As an SU student, I think it would suffice to say that I don’t get out much. That could have been why I was initially skeptical when my sister recommended to me the PG-rated “How to Train Your Dragon.” I should have never doubted her. As a reviewer, I could simply join the ranks of countless other movie critiques across the nation and compare HTTYD to “Avatar” or nitpick its uninspired plot, but I am of the impression that would be a bore to you and me both. Instead, I’ll be approaching this movie from what I am – a 90s-kid college student. So that we’re on the same page, allow me to lay down some context. The young, unlikely hero Hiccup lives on the Viking island of Berk. The village’s life is dominated dragon warfare. However, after accidentally capturing his own dragon, Hiccup rescinds from old traditions and attempts to convince his tribe that everything they know about dragons is wrong.
The most striking aspect of this movie was the dragons. The movie introduces several “species” of dragon, but the star of the show is Hiccup’s Night Fury, affectionately named Toothless. Where to start? For starters, I am an Animal Behavior student and found Hiccup’s willingness to watch and record behavior before making inferences pretty incredible. In addition, I am a herpetologist, which is to say that I study amphibians and reptiles. The Night Fury species had an interesting body design that was fun to look at, but the most interesting anatomical bit were the flaps on the sides of its head (reminding me of the axolotls, a type of salamander). The suspension of disbelief was so subtle in this movie, I often found myself wondering how the behaviors of the several species would be different in the presence or absence of this or that (common thoughts for my scientific discipline, but only for real things!).
If one were to suppose dragons could fly, one could also believe that their flight would allow for insanely cool 3D flying sequences. I’m not a huge fan of effects-films, but HTTYD threw in just enough of the computer magic to maintain an immersive and exciting story. The Real D 3D technology being pushed into so many theaters was subtle enough to not be gimmick-y (an event I have been awaiting for so very long). I could be biased, what with my ocular handicap, but the 3D glasses were comfortable enough to wear that I almost forgot I was wearing them as the credits rolled. To complement this great animation the characters, though characature-ish, are on screen for long enough to maintain established and believable personalities. The soundtrack is pretty good, considering we aren’t talking about a musical. Memorable songs include “Forbidden Friendship” and “Sticks & Stones,” a song by Icelandic lead singer of Sigur Rós, Jónsi.
Halfway through production of HTTYD, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (the co-directors and writers of Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch”) took over as co-directors. I couldn’t imagine the movie with any other direction. If you grew up when I did, you saw and loved “Lilo & Stitch,” and for many of the same reasons, you would love HTTYD. The characters Lilo and Toothless are almost totally replaceable – even their facial structure and expressions are similar. Although DreamWorks Animation has typically been regarded as releasing films that just don’t match the Pixar standard, HTTYD makes a fierce game-breaker. It really is that good.