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How to Train Your Dragon(2010)
A young Viking named Hiccup lives on the windswept island of Berk, where his father Stoic the Vast is the tribe's feared chief, and fighting dragons is part of every young warrior's training. But Hiccup's destiny of becoming a prized dragon fighter takes an unexpected diversion when he saves and befriends an injured dragon, Toothless. Hiccup now embarks on a mission of his own to convince his tribe to abandon its barbaric tradition of ruthless dragon-slaying and try out some new methods.
For more about How to Train Your Dragon and the How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray release, see How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 8, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
» See full cast & crew
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray Review
Or, How to make a Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 8, 2010
Killing a dragon is everything around here.
With How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks Animation seems on the cusp of finally matching in overall quality the typical Pixar effort. Long since the industry-standard for computer-animated entertainment, Pixar's movies are not only gorgeously rendered and impeccably scripted, but they're centered by moving story lines and thematic subtexts that make them not only fun for the kids but worthwhile movies for more demanding parents. How to Train Your Dragon is, on the other hand, constructed around a story that's as predictable as they come but that's nevertheless endearing and plenty of fun. DreamWorks' latest is also home to some breathtaking animation the likes of which has never before been seen in a movie not bearing the famed Luxo Jr. logo. Dragon is a movie for the kid at heart in every viewer, a picture that's one part sweeping adventure and two parts childhood fantasy; combined with its touching story elements that speak on the importance of being true to one's self, the strength that's found in the bonds of friendship, and the importance of acceptance based on character rather than appearance or past actions, the movie serves as both worthwhile entertainment and subtle moral reinforcement all in one. While it doesn't break new ground from a thematic perspective or reach the level of soulfulness of the best Pixar films, How to Train Your Dragon is nevertheless one of the best of its kind for both its impeccable visuals and quality story line.
In the time of the Vikings and on the fictional island of Berk lives a scrawny teenager named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel, She's Out of My League) who wants nothing more than to fit in and kill his first dragon. The island is under nearly constant siege by powerful dragons, and the resistance is led by Hiccup's father, a stout warrior named Stoick (Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen). The island's denizens have learned to fend off each of the many species of dragons that aim to lay waste to the Vikings' humble abodes; except, that is, for the powerful and rarely-seen Night Fury, a ferocious beast capable of attacking with great precision from vast distances. Hiccup, a burgeoning blacksmith and an inventor of various gadgets, constructs a weapon he hopes will prove capable of bringing down a Night Fury, which he hopes will earn him the respect of his father and maybe even land him a date with the best-looking girl on the island, the young warrior-in-training Astrid (America Ferrera, Our family Wedding). Hiccup, to his own surprise, actually manages to knock the feared beast out of the sky -- but nobody believes him. He sets out to find his prize but when he stumbles upon the frightened and injured beast, he can't bring himself to finish it off. Instead, he builds an amicable relationship with the dragon that turns into a full-blown friendship between man and beast. Hiccup is forced to keep his new friend a secret, but when he's not mending the dragon's wounds, feeding it fish, or learning how to fly on its back, he's forced into dragon-fighting classes under his father's orders. As Hiccup grows closer to his new friend he's named "Toothless," he comes to learn that dragons aren't so bad after all. He just needs to convince his blood-thirsty father and rowdy fellow Vikings of the same.
How to Train Your Dragon in an interesting movie in the way that it manages to create so much feeling and heart yet build its narrative around a completely predictable story. Even the title, more or less, gives away the film's major turning point, but with a picture such as this, that's OK. Its characters are very well conceived, and it's through their genuine interactions and the honesty and themes of the story that the movie is able overcome its trite arc. These characters are the heart and soul of the movie, and were they simply automatons meant to advance the plot rather than lend to it a welcoming, heartfelt tone, How to Train Your Dragon would have gone down in flames faster than a building hit by a dragon's fireball. Fortunately, there's a depth to the characters that centers the story in all the right places, allowing the supportive elements to be just that rather than focal points that would have reduced the movie to a smoldering pile of rubble with no shape, character, or purpose. Not only is the father-son dynamic nicely constructed -- even if the father figure is little more than a hulking cliché -- but the bond between Hiccup and Toothless is believable and touching, built not around trite dialogue but through looks, actions, and understanding. For a relationship grounded in feeling rather than empty words, this one is exceptionally realized; it's not only a credit to the incredible script that does so much with so little, but to the animators who capture the very essence of the human-dragon bond and make it work through character actions and unspoken feelings that take the movie to heights not often achieved by even the top-tier animated titles.
