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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.
A truly original horror film isn’t easy to come by these days; even the likes of Paranormal Activity and, going further back, The Blair Witch Project don’t stand-up to second viewing after the dust has settled from the initial impact. Irish production, The Canal, isn’t the film that’s going to change that, but it does have its positives.
The story tells of a husband troubled by paranoia; film archivist, David (Evans), suspects that his wife, Alice (Hoekstra), is having an affair and his suspicions are proven right. Amidst the impending demise of his marriage, he also comes to discover that a gruesome murder was committed in his house some one hundred years ago and he becomes increasingly unstable when Alice goes missing and he becomes the number one suspect.
While it’s far from perfect, writer/director, Ivan Kavanagh, manages to create a sense of dread and anticipation throughout, all the while resisting the conventions that have come to define the modern horror genre. It wouldn’t be completely off-point to call The Canal a more traditional, old-school haunted-house horror, with the dreary Irish backdrop making for an apt setting.
The aesthetic seems to have seeped into the dialogue, however, and paints the script with dreary deadpan interactions. But what will keep you engaged most is David’s slow emotional descent; it gives the film a humanness that many modern horrors lack. But as we’ve mentioned, this is a film not cut from the same mould and European film continues to produce diverse and unique horror.
Again, this is far from perfect and there’s a Hollywood polish that moviegoers have become accustomed to that’s lacking and at times this is a film that will make you feel uncomfortable in the best of ways. It’s as much as psycho-thriller as a horror and despite an underwhelming conclusion, it’s indie horrors like this that will impact the genre in the decade to come.
If Hollywood was to be defined by its trends, then the next few years belong to the world of comic book heroes. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe already established and welcoming more and more superheroes into the fold, DC is about to jump into the deep-end with its own universe and the X-Men franchise is arguably as strong as ever. Marvel’s Fantastic Four – a franchise owned not by Marvel Studios, but by 20th Century Fox – haven’t been so lucky.
After two forgettable attempts at bringing Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing to life on the big screen – and an exhilarating appearance by the Silver Surfer – the franchise has been rebooted with a production that seemed doomed from the very start.
The film re-explores how the Fantastic Four came to be, with its characters made considerably younger than we’ve seen them before; a motiveless scientific experiment opens a ‘Quantum Gate’ to a parallel universe named Planet Zero, which our heroes-to-be recklessly investigate and subsequently suffer severe consequences from. An ensuing botched return home leaves one of the scientific team stuck in Planet Zero, while an explosion in the Quantum Gate gives Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm their powers. The man left behind goes on to become a figure that is historically the Fantastic Four’s deadliest foe, Doctor Doom.
Despite its solid cast of Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell – a collection of some of the best young actors around – the film is so underwhelming, that it makes the previous Fantastic Four films look like works of art. There are glimmers of a solid, modernised adaptation of a loved comic, but the execution of that vision has been tainted from the start and there are basic elements in the film that demonstrate little understanding of what made the foursome one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Firstly, by making the main characters teenagers, the film eliminates much of the dynamic within the group – Reed, for example, has yet to become the brilliant scientist we know him as and because he and Sue are not yet an item, the familial set-up that gave the group heart isn’t there – and it’s a huge problem. A problem that is only further confounded by the fact that, as teenagers, there is no logical reasoning behind their motivations – no reason is given as to why these teens want to build a Quantum Gate.
Throw in some of the worst plotting and pacing to ever taint the silver screen and a strangely gloomy and sombre tone and you have, well, not very much. And we haven’t even talked about the infighting, the re-shoots and the fact that this film was rushed and released as soon as possible in order for Fox to keep the franchise from returning to Marvel. Sigh.