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.