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Harry was shocked to learn HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON in 3D today!

Trailers are amazing things. Take for example the trailers for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - which beginning with the title, I wasn't thrilled with. There's something about the trailer that just feels bland & flavorless. It seems to be a story about a boy that shot down a dragon, they became friends & that's about it. What is missing is the soul of the film, now ordinarily I'd expect more than a trailer's worth of depth, but Dreamworks Animation sometimes makes moves that are as bland as the trailers. That's how I feel about the SHREK movies and especially last year's MONSTERS VS ALIENS. The trailers tend to be made up of unconnected gags rather than story. But when I looked at the filmography of the directors for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, well... it is just LILO & STITCH. Now, I don't know about you, but I LOOOOOOVE that film. Not that animated television series, but the movie. It had heart, soul, story, originality and was just the sort of animated film that I love. I hoped that spirit would be found in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but with a title as "Goofy" as that.. it's practically screaming to be gagged to the max. Thankfully, no. I yanked myself out of bed this morning after a long, intoxicating night of cinema, which is how I tend to spend every Sunday night. As a result, I only received about three & half hours of sleep prior to awakening for this Monday morning treat. The Alamo Village had mercifully brewed yummy coffee this morning, and after a cup o' joe, it was time to catch the latest from the LILO & STITCH pair. Most of the trailer you've seen is from a microscopic portion of the tale. A part of the film that's actually around 45 minutes or so in. What isn't in the trailer is anything that really relates to the characters. The unfortunately named prince of the Viking community, Hiccup, is a wisp of a lad. Bones with a side of meat, whereas the typical Viking in this land is beefy, meaty and built like a human tank. The vikings thirst for Dragon blood, killing Dragons is their life. Well, that and boasting about killing dragons and drinking mead. On a purely animation and character design level, the viking community felt and looked like something that GROO THE WANDERER could've felt at home at. The matted hair, the textures, the shadows - all darker than we're used to. I loved the animated Viking homes, weapons and ornamentations. This isn't anything close to real, nor should it be, this is a fantasy Viking land. Something that will be a bit of a primer for Branagh's THOR, then later with Mel Gibson's Viking epic. My brethren will be well-represented in cinema over the coming years. Now, Hiccup is rearing to kill dragons. His father, Stoick, is voiced by Gerard Butler perfectly. He sounds like a viking. Whereas Hiccup is voiced by Jay Baruchel, who is such a wimp, Harry Knowles beat him up in FANBOYS last year. How's a guy that I can whup, gonna whup a Dragon's ass? Naturally, he can't. He's a softhearted fella at his core. He's not there to kill, he just wasn't given that cold killing gene that his father is so proud of. At no point is this film really about Training a Dragon. It's more about Hiccup being trained to kill dragons, even as he has secretly been nursing back to health and learning to ride and fly with his downed dragon that he has named TOOTHLESS. The result is a fascinating coming of age adventure fantasy story that could be a bit intense for the most delicate of youngsters, but for most will be a joy to behold. The first question that I was asked upon revealing that I had seen HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and declared it amongst the best of Dreamworks Animation - was... How does it compare to KUNG FU PANDA? First off, while I saw the film in 3D today, it wasn't quite complete. The score was the pre-record version, not the full orchestra recording that will soon exist. Also at several points, unfinished animation was there. But as is, I found the film to be every bit as emotional, thrilling and fun as KUNG FU PANDA. It is completely different. For one, this is a story about an amazing pet. A rescued, wounded pet that other people wouldn't respect, understand or allow one to keep. This is a deadly creature. In fact, this isn't just any ol dragon, but a legendary creature that had never even been glimpsed. In this land, there are a large variety of dragons, each with their own particular eccentricities. My favorite character is, as hard as it will be to believe, Craig Ferguson's Gobber, the blacksmith and former great killer of Dragons. He plays Hiccup's teacher... for one, Hiccup has worked with Gobber as an apprentice in the arts of a Blacksmith, but when Stoick takes the warriors on an expedition to find the Dragon's nest and kill them all, Gobber is asked to teach the next generation of Vikings to kill dragons. Something that Hiccup has a growing discomfort in doing. Gobber is missing an arm & a leg. He's created a few devices that he can plug into place to make life easier. And in a lesser film, you would've seen a scene of Gobber's collection of hand and leg attachments. Instead, we get introduced to his drinking attachment organically and in use. You never see him switch these out. The result is always surprising and fun. But more so, the biting wit and humor of Gobber's dialogue is killer funny. There's one moment where you think he's going to sagely calm Hiccup's neurosis about his father, when it suddenly takes a left turn to stab poor Hiccup to the core. He's just a great character, something that I didn't expect from Craig Ferguson. There's a slight romantic story between Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) that is tender and smart and works. In fact, it all works here. DeBlois & Sanders have a great touch. The animation is often beautiful and stunning. The flight sequence when Hiccup introduces Astrid to Toothless is beautiful. More balletic & soaring than the Banshees, the dream of riding a dragon. It is that sequence above all others in the film that sets this film apart. I'd compare it to that first big flight sequence from THE ROCKETEER for sheer joy of flight. Very Miyazaki. There's a shot where we keep our characters level, while only the horizon tumbles - it was one of those shots where you notice your jaw hanging open and the corners of your mouth trapped in a smile. I really want to fly astride a dragon. The film is opening against CLASH OF THE TITANS on March 26th, and honestly... Parents of kids in their early teens are going to have a great day that day, I bet. I haven't seen CLASH yet, but HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON will play to young kids exceptionally well, and the older CLASH kids will go nuts for that. The final little note that I have on the film is this. While there's no listed Director of Photography on HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, the man they had advising them throughout on the film is Roger Deakins and it shows. Especially in the bright sunlit scenes and then later in the dark shadowy sequences, which were not afraid of using BLACK as a base. As an ol' gaffer in New Zealand once said, "Do ya want it bright & shiny or Dark & interesting?" The Dark & Interestingly lit scenes are really something. The 3D was pretty spectacular. I look forward to seeing this finished and at the IMAX. This is going to make DREAMWORKS ANIMATION a mint, at least I hope so. This is very much a story over gags film, with no potty humor. I'm told that we'll soon be seeing a trailer that is more indicative of the film shortly. I hope so, because I barely had the desire to see it this morning, whereas now, I'm 100% on board the film. This is a wonderful fantasy that kids can enjoy, despite the fact that Adults will have even more fun with it. In that respect, it did remind me of KUNG FU PANDA.

