Saturday, April 03, 2010

How to make a blog post about "How to Train Your Dragon"

As a creator of my own dragons, I found the urge to go see Dreamworks' latest computer animated film "How to Train Your Dragon" irresistible. So yesterday, I did just that The first sign of a good movie for me, is its lasting power after it is over. The memories of the most recent movie I've seen in the theaters, (Sherlock Holmes) faded quickly after the end credits began to roll. It's not that it was a bad movie, it just didn't stick with me. It certainly wasn't an "owner", worthy of inclusion to my personal movie collection. But here I am a day after viewing it, and I'm still thinking about "How to Train Your Dragon"
I suppose part of that has to do with its subject matter. I love animation and I've been drawing a lot of dragons lately, it's starting to become something I'm known for, so I guess I have a natural inclination to like an animated movie about dragons. Beyond that though, it's quite simply, a very entertaining movie.
It's not perfect, however. There are a few things that bothered me. For example, the adult viking characters are primarily male, although there are a few females in some background shots, (unless female vikings have beards too, which is possible). Not a big deal, really, but all the adults seem to speak with semi-Scottish accents. The kids however, including the main character speak with modern, American accents. This is probably intended to make the child characters more relatable to American kid audiences, but it indicates a larger problem I have with a most animated fare these days; that is the trend to have the latest popular actors and actresses voicing the characters. Who cares if a certain actor voices a character if the voice is not interesting? Some times it works, like in Disney's The Jungle Book. Phil Harris was perfect as Baloo the bear, Louis Prima was a great King Louis and George Sanders made a brilliant Shere Khan. But consider the Warner Brothers cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat and others were voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc. Imagine today's stars voicing these iconic characters. Owen Wilson as Tweety Bird, Cameron Diaz as Granny. They may be capable actors in their own right, but being a voice actor for animation is an art form in itself, and requires a very specific talent. Let the Hollywood types guest star occasionally, but leave the heavy lifting to the voice acting professionals.

Another criticism I have is the use of 3-D, which has become the trend in movies lately. In "How to Train Your Dragon" the 3-D was used with great success in creating depth and scale. However, quite recently, movie theaters have been charging extra for movies shown in 3-D. Although the 3-D experience was spectacular, I'm not sure why I have to pay extra for what is essentially a gimmick. True, I could have saved some money and seen it in 2-D, the theater offered that option as well, but it was intended by the filmmakers to be seen in 3-D, which is not my fault and I shouldn't have to foot the bill for it.

Criticism aside, there was much of "How to Train Your Dragon" that I really liked. The movie sidestepped a lot of the more irritating trends I've noticed in recent animated offerings. There were no burp and fart jokes, no characters breaking into song and dance numbers, no pop culture references. Just a great story, great characters and great animation.

Finally, I have to mention the dragons. These dragons were beautifully designed and expertly animated. I can't wait to get "The Art of How to Train Your Dragon" to see the concept art and character designs from great artists like Ben Balistreri and Nico Marlet, both of which I am a huge fan.

The Dragons in the movie are depicted not as silly or one-dimensional. Rather, they are portrayed very much like the great beasts that exist in our own real world; noble and powerful beings to be appreciated and respected.
That's my movie review.
I'm Kenny "One-of-the-seven-people-in-the-world-that-has-yet-to-see-Avatar" Durkin,
and I'll see you at the movies!

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