March 7, 2011

Open-Minded Vikings

How to Train Your Dragon is not burying the lede.  

By Robb Witmer Full 

How does one train a dragon? Make it dependent on you for survival, for one thing.

Okay, our hero, Hiccup, and his dragon, Toothless, are mostly equal partners when all is said and done, but without Hiccup, Toothless is still at the bottom of that canyon.

I could have done without all the cutesy names (what self-respecting Vikings name their son Hiccup?), but by almost every other measure How to Train Your Dragon is a thrusting success.

The animation is awesome, on the whole. The people sometimes drift into that video-game sway that's supposed to convey a relaxed posture, but it never bothered me too much. I know I'm watching a cartoon, and there's nothing wrong with a cartoon looking like a cartoon.

Any deficiencies in the animation of the characters is more than offset by the flying scenes, which are some of the best looking shots in any movie in years, animated or otherwise. If there's a better movie this year to watch while on LSD, I can't imagine it.

There were some parts of the story that I would have liked to see explored more deeply, but only if done in an R- or at least PG-13-rated way. Like, the dragons that are kept captive for the students to learn their dragon-killing skills on, they're surely tortured, right? Even Michael Vick would be aghast at the size of the mass grave behind the arena.

Not to mention the psychological torture the students go through themselves, being put by their parents into life-threatening situations on a daily basis, and taught to brutally murder living (albeit dangerous) creatures in the process.

And why Hiccup's instructors and fellow students simply accept that he has a "way with the beasts" instead of executing him for witchcraft is beyond me.

The Vikings in How to Train Your Dragon do have to be commended for their surprising open-mindedness. Somehow (in the course of, what, days?) they are able to go from existing for the sole purpose of dragon-slaying to accepting them as equals. Er, I mean pets. Accepting them as pets.

So, if nothing else, they prove to be more enlightened than your average American.

Robb Witmer Full has never been accused of witchcraft.