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:34 p.m. CST

    testing 1 2 3

    by xega


  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:35 p.m. CST


    by StarchildAD

    out of mah butt!

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:43 p.m. CST

    I still think the

    by Dharma4

    Dragons face looks bland.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Harry Is the DVD review column finished?

    by mr dark

    I was really looking forward to the review of the Presley legacy dvd...But to be honest I usually look forward to the column no matter what is coming out..I do base some of my buys on info I get from this site..but not so much anymore because of a lack of interest on AICN's part..just sayin..

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:48 p.m. CST

    I'm excited to see it since...

    by martinjm70

    I love KUNG FU PANDA. It's always a blast to watch with my son (soon to be four years old), though we also enjoy MONSTER VS. ALIENS, UP, and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. Weirdly, we've never seen LILO & STITCH, so on your recommendation, we'll be checking that out. Great review, by the way. Makes me really excited to take my son to the IMAX for his 4th birthday.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:49 p.m. CST


    by blackwood

    Good to hear it played well for you, Harry. I hope it does for me, too - but Sam Worthington vs. the Gods has my March 26 money. This will be a matinee sometime in the weeks following. I really dig the look of the dragon - sure, a bit STITCH, but I liked him too.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Gerard Butler

    by LisaNeedsBraces

    "His father, Stoick, is voiced by Gerard Butler perfectly. He sounds like a viking." Yes, he sounds like a Viking IF there were such a thing as Scottish Vikings, which they didn't.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:20 p.m. CST

    I'm really looking forward to this movie...

    by SoylentMean

    as well as Harry's continued DVD reviews that surely will happen soon, right?

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:22 p.m. CST

    Lilo & Stitch is awesome, yet another reason to see this movie

    by SoylentMean

    Lilo & Stitch balances a family dynamic with some truly shocking violence. It's a great film.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:31 p.m. CST

    But Kung Fu Panda was shit

    by barnaby jones

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:43 p.m. CST

    Kung Fu Panda was the best animated film of '08

    by SnowDogs

    It kicked Wall-E's ass. Easily Dreamworks' best film, and is up there with some of Pixar's best. Wall-E lovers are more in love with the politics of that film than they are of the retarded robot who date-rapes a supermodel robot (puts the moves on her while she's unconscious) and still somehow wins her love.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:46 p.m. CST

    Kung Fu Panda was not shit, my opinion, which is right

    by SoylentMean

    Of course I'm always right. I've learned to accept that.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:47 p.m. CST

    DVD column


    No, not finished. Just took a break to enjoy the New Year through my wife's birthday off.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:53 p.m. CST

    Well finally, an explanation!

    by SoylentMean

    Good to hear the DVD column is forthcoming. By the way, the word forthcoming sounds kinda naughty...

