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How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is a computer-animated fantasy film released by DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures in 2010. It is loosely based on a 2003 book of the same name. The movie features the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Plot.  The film follows the adventures of a boy named Hiccup as he struggles to befriend and trains a dragon. It is set in a mythical Viking world on an island called Berk. Over time, the Vikings have been frequently attacked by dragons which raid their livestocks and destroy their homes. They have attempted to find the dragons’ lair but are unsuccessful.

Hiccup is the talkative, bright son of Stoick, chief of a Viking clan. Being small compared to the other Viking kids, Hiccup makes up for his size by building contraptions to kill dragons, especially the Night fury, the most dangerous dragon known. He does this to gain the admiration of his father and of the girl he has eyes for – the competent and aggressive Astrid.

Like other kids, Hiccup is under training for “killing dragons” and in between lessons, he explores the nearby woods and checks on his inventions. One day, his contraption has caught a Night Fury whose tailwing is damaged. Hiccup tries to kill dragon, but cannot get himself to do it. Instead, he frees the dragon. Afterwards, he discovers that the dragon cannot fly due to its injury. Summoning all his courage, Hiccup befriends the dragon and successfully helps it fly again. The two establishes a bond and becomes friend, and Hiccup names the dragon “Toothless.”

Astrid soon finds out Hiccup’s secret. But Hiccup convinces her otherwise, and they both ride Toothless and explore the land. Incidentally, they reach a volcanic-like island where the dragons live. Inside, they find that the dragons do not eat the livestock itself but instead give it to a giant dragon (a Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus) which also feeds off the other dragons. Astrid assumes that the dragons are forced to serve the giant beast.

The next day, Hiccup’s secret is revealed to the community as he fails the final test. Consequently, Toothless is caught and made to lead the soldiers to the lair of the dragons. Left behind, Hiccup assembles the children in the island and teaches them to befriend the training dragons. Ultimately, the group sets off and helps the Viking fleet. It is a long and hard battle as Hiccup fights to prove to the Vikings that the dragons are friends. In the end, Hiccup and Toothless successfully defeat the giant beast.

Some time later, Hiccup wakes up in their island to find that he has lost his foot, replaced by an artificial limb. Despite this, Hiccup is celebrated as the hero of the village. Toothless and also all the other dragons are there, living in harmony with all the people.

Review.  How to Train Your Dragon is a beautiful coming-of-age animated fantasy film. It is vibrant with colorful graphics and exciting fight scenes. It is full of wit as evident in its meaty dialogues and heart-warming storyline. It is very engaging, suspenseful, and lovable.

But more than the technical brilliance of the film is its underlying message. The movie teaches about change and the openness and willingness to embrace it. In the film, we see a boy trained to kill dragons, but when confronted with one, he turns soft and feels compassion for it that he befriends it. On the other hand, the community chooses to stay blind to the various potentials of having dragons around them. And even though faced with resistance, the boy redeems himself and shows the worth of the dragons. As in real life, we grow up with traditions and culture vested on us. When new possibilities come our way, we suddenly become afraid to take risks and choose to remain with where we are. We are contented with the security of status quo and let go the fruits and joys of taking chances, even it has been really a mistake in the end.

Reception. How to Train Your Dragon received both critical and commercial success. In Rotten Tomatoes, 98% of its critics gave a positive review with an overall rating of 8.0 out of 10. In Metacritic, the film received a rating score of 74 out of 100. In the box office, the movie is one of DreamWorks highest-grossing films, trailing behind the Shrek film series. Accordingly, part two of the film will be released by 2013.

Rating. I would willingly let kids watch this film. It is fun and not violent despite the fight scenes. It also has good moral lessons to teach. So five stars out of five for this movie.

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