER , GEOSTORM , OLYMPUS  and LONDON HAS FALLEN , and upcoming films ANGEL HAS FALLEN  and NAYA LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN DOLPHIN ), America Ferrera (THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS ), Kristen Wiig (MOTHER! , SAUSAGE PARTY , THE MARTIAN , and upcoming films WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE?  and WONDER WOMAN 1984 ), and Craig Ferguson (A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS )
Directors/Co-Writers: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (LILO & STITCH )
Co-Writer: William Davies (JOHNNY ENGLISH , 2 , and 3 )
Composer: John Powell (STAR WARS: SOLO , FERDINAND , JASON BOURNE , and X-MEN: LAST STAND )
Cinematographer: Gil Zimmerman (PUSS IN BOOTS )
Editors: Maryann Brandon (VENOM , PASSENGERS , STAR WARS: AWAKENS , MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III , and the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE IX ) and Darren T. Holmes (THE CROODS , IRON GIANT , and the upcoming WISH DRAGON )
This is my honest opinion of: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
Set on the fictional island of Berk. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a smaller and weaker viking than his brethren, and the one thing that matters most to everyone is dragon slaying. One night when a few dragons attack, Hiccup catches sight of the most elusive and rarest of dragons, a Night Fury. He attempts to shoot it down with one of his inventions and succeeds in injuring, though no one sees the act and dismisses it as a story to make himself look better. Hiccup journeys out to where the Night Fury landed and finds that he can’t kill it, starting a complex, but growing friendship. Simultaneously, Hiccup’s father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), the chieftain of the vikings of Berk, has long hated dragons and relishes in killing them, and has set his sights on looking for the dragon nest where they all must come from and exterminate every last one of them.
Man, I forgot how good this film is.
Where do I even start? Well, actually, I think I’m going to change it up and start with the negatives, of which there aren’t many. Mostly nitpicks, but they’re somewhat worth addressing, or if nothing else, good material to laugh at. So if no one knows anything about Night Furys, how do they know it exists? It is simply that the vikings keep getting hit by something too fast to see that the only explanation is another dragon? I mean, I feel like there’s better ways to build this thing up without saying phrases like, “No one’s ever seen one.” I mean, it’s not false, but it’s just… worded weird, I guess.
And there are certain times when Hiccup is… too much the nerd. That scene where he’s training with the other recruits while being attacked by a dragon… is that really the best time to be asking questions about Night Furys? I mean, this dragon isn’t exactly trained to singe your clothes and bite softly. No, that thing’s trying to kill everyone. This is not a good time to be fishing for information about a dragon that no one knows anything about and, for all intents and purposes, that the only person who’s broken any ground on that front is the very person asking about it. I know it’s just one scene, but… man, what a clumsy scene.
But enough about that, this movie’s awesome! Let’s talk about the awesome stuff!
Despite his small and frail stature, I do like that Hiccup still has that viking gumption to kill dragons. He’s just not been given the opportunity. But even once he finds Toothless and has the opportunity to kill him, he refuses, seeing that even dragons can be vulnerable and scared. His arc isn’t learning how to be physically stronger, but rather learning compassion.
In fact, that’s one of the best aspects of these movies. It takes actors who have been typecast in certain roles that haven’t always worked in their favor, and yet making it work here. Of course Baruchel is always the scrawny nerd, but what differs here from his other roles is Hiccup’s character. He stammers, sure, and probably beats around the bush way too much instead of just getting to the point of what he wants to say, but he’s not timid enough that he has to debate with himself whether or not he wants to do something. If he wants to find out where he shot down the Night Fury, he’s going to do it regardless of whether or not he’s told not to. He knows what kind of trouble he’d get into, but he doesn’t really care. When have you ever seen Baruchel play a character like that? All of his characters stammer and debate with themselves. Hiccup doesn’t, at least not with the lesser morally ambiguous stuff. And even then, when he finds the nest of dragons that Stoick is looking for, he knows that telling him about it would result in the deaths of so many dragons that have proven to be grossly misunderstood. As much as he doesn’t want to lie to his father, he has that conviction to protect these innocent animals.
Even Stoick isn’t quite the bad guy of the movie. Sure, he’s pretty blood-thirsty for dragons and killing them, but you have to take into consideration that these Berkians have been fighting dragons for generations. Exactly how long did it take us Americans to accept minorities as equals? Actually, in certain pockets of the country, we shamefully haven’t, but for the most part, it took a long time to get us to the more tolerable place we’re at now. Generations, kids. I might question why only one person, in all their years of existing, has ever tried to understand the dragons (don’t worry, Daniel, the sequel is just around the corner), but that’s not the focus now. It makes sense that Stoick is the way he is. Fighting dragons is all he knows. Not to mention, he’s the chief of his viking clan, and the only thing he truly wants to do is protect his people. You understand his position as a leader. Even as a father, you understand him. In parallel to his desires to hunt dragons, he really wishes that Hiccup would follow in those footsteps. However, he’s not blinded by the fact that he’s just not physically strong. He can’t lift weapons, making him fairly useless in a fight. Sure, Hiccup is an inventor, but even that proves to be a hit and miss. Even when Hiccup proves his abilities in training, he doesn’t understand that he had a specific method to handling dragons and assumes that he was doing it in the conventional way of actually slaying them. This gets him excited. He’s finally going to see his son be the viking that he’s always wanted to see, making it all the more heartbreaking when he discovers the truth.
Say it with me, ladies. “Toothless is so cute!” Yeah, he really it. When he’s passive and content, his eyes are all round and expressive. It’s also really fun to see how he interacts with Hiccup and how unsure they are of each other at first. They both know they don’t mean each other any harm, but that doesn’t mean that Toothless has forgotten that Hiccup is responsible for grounding him in the first place. So when Hiccup is invading his personal space, his eyes get oval-shaped like an actual reptile, perfectly turning into a traditionally scary dragon. Still, when they start warming up to each other, the way they relate is pretty fun. Hiccup invents a flap to counter Toothless’ busted tail to help him fly, they both show each other their ability to draw, which just goes to show how smart Toothless is. I mean, seriously, he can draw. I mean, nothing Georgia O’Keeffe, but art is interpretation of life, surroundings, ideas, the fact that Toothless has some measure of understanding of that is quite remarkable. I shouldn’t be so amazed, as this is a fantasy animated movie, but even the other dragons don’t exhibit that much understanding of life. They seem like normal animals with personalities and ticks, but not on the level of creating art. To make matters even better, most of their scenes don’t have much talking. They’re quiet moments and the characters are just expressing. They’re sweet and tender moments and I absolutely love that.
The animation, in general, is just spectacular. It’s not too insane like a Pixar film, but when this movie sets out to showcase something great, they surpass with flying colors. Almost literally, that’s what this movie does so well. The flying scenes so visceral that even on my smaller TV, I really felt like I was flying with Hiccup and Toothless. My stomach was rising, I was squinting as if wind was actually blowing in my face at a high velocity, it was awesome. Yeah, I know, I was probably getting WAY too into the movie, but I couldn’t help it. The characters up to this point were so well-written, Toothless was so funny and cool, how could I not get into it as much as I did?
Overall, I really like this movie. Yeah, there’s a couple things about that I didn’t agree with, but the rest of the film is so humorous, the drama so engaging, the animation is absolutely beautiful, and the characters are distinguished, relatable, and fun. This is just a great film for both kids and adults to enjoy. As a recommendation, I highly recommend anyone and everyone to check this out.
My honest rating for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: a strong 4/5