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How to Train your Dragon: Visually Captivating for the Child at Heart
Throw on your 3D glasses and allow your imagination to soar with the latest animation film by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, the directing team that also worked side by side on Disney’s Mulan and Lilo & Stitch.
In their latest venture into the 3D animation world, How to Train your Dragon revolves around Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Buruchel), a young and immensely sweet young boy who has the ultimate dream of joining the Viking ranks alongside his father, Stoic the Vast (Butler). In the eyes of the humongous and steaming-attitude Stoic, young and clumsy Hiccup is not good enough to gain the Viking horns, and is better left to wield swords and stay out of Stoic’s way.
Taking place in a Viking village called Berk, the film guides you through Hiccup’s fight against disenchantment, evil and the ironies of life experienced by the 10-year-old boy that can apply to anyone, no matter the age.
The small yet brave Hiccup sets out on a personal journey that takes his quest to become a dragon-fighting Viking down a completely different path. The illuminating discovery that Hiccup stumbles upon not only changes his perspective on the Viking vs. Dragon world but burdens him with the responsibility of enlightening his community, which is bound to never listen.
In the meanwhile, Hiccup’s love for Astrid (Ferrera), a female Viking-in-training, keeps a lighthearted twist on an otherwise tumultuous and heavy journey for little Hiccup.
From Hiccup’s fight against the village’s ignorance to his surprising friendship formed with the Night Fury dragon, who he names Toothless, Hiccup’s journey is bound to enthral you with the young boy’s determination and courage to bring peace between both sides of Hiccup’s new found world.
The cinematography is empowering at times, including the incredible flying scene where Hiccup is mounted on the back of Toothless, flying through beautiful landscapes of a lush valley and bouncy clouds. Intricate details and textures are used throughout the entire film, leaving you reaching out for a feel, from the single strands of hair woven into Astrid’s braids to the wrinkle lines revealing the intensity of Stoic’s life.
While the ending might possibly tug at your emotions, How to Train your Dragon is capable of pulling you into the absolute beauty of a child’s imagination, which is often times squelched. You’re left wanting to be engaged with your childlike self and noticing the creatures around that we often forget about; from the tiniest of bug to the most gargantuan of dragon. Allow yourself to be there and take part in Hiccup’s story that is bound to teach you one thing or another.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.
Even though it lacks the subtle sophistication and refinement of other Disney-Pixar animations, there’s still something rather special about simplistic, yet heartfelt approach, to The Good Dinosaur. Directed by long-time animator-turned-director, Peter Sohn, stunning visuals and the endearing relationship between the two leads will keep audiences engaged and seemingly distracted from the story’s otherwise sweet but familiar premise.
The Good Dinosaur is set in an alternate world, where the deadly and massive asteroid that eventually led to the complete extinction of dinosaurs some sixty five million years ago missed its collision with Earth, leaving the dinosaur population very much intact. Millions of years later, we meet a family of corn harvesting Apatosauruses; Poppa Henry (voiced by Wright), Momma Ida (McDormand) and their three children, Buck (Scribner), Libby (Padilla) and the youngest member of the family, the always-fearful, Arlo (Ochoa).
The family is a hardworking unit, but Arlo strugges to keep up with chores. When a tragic event leads Arlo to be swept up by the river and into the dangers of the open wilderness, the young dinosaur is soon forced to face his fears. Befriending a young and extremely feral little human whom he soon names, Spot (Bright), Arlo and his new buddy set out to get Arlo back to where he belongs, whilst also finding the courage to battle and fight off the dangers along the way.
Marking Pixar’s sixteenth feature film and the second one to be released in 2015 after Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur boasts mesmerising visuals and photorealistic backdrops of raging rivers, picturesque mountaintops and colourful landscapes. It’s a survivor story and an unlikely-friendship story all rolled into one which is at its most beautiful and heartfelt self when it focuses on the main relationship between Arlo and Spot. The time spent with the two leads, as they share quiet and unspoken moments of true friendship and genuine kindness, is where The Good Dinosaur shines, drawing its audience into the story with a great amount of ease.
The performances on all fronts are vibrant and thoroughly engaging, while the story - which was stuck in a troubled six-year long production– is unexpectedly simplistic, the overall result still works in its favour. Fun, simple and beautiful to look at, it’s aimed at a much younger crowd, but that doesn’t mean us so-called adults won’t be able to enjoy it either.