The film additionally and effortlessly meshes several elements to create a complete feel; there's not much new to say about an animated movie constructed around equal parts humor, heart, and adventure -- a combination DreamWorks has used to great success in both Kung Fu Panda and the Shrek films -- but How to Train Your Dragon does it in style and with a sense of purpose and confidence that makes it better than most. Although the film rightfully puts its characters first, it doesn't forget the importance of its secondary elements, and the result is a picture that's as polished as most anything else out there. The animation is top-notch; one look at the intricate detailing says it all and shows just how far computer animation has come. It's an exciting time to be a movie lover; Dragon sets the bar about as high as it's ever been, and the challenge is now out for another movie to top this in terms of sheer visual eye candy. Better still, the voice acting is impeccable, finishing off the characters not only at a superficial level but at a much deeper one that allows the combination of visuals and dialogue to truly ground the story where it needs to be; all of the primary voice actors seem to have found the very essences of their characters, and that there's so much heart in the performances is one of the film's greatest assets. It's reminiscent of the way Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs really found its center through its impeccable voice acting and touching father-son relationship, and How to Train Your Dragon is its equal in that regard. Putting the finishing touches on the movie is John Powell's (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) fantastic score; it's big, heroic, and heartfelt and deserves recognition as one of the year's best.
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray, Video Quality
How to Train Your Dragon swoops onto Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p transfer that captures the grandeur of DreamWorks' impeccable animation down to the finest detail. Indeed, fine detail is nothing short of breathtaking, with every object seen in the film -- well-worn armor, wooden planks, hair, dragon scales, and any number of assorted items -- revealing every single nuance that not only makes for a gorgeous Blu-ray image but a window that looks into the world of modern computer animation; the film is the perfect demonstration of what today's technology is capable of creating. As if the intricate detailing wasn't enough, How to Train your Dragon features a color palette to die for, one that reveals both the bright multicolored hues of dragons and shields, the more general landscape colors, and even Toothless' virtually black body with a precision and naturalism that's rarely found even on the best transfers, making this perhaps the most colorfully accurate transfer of the year. Blacks and shadow detail are perfect, and even through many of the darkest scenes -- particularly early on -- both colors and textures remain not only visible but remarkably steady and accurate. Depth is amazing, and while this is obviously not a 3D transfer, it is probably about as close as a 2D image will come to giving the illusion of that added dimension. There is a touch of banding visible in a couple of early scenes, but it's not enough to warrant a drop in score from a perfect 5 to a lower 4.5. In short, this is a transfer that must be seen to be believed, and it's easily one of the best ever to grace a Blu-ray disc.
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
How to Train Your Dragon features a red-hot Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that stretches the limits of the soundstage and delivers one of the most seamless and active sonic experiences of the year. The track plays as infinitely spacious and very big, and for as potent and aggressive as it may be, it is never absent amazing clarity and precise definition. The surround channels are put to immediate use during a battle sequence that opens the film; various sound effects swoosh around the soundstage and more pinpoint elements are grounded in every speaker. During the battle, the listening area is a hub of activity, from screeching highs to the most potent lows that rattle the senses but are never absent a tightness and precision that's reserved for the finest lossless soundtracks. Ambience is also excellent during quieter scenes; whether a wind that blows all around the listening area with startling precision, rattling window shutters, clanking armor, or a dizzying array of spooky atmospherics heard briefly in chapter 14, DreamWorks' lossless soundtrack never fails to bring the world of Vikings and Dragons to wholly believable life. Music enjoys a spacious and crisp feel as John Powell's score beautifully flows from the front speakers with just the right amount of surround support. Rounded out by seamless and center-focused dialogue, How to Train your Dragon excels as reference-quality material with every passing moment.
