Get this. First, we have an island with vikings
on it. Then, we get dragons
. Oh, no, we're not done yet. Now we get vikings riding dragons
! Our main character is going to be a snarky wannabe viking who gains control of the most powerful dragon EVAR and kicks everyone's ass. End result: profit
...Let's see, does that do it? I seem to have gotten everything from the random Dreamworks
script generator except "pop-culture references that will be dated in three years" and "hire famous actors to say three lines". This isn't a premise that inspires confidence. It sounds like part of an elaborate plan
to plunge us back into the Animation Age Ghetto
And yet, amazingly enough, it works. Any trailers you saw implying this was just more kid-friendly-schleck was deliberately misleading you
Let's start with our lead, Hiccup. A Mary Sue
insert this kid ain't. Is he snarky? Yes. But not because he's cool- because it's all he's got. He's a small, spindly, clumsy kid who screws things up. Indeed, the whole premise (he shoots down a Night Fury) is played off as absurdly improbable, and we can't blame the other vikings for not believing him.
What's more than that is the Night Fury, Toothless. He doesn't buckle under Hiccup's mighty wit and strength. He's hostile to Hiccup for much of the movie before Hiccup earns his trust via friendship. Yes, earns- this work may use All Animals Are Domesticated
, but it does not do so egregiously. This process is not blazed through via montage or a Hand Wave
about the two being "mentally connected- rather, it uses an extended character piece that really hits home.
Even secondary characters have strong qualities about them. Astrid, far from being a pliant female lead, is her own character, far quicker to mistrust Hiccup than worship him. Hiccup's Viking dad, even though he provides much of the conflict, is shown as someone making the best decisions he can with the information he has. It's refreshing to see an animated movie that not only says die
, but admits that sometimes, it may be justified.
Overall, this movie is highly recommended, and is the easy front-runner for Best Animated Feature this year. Note that this review only covers the 2D version.