Must-See Movie: How to Train Your Dragon


First, if you love cats, you absolutely must see this movie. Right this minute. I’m serious, take your hand off that mouse, get in your car, and go. I’ll wait.

*taps fingers on desk for 98 minutes*

Are you back? See what I mean? Oh…you haven’t left. I see.  So why was I sitting here waiting for 98 minutes? Never mind.

How to Train Your Dragon has all the traditional ingredients to a good adventure story: Young man desperate to prove himself to his community and his father. Hero with a secret talent that isn’t recognized because he’s so different no one will listen. Spunky love interest. Scary monsters. But rather than taking all these familiar concepts and stringing them together in the same old way, the film adds twists and depth that you don’t always see on the big screen. One particularly cool thing about the story is that it has a strong yet subtle message about how disabilities don’t have to prevent a person from being successful.  It’s such a vital, clever part of the plot, and it never seems didactic.

The movie is based on the first of a series of children’s books , by Cressida Cowell but has distinct differences. Hiccup, the hero, is a funny and endearing character, smart but scrawny and clumsy—not a good combination when you’re a Viking. He lives in a world where the only way to gain honor is to kill dragons, but he’s hopeless at it. Circumstances and his own actions put him in a position where he discovers that maybe the dragons aren’t as evil and vicious as everyone thinks, and that’s when his life begins to change for the better. But Hiccup can’t fully realize his potential without Toothless the dragon, and Toothless, for reasons I won’t give away, needs Hiccup just as much.

What I loved best about the film was the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. Movies are all about “showing”, so the excellent use of that technique should be no surprise. And yet it was done so perfectly I feel compelled to make note of it. The actions, body language, and expressions absolutely made this relationship. The filmakers could have skimped on this companionship aspect of the film and still made the story work, but they didn’t, and that’s what elevates the movie from merely good to awesome. I actually fought back tears through the last half of the film because I was so worried about Toothless. And who cries at an animated movie?

While Dragons was made for 3-D, I saw it in 2-D and it didn’t suffer any from the loss. (I noticed when watching previews before Avatar that the animated 3-D movies seem to really mess with my brain, so if you suspect you’ll have problems with 3-D, you might want to see the 2-D version. There have been reports of headaches and eyestrain from 3-D, and you can’t just take off the glasses and watch, because everything’s fuzzy.)

So what does all this have to do with cats? Well, they seem to have been a major influence on the development of the dragon behavior. The nuances of movement and personality were so cat-like it became clear the filmmakers must have spent a lot of time watching felines.

If you haven’t already see this film, put it on your list. I guarantee you’ll rush home and immediately contact your nearest Dragon Rescue so you can adopt a dragon of your own.

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10 Responses to Must-See Movie: How to Train Your Dragon

  1. Alice Lynn says:

    Even if I didn’t know you and trust your instincts, I would make a point to see How To Train Your Dragon. Your commentary is cogent and so appealing. If you ever get tired of writing awesome young people’s book, you could get a job writing promotional material for the movies. At least the good ones! I’m checking out the movie listings in tomorrow’s Sunday paper. Thanks.

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  2. Elisabeth Miles says:

    Of course one can cry at an animated movie. (When Bambi’s mother dies; when Lighting McQueen leaves Sally behind, and even more so when Mr. The King crashes, and in Aladdin when the carpet feels rejected. Come on, a carpet? Hey, that carpet had more personality than some people I know.)
    It doesn’t matter if the character is played by a human actor or an animated object, if the author made that character grab your heart, you will cry when the character is hurting. And one way to make your characters sympathetic to that point is to care like hell about them yourself.
    I sometimes feel like a right idiot weeping over my characters as I’m writing about them, but they have become so real to me, and I’ve let them in for some tough times, that it happens. I just hope the readers will weep when they come to those parts.
    Beth

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  3. Roxie says:

    As writers, when we are crying in the movie, we need to make a little note in the back of the head so we can go back and figure out how to do that in our own work.

    Yes, you’ve convinced me. I gotta see that movie!

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  4. Lisa Nowak says:

    Alice, you flatter me! You won’t regret seeing the movie.

    Beth, you would have to mention Cars, wouldn’t you? That’s one of my favorite movies ever. You’re absolutely right, and I know how you feel about making the reader cry. The first time I experienced that was in high school when one of my stories made my friend Sherri cry. I was like “score!” and she was like “you b*tch, you made my mascara run!”

    Roxie, that is so true. I always watch movies and TV shows as if they were a scientific study in how to manipulate the viewer. It annoys me when I can tell I’m being manipulated, but in this movie I got so caught up in the emotion that I didn’t feel that way.

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  5. Rose says:

    I can hardly wait for it to be in Redbox since I cannot afford to go to the theatre!! You made it sound intriguing.

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  6. Ann Marie Wraight says:

    Hi Lisa with the Lovely Cat!
    Happy Easter!
    Thanks for this update and ALL my family will go to see the movie.
    BUT
    Don’t get adragon though….PLEASE….They are cuddly and purr when you stroke them….Great energy savers, too with their firey breath
    BUT
    Lisa – you know me friend….
    If you don’town a JCB (Huge Mechanical Digger) – then the problem of what to do with the DUNG is huge!! Be warned. Of course you can always build an energy recycling station – my hubby enquired from USA recently…only a few $ million….Enjoy the film!

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  7. I wasn’t thinking of seeing it, but now I am! Great review–thanks for posting about this.

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  8. I think my kids would really enjoy this movie. Thanks for the great review!

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  9. Thanks for the review. My kids want to see the moving, and so do I now. 😉

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  10. Lisa…

    All my students are raving about this movie. I’ll have to try to go and see it. I usually rent movies more than I see them.

    You’ll have to let me know what you think of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson.” “Looking for Alaska” is my all time favorite, that’s what I would recommend to you to read first, but this book was good too (but a total guy book!).

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