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
How to Train Your Dragon flies onto Blu-ray with a remarkably large assortment of extras. First up is an audio commentary track with Directors/Co-Writers Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois and Producer Bonnie Arnold. This is a steady and informative track that's well-balanced between technical insights and discussions about the background of the story and its various themes. They praise the various filmmakers and cast, discuss the essence of the story as a father-son relationship, share their thoughts on the quality of the score and the decision to remove music from several scenes, acknowledge the qualities that differentiate Dragon from others of its kind, cover the unique challenges of making an animated movie, hail the picture's stunning animation, and plenty more. With all of the fantastic extras included, the commentary might become lost in the shuffle, but fans should find enough here to make it worth a listen. The Animators' Corner is a BonusView (Profile 1.1) picture-in-picture supplement that features parts of the same commentary track, but interspersed with additional interview clips with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, animatics, and more. Also included is a pop-up trivia track.
Viking-Sized Cast (1080p, 11:44) takes viewers into the recording studio for a look at the voice acting and the emotion and talent the actors brought to their roles. The Technical Artistry of 'Dragon' (1080p, 10:13) features a glimpse into the challenging world of animating a feature-length film in the digital realm and the cutting-edge technology that makes it one of the best-looking pictures of its kind. Next up is a collection of three deleted scenes (1080p): Axe to Grind (4:57), Goodbye at the Docks (1:31), and Aftermath (1:05). Moving along, viewers will find The Story Behind the Story (1080p, 7:40), a piece that features cast, crew, and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell discussing the book's transition from page to screen. Racing For the Gold (1080p) is a winter sports themed series of short adventures that show how snowboarding, speed skating, jump skiing, bobsled, and medals all originated in the Vikings' combat with the dragons. How to Draw a Dragon (1080p, 10:52) features How to Train Your Dragon Supervising Animator Gabe Hordos taking viewers through the process of animating the picture's lead dragon, Toothless. Your Viking Profile (1080p) is a multiple-choice quiz that generates a personalized Viking profile for each user through an analysis of the combined answers.
Disc one also features the short film Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon (1080p, 1.78:1, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, 16:33); DreamWorks' Animation Jukebox (1080p), featuring music from Shrek, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Bee Movie, and Kung Fu Panda; and a BD-Live page that currently offers viewers the "Sticks and Stones" music video. The "Keep Out!" tab offers trailers for Megamind (1080p, 2:32), Shrek Forever After, The Penguins of Madagascar, and The Last Airbender; trailers for the video game adaptations of How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda World; and both a trailer and a behind-the-scenes (1080p, 6:57) look at the live-action Shrek musical. Disc two contains a DVD copy of the film that offers audio commentary, Viking-Sized Cast, and The Technical Artistry of 'Dragon'.
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Is the computer-animated film home to the next great wave of movies? Studios like Pixar and DreamWorks just can't seem to miss, and it's hard to find another genre or style that's cranked out as many successes as this. How to Train Your Dragon is just the latest in a string of computer-generated film that have not only dazzled with their incredible visuals, but entertained through pitch-perfect stories that find just the right balance between humor and heart. While it's true that Dragon plays as entirely predictable, it's also true that it brings to the table an honesty and approachability that will allow audiences of all ages to find value in the story and its themes of friendship, trust, perseverance, acceptance, and the importance of laying aside differences and finding commonalities that altogether forge a bond that's unbreakable even in the face of the oldest traditions or the most violent of histories. That the film is made of some of the most stunningly beautiful animation is merely icing on the cake, making How to Train Your Dragon a great movie and another example of why the computer-animated film is here to stay. DreamWorks' Blu-ray release of How to Train Your Dragon features an incredible technical presentation and a host of extra features. It's easily one of the year's best releases and comes very highly recommended.
How to Train Your Dragon: Other Editions
How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray, News and Updates
• First Look at Dean DeBlois' How to Train Your Dragon 2 - July 12, 2013
DreamWorks Animation has released the first teaser trailer for director Dean DeBlois' eagerly anticipated How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Craig Ferguson. ...
• Blu-ray Sales, October 18-24: Dragon Slays Predators (Update) - October 28, 2010
In its second week, How to Train Your Dragon was again the top-selling title on Blu-ray, moving about 18% more copies than runner-up Predators, according to Nielsen VideoScan. The new reboot of the Predator franchise got a respectable 42% of its sales from the ...
• Blu-ray Sales, October 11-17: Dragon Flies to the Top (Update) - October 21, 2010
How to Train Your Dragon was the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended October 17, according to data from Nielsen VideoScan. The two top titles for the previous week (Beauty and the Beast and Iron Man 2) slipped to second and third place, respectively. ...
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