Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft

Being a Chronicle of the Inner Secrets of, and Spells of Magick as Wielded by, the Philosopher of the Internet and Unofficial Sorcerer-in-Residence of the City of New York

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Location: New York, New York, United States

As New York's Unofficial Wizard, my mission is to encourage the Mortals of Manhattan to imagine responsibly!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Previewing DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon

Kids, the films from DreamWorks SKG and DreamWorks Animation did, for a short time, serve as a blip in the annals of Toontown. The Shrek franchise changed all that, though; and soon we will witness that saga's farewell chapter, Shrek: Forever After. Until then, the DreamWorkers have come up with something that pleases even this foolish ol' Dragonmaster. It's called, needless to say, How to Train Your Dragon, and it's based on the books by Cressida Cowell, which chronicle the life and adventures of one Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, son of mighty Viking warlord Stoick the Vast of the Hairy Hooligans, and Hiccup's loyal dragon Toothless, and the adventure shared by these two misfits.

With Chris Sanders, co-creator of Disney's Lilo & Stitch, and first-timer Dean DeBlois in the directors' chairs, producer Bonnie Arnold and executive producers Tim Johnson and Michael Connolly have taken the mythical bold-powered Isle of Berk and turned it into a 3-D DragonZone (trespassers WILL be singed!). And they've chosen a weird assembly of Mortals to take on the roles: Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, Gerard Butler as Stoick, Craig Ferguson as Gobber the Belch, America Ferrera as Astrid Hofferson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs Ingerman, Jonah Hill as Snotlout Jorgensen, David Tennant as Spitelout, and, as the Thorston Twins, T.J. Miller as the boy Tuffnut and Kristen Wiig as the girl Ruffnut.

Most Dragon/Viking movies these days don't emphasize the philosophy of being yourself. Well, this one does! And not only that, Chris and Dean have thrown in comedy, fantasy/adventure elements, and, oh yeah, the usual public service spot on behalf of interspecies tolerance. Already, some of the reviews are in, and the Village Voice's Ella Taylor found the film "adequate but unremarkable," stating, "it would take several more dimensions [other than 3-D] to craft something special out of this;" whereas James O'Ehley's SciFi Movie Page gives How to Train Your Dragon 2 1/2 stars, believing, "[It] may churn out the cliches, but the film's intended audience won't care. Kids will love it." Bill Ramey's Batman on says it's "fun and cool," on the grounds that "if we get to know someone or become more familiar with something we dislike, there's a good chance we won't feel that way anymore. Corny? Probably. But true nonetheless; it's a movie for kids that adults are gonna like because it's good; not for some kind of hidden smartass agenda." (And I, for one, think we've had quite enough smartass agendas of late to last us a bloomin' lifetime!)

For Starpulse Entertainment News, quoting David Germain of the Associated Press, the Hiccup saga is "pretty good action yarn," the thought being that "after a slow, droning start, How to Train Your Dragon takes off on an exhilarating ride through the ancient Norse world [whose] hardscrabble landsacpe also [offers] a pleasant change from the softer realm of other cartoons;" while, citing the same reviewer, says the story "flies high."

These are but a few of the reviews your humble Dragonmaster was able to properly access before the web traffic simply got far too heavy. ("lively, though disjointed; never quite entices an audience to invest emotionally in its fantasy world"), ("kinetically dreamy, soaring-through-the-air effervescence; makes you feel in every way miles high"); the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Lake, Calif. ("a thrilling feat of imagination and technical ingenuity that immerses you into an imaginatively realized fantasy world"), and several other online journals have weighed in with similar, somewhat mixed comments. This ol' Mage, however, who knows his Dragons when he sees 'em, is of the notion that anyone with a serious obsessions with Dragons will want to embrace dear Toothless as his/her own. It's time to stop taking CGI animation to task for being 'cliched' about positive stories that promote tolerance among all creatures. The days when Cecil B. DeMille and others of his ilk zealously guarded such beliefs are long over; now someone must stand firm to take their place, that a new generation might serve as protectors of the Forces of Tolerance --- and I happily nominate those responsible for How to Train Your Dragon!

And to those for whom such beliefs are an unworthy element, I can do little save stare at you twits harshly as I grumble:

"Toad time for you, pal!"

Master Blackwolf