Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

How to Train your Dragon

Me: Being a parent means that you often end up with your child wanting to watch really shit movies like The Tooth Fairy (for the record, that’s also what Grandparents are for). However, on occasion, you get a little lucky and end up with your child wanting to see something that isn’t too terrible, like Monsters vs. Aliens. But, if you are really lucky, your three-year old daughter ends up being a little geek and really likes the Lord of the Rings movies and wants to go and see movies about dragons in the theatre.

Anyhow, How to Train Your Dragon is an animated movie that is set in a Viking land where they are at constant war with dragons. The dragons raid the Viking lands and the Vikings try raiding the Dragon lands, but have never found their nest. This has gone on for 300 years. Since it is a kid’s movie, the standard formulaic plot happens with the obvious misfit kid.

Ultimately, you know the destination of the movie and there are really no surprise twists or turns in the pretty standard plot, but even though it is a straight, well-known path, the ride is a still an enjoyable one. For standard story plots of kid’s movies, at least this is a theme and setting that I can get into. It really appeals to the old school Dungeons and Dragons geek in me. And apparently we’ve been raising our daughter to follow in our geeky footsteps.

Anyhow, there is little to say about the predictable plot. But, there are a few other things to comment on. We caught the movie in IMAX 3-D. By IMAX, however, I don’t mean a huge arcing surrounding screen that is usually reserved for movies about climbing the Himalayas; I mean the kind of IMAX theatre that AMC pays a fee for in order to use the brand name and attach it to one of their existing main screens.

However, it was a large screen. Though it was the same size that it was before it became an “IMAX” screen. But we had good seats at a large screen and it really brought to my attention the level of texture mapping on modern digital animation. The skins and textures were gorgeous. There was a lot of fine detail on the texture skins, enough that they showed small scars, minor blemishes and even pores on the character model flesh. That was really interesting to watch.

This was also the first 3-D movie that I’ve seen that the 3-D effects actually worked for. See, the problem with wearing glasses is that in every 3-D movie I’ve seen prior to this the effects don’t work right. Putting the 3-D glasses on over top of my glasses positions them too far from my eyes and sets an extra lens between the 3-D glasses effect and my own eyes (from my regular glasses). The distance effect and the problem with the extra set of lens ends up parsing the 3-D incorrectly and I end up seeing double (or shadow reflections on the lens of my real glasses) or a hazy, broken effect. The other option that I would have is to take off my real glasses and just wear the 3-D glasses. However, the problem is that I cannot see. So I get blurry, fuzzy things sort of popping out of the screen at me. That kind of sucks as well. So I have usually not gone out of my way to see 3-D movies. The last 3-D movie I saw in a non-Disney World theatre was Coraline, where I had my standard problems with the 3-D effects.

However, the 3-D effects and glasses for this movie actually worked for me. There were a few instances of shadowing and double effects, but they were minimal. So, I can comment and actually say that the 3-D effect was pretty good. The problem with 3-D movies, however, is that they produce them with the realization that they will also be shown in a standard 2-D format, either on other screens or after the DVD release. What I noticed about this movie is that they did some depth of field effects where the foreground character would be out of focus as they focused on something in the background. That’s fine in most movies, but it doesn’t really transfer to 3-D.

When we saw Coraline in 3-D, Molly wore her 3-D glasses throughout the whole movie. In this one, however, she said that it was too scary in 3-D, so she went pretty much the entire movie with her glasses off and watched the movie with the screen being a little odd looking since she didn’t have glasses on. I would peek out from under my glasses to see how she was viewing it, and you get some doubling effects depending on where in the foreground an item is supposed to be, but it isn’t so bad that you cannot tell what was going on.

And it wasn’t the things popping out of the screen at her that made the movie scary, but rather, she thought that the Viking chieftain tended to yell more when she had her glasses on.

Molly: (Molly and I are at my parents’ house and everyone else is asleep, so I am transcribing this by hand on a notepad. Later, I’ll transfer it over to the computer.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon”?
Molly: I liked the black dragon and I cheered for him.
Chuckie: Yes, you were a very good cheerleader in the movie. You were chanting, “Go black one! Go black one! You can win it! You can beat the red one!” when he was fighting the other dragon.
Molly: Mm-hm.
Chuckie: I’m sure the people sitting around us were thrilled with your cheer-leading.
Molly: Yup.

Chuckie: So, did you like the movie?
Molly: Um, yeah. Getting more excited now. You had to wear special glasses and the dragons and the people jumped out of the screen and were all like “RAAR”!
Chuckie: Shh. People are still sleeping, Sweetie. Anyhow, um, you didn’t want to wear the glasses in the movie.
Molly: I have them on now, Daddy. She makes fake glasses with her thumb and forefingers in a circle and holds them over her eyes.
Chuckie: Okay. But you seemed really excited about the glasses. Why didn’t you want to wear them in the movie?
Molly: Because they made the movie scarier. And, Daddy?
Chuckie: Yes, Pixie?
Molly: This is a really good Devil Dog. She takes another bite of the Devil Dog she has been munching on.

Chuckie: So, what did you like about the movie?
Molly: It was – um, the girl.
Chuckie: Astrid?
Molly: Yeah, I liked the girl.
Chuckie: What did you like about her?
Molly: Daddy, your voice is getting a little quiet.
Chuckie: That’s because people are sleeping, Sweetie.

Chuckie: What else did you like about the movie?
Molly: I liked the boy.
Chuckie: Hiccup?
Molly: Uh-huh.
Chuckie: What did you like about him?
Molly: I just liked him.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part?
Molly: All of them are my favorite part.

Chuckie: So, what didn’t you like about the movie?
Molly: It was too scary.
Chuckie: What was too scary about it?
Molly: The guy screaming.
Chuckie: The Viking chieftain?
Molly: Mm-hm. He shouldn’t have yelled so loud. He should have known he was scaring me.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate the movie?
Molly: Scratching at a small scab under her nose. I can’t take this thing off because it’s a boo-boo, Daddy.

Chuckie: So, how many stars would you give the movie?
Molly: Um, a star egg.
Chuckie: Out of how many.
Molly: Just a star egg.

Chuckie: Do you think people would like this movie?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like the movie?
Molly: Um, dragons.

So, that’s our review. I thought that it was predictable and the plot is kid’s story fluff with nothing deep. However, it is a beautiful movie and the setting is one that I can really get into. So while the plot is a well-worn straight road through the country, it is enjoyable enough if you just sit back and peer out the window and watch the landscape. However, I will say that I did enjoy the fact that they did majorly scar and deform the major character by the ending. That was the closest to a twist that there was in the movie.

I give it three out of five stars with the warning that it is a straight-forward story.
Molly gives it a star egg and recommends this movie to dragons. Also, if it gets a little intense, apparently the Viking leader yells a bit less in two dimensions.

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