How to Train Your Dragon (PG)
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So, this played in theaters in 3D. I really wanted to go see it, but never got a chance. I mean, I could have if I'd found the time or whatever. But I didn't. I did get the DVD when it came out, and ended up watching it on my little portable player. And I thought the animation was beautiful and awesome, and really wished I would have seen it in a theater, not just for the 3D but for the pure size of a big screen. I suppose it even would've been better to watch it on a TV instead of the portable player. But whatever, I still loved it. And not just the animation, but really, the story was pretty cool, and funny, and kinda touching.
Anyway, it's set on the island of Berk, which is home to a group of Vikings. Their settlement is frequently raided by dragons. The main character is a teenager named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), whose father Stoick (Gerard Butler) is the chieftain of the Vikings there. Hiccup is apprenticed to a blacksmith named Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Hiccup wants to be like his people, which means killing a dragon. But he's pretty scrawny. He is, however, fairly clever, and he invented a device to fire bolas. One night during a dragon raid, he fires on a Night Fury, one of various types of dragon seen in the movie, a mysterious breed which has never been seen, let alone killed. Of course, no one believes he could have taken down any dragon, much less a Night Fury.
So he goes out trying to find the dragon he had shot down the other night. He finds the Night Fury, helplessly tangled in the bola ropes, but he can't bring himself to actually kill the dragon. Instead, he frees it. Meanwhile, Stoick decides the constant dragon raids won't stop unless they can find the nest and kill them all. So he leads a fleet to search for the dragon nest, while Hiccup is left behind to join a group of other teenage Vikings who are being trained by Gobber to kill dragons. They include a girl named Astrid (America Ferrera) who is the best student (and on whom Hiccup has a crush); Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who's not that great in a practical way, though he has memorized lots of facts about dragons; a cocky guy named Snotlout (Jonah Hill); and pair of twins, a boy named Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and girl named Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), who are constantly competing with each other. None of them take Hiccup seriously as a student. But in his free time, he keeps going back to where the Night Fury is staying, a valley it's stuck in because it lost one of its tail fins when it was shot down, and now lacks the balance it needs to fly properly. He soon befriends the dragon, which acts like a dog in a lot of ways (which is fairly cute and amusing). Hiccup builds an artificial fin for the dragon (whom he names Toothless, because its teeth are retractable). He refines the invention over time, and also makes a saddle for himself, so he can fly on Toothless, and use the artificial fin to steer. Also, he uses things he learns about Toothless to help him subdue dragons in class without actually fighting or hurting them. Because of these tricks, he soon becomes the best student in class, much to Astrid's annoyance and everyone's surprise. And his newfound skills make him popular for the first time in his life.
Stoick is also surprised, and proud of his son, when he returns from his unsuccessful search. Meanwhile, Astrid discovers Hiccup's secret. (Rereading this review after watching the sequel, this part made me think of the book/CBS Storybreak episode "Dragon's Blood." I don't recall if I thought of that or not when I first watched this movie, but I'd be surprised if I didn't. Not at all surprised if I thought of it and just forgot to mention it when I originally wrote this review, though.) Anyway, Astrid is terribly upset at first, but comes around when Hiccup and Toothless take her on a pretty breathtakingly beautiful and awesome flight. Then Toothless takes control of the flight, and takes them to the dragon nest, where they learn the truth about why the dragons constantly raid Berk and steal the Vikings' livestock. (But I won't reveal what that reason is.) Later, Hiccup is expected to kill a dragon in the training area, as a reward for being the top student. But he refuses. Events lead to Stoick learning about Toothless, and also that Hiccup had found the dragon nest. So he shackles the Night Fury to lead his fleet there, over his son's protests that he has no idea what he'd be up against on that island.
So, Hiccup and Astrid get together with the other students, and he teaches them each to ride a different type of dragon that had been used in their earlier training. They fly to the island of the dragon nest, to save Stoick's group, who, as Hiccup had warned, were outmatched. There's a really amazing battle that I can't even describe, and after that... well, life on Berk will never be the same for any of the Vikings, or for the dragons.
Well. Yeah, I feel like I've said too much, but I've left out plenty of details, especially about how it all ends. But as I said, it really is a gorgeously animated movie, with a good story, amazing action, good characters, plenty of humor, a fair amount of poignancy, and a good score. Of course it has a pretty feel good ending, though not without loss... but I liked the symmetry of that loss. And I guess that's all I can think to say....
There have also been a few short films and a TV series based on the movie. In 2014, there was a sequel, and in 2019 there was a third movie.