Out of all the movies I saw during my spring break ten years ago, there’s nothing I had the most fun seeing in theaters than How to Train Your Dragon. A lot of films are turning a decade old, and this would be the right time to do a review of one of my favorites of 2010 and celebrate a top tier DreamWorks Animation film that everybody should’ve seen by now with the beginning of a fantastic trilogy.
What’s the Story: Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a Norse teenager from the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. His progressive views and weird sense of humor make him a misfit, despite the fact that his father (voiced by Gerard Butler) is chief of the clan. Tossed into dragon-fighting school, he endeavors to prove himself as a true Viking, but when he befriends an injured dragon he names Toothless, he has the chance to plot a new course for his people’s future.
Before this came out, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I saw the trailers. Surprising to say, they didn’t look great, as this looked like a more friendly version of Dragonheart. This was at a point where I was seeing almost every movie from the studio, but we haven’t had a truly amazing movie for a short while. This is based on the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell, and just the premise of it sounded like it was going to take itself seriously with a title like this. Boy, was I wrong in its 98 minutes since this is personally one of my favorite animated movies of the last decade.
It follows the typical boy and his dog storyline that was done to perfection when E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, one of my absolute favorites, came out in 1982. We’ve seen it before. But we are now seeing a boy and a dragon. Out of everybody in the village, Hiccup is seen as the black sheep who doesn’t want to be a Viking since he’s not cut out for killing dragons. He’s the first person to discover what a Night Fury looks like. Going out to the forest to kill this dragon to prove his worth wasn’t in his heart, deciding to cut him loose, and Toothless about how to do the same. What weird is that upon re-watching it, it reminded me to strangle enough of Disney’s underrated gem Lilo & Stitch, and it turns out directors and co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were responsible for that classic too.
The ultimate driving force of why this movie and the other entries in the franchise works so well is the friendship between Hiccup and Toothless. The struggle with this is that nobody else knows that he’s basically taking care of this beast and can’t tell anymore or else they’ll kill Toothless. They’re different from each other, besides the fact that one’s a human and the other’s a dragon. But that doesn’t mean one is willing to help one out in wanting to change how we see them. Even after watching this again, I came to realize that they are similar when it ends.
But I love how we are already thrown into this world of dragons and how it’s already a growing problem in Berk without a ton of explanation as to why. The more time we see Hiccup being around Toothless, the more he understands that they aren’t dangerous after all when he gains insight into calming them down or taking them out without killing them while training. Speaking of Toothless, this has got to be my favorite non-speaking character in any movie not just because he’s adorable, but
The animation is nothing short of gorgeous. Just take around the look of the landscapes of this world and the unique designs of the dragons and tell me that it isn’t impressive. This is also cool for featuring dragons that don’t violently harm humans. That also blends well with the action in here. There isn’t a ton of them, but the final boss battle that involved the gigantic dragon, Red Death, was thrilling in all the right ways. Another scene I love was when Hiccup was reading the book about dragons, the drawings start to move. Always have to give major credit to all the animators that worked on the film.
Even this boasts a talented voice cast that settled well with their animated counterparts. Baruchel as Hiccup is essentially voicing an animated version of himself, but he was convincing throughout. Not only him, but there’s Gerard Butler as his father Stoick the Vast, America Ferrera as Astrid, Craig Ferguson putting his Scottish voice to great use as Gobber, Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs, and T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig as twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut.
The best thing going for this and the other installments is that it has a good balance of humor and heart. This doesn’t have any pop culture laughs that Shrek is known for, but some of its hilarious moments don’t feel flat when it calls for it to be funny. Plus, it’s rare to see this have a genuine heart that was rightfully earned with the connection between our two characters, even when Hiccup touches Toothless in a moving way.
The score by John Powell is one of my favorite music ever done for an animated movie. Most of the time, I wouldn’t pay that much attention to the musical score with animated movies since I’m more engaged with the story with the inclusions of instruments like the penny whistle and bagpipes to help a scene be more engaging. Probably the most inspirational piece that stood out from the rest that always gives me goosebumps is “Test Drive,” which comes into play when Hiccup is flying with Toothless for the first time with his new tail. It’s also handled beautifully with its visual storytelling and just letting the music take over. I was so glad Powell got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score, and what he provides with the later installments are equally great and doesn’t get a ton of attention.
Back when studios were just releasing every movie of there’s in 3D, this is one of those cases where I regret not seeing this in 3D. Anybody who saw it the way has said nothing but great things about it. Witnessing this from a 2D perspective was great, but it would’ve been 10x better if watching the stunning flying sequence. What was the mindset of seeing Clash of the Titans in the cardboard 3D presented, and not this?
If any negatives came from watching this, I would say I wanted to know more about the supporting characters that Hiccup is training with. And then re-watching for the first time since last February when it was on NBC, some of the animation doesn’t hold up quite well after a decade.
This was very successful when it was released in theaters. It’s one of the highest-rated movies from the company, made almost $500 million worldwide, and $217 million domestically (debuting at #1 in its opening weekend and came back to claim that spot again a few weeks later). Accolade wise, it was nominated for every Best Animated Feature that year, including the Oscars and Powell for Best Original Score. Afterward, it spawned a popular television series and two sequels that are amazing. Safe to say this is a franchise that never lets down
Out of the three movies the studio released in 2010, How to Train Your Dragon is superior to the other two, even though Megamind was really good. This is the kind of fantasy movie that’s perfect for everybody to watch and just have a ton of fun with. From its animation, storytelling, and an unforgettable score, this is easy for me to say it’s one of the best movies to come out a decade ago, as well as probably my second favorite DreamWorks Animation movie behind Shrek 2.
Overall Grade: A-