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 5:57 p.m. CST

    Breaking News: Harry Knowles found SOMETHING to bitch about desp

    by philosophers

    Dude. You spend 3-4 paragraphs bitching about MARKETING. Obviously you're not the target demographic they were going for with the trailers anyways. You know why you can't stop bitching about shit? Because deep down you really truly believe that you're smarter than everyone.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 6:07 p.m. CST

    I thought Harry liked Monsters vs Aliens?

    by D.Vader

    Color me confused based on his opening paragraph...?

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 6:51 p.m. CST

    Even BIG LOB couldn't yank you out of bed...

    by GibsonUSA Returns


  • Jan. 18, 2010, 6:53 p.m. CST

    Is the main character's voice as annoying as in trailers?

    by GibsonUSA Returns

    He sounded like Drew Carey trying to be whiney, even though he's supposed to be a boy.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 7:12 p.m. CST

    THANX for reminding me of ...

    by MiTior

    Gibson's vikings movie!!

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 8:28 p.m. CST

    My 7-year-old loves this book series

    by Jollymorphic

    And he's actually quite outraged by the film's departures from the source material (Toothless is actually about a foot long in the books). I'm actually looking forward to the film, as it looks frankly more entertaining than the books (which are really pretty throwaway children's literature). FUN FACT: The author's husband's name is Simon Cowell, but he's not THAT Simon Cowell.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 8:34 p.m. CST


    by Jollymorphic

    Actually, actually, actually.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 9:26 p.m. CST

    First non-Pixar CG movie I'm really interested in

    by darthvedder81

    I love Dragons so that probably skews things a bit though.

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 10:15 p.m. CST


    by Toonol

    A black scene in 3d... has no depth, does it? You can't have stereoscopic effect with blackness. And if there's one lit, 3d object against a black background, there's no way to make the blackness behind or in front of it... is there? I'm freaking myself out, here.<p> Wait, it's not just blackness. Any featureless surface in 3d would lose all depth. Why haven't I noticed this?

  • Jan. 18, 2010, 11:22 p.m. CST

    good to know

    by antonphd

    now if we could only get a good trailer for Clash of the Titans. I loved Clash of the Titans when I was a kid but this one looks good and sounds aweful at the same time. I know it's the trailer. Although... I do love Damn The Gods with all my heart and all my mind and all my strength.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 12:11 a.m. CST

    Maybe when it's on cable

    by Jaka

    I'm not going to pay to learn how to train my Pokemon salamander in the theater.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 1:45 a.m. CST

    'something I didn't expect from Craig Ferguson'

    by CaseyMcCall

    What's up with that, Harry? The guy's very very funny. Anywho, I saw about an hour of How To Train... and I liked what I saw. This will indeed be a big hit for DreamWorks.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 1:51 a.m. CST



    has vikingr blood?

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 6:09 a.m. CST

    I would hardly describe Shrek as bland Harry

    by Drsambeckett1984

    The first one is an excellent movie well on par with the very best of Pixar, and Shrek 2 is hardly terrible, I have no defence for Shrek 3.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 7:09 a.m. CST

    Shrek is pretty bland indeed

    by pipergates

    gag gag gagitty gag, zero story

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 7:31 a.m. CST

    Harry - would it be safe to say:

    by Sebilrazen

    "For one, this is a story about an amazing pet. A rescued, wounded pet that other people wouldn't respect, understand or allow one to keep. This is a deadly creature. In fact, this isn't just any ol ..., but a legendary creature that had never even been glimpsed." <br><br> This is basically the same premise as E.T.?

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 8:26 a.m. CST

    "At no point is this film really about Training a Dragon"

    by talonscar

    That's because they threw out the whole plot of the book, and just kept the characters. This is gonna be shite.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 8:35 a.m. CST

    Jay Baruchel

    by Series7

    Getting shoved down your throat 2010. <P> Love,<P>Hollywoodland

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 8:42 a.m. CST

    So Harry, I can't find a review from you...

    by D.Vader

    On Monsters vs Aliens. Did you ever write one? Why do I think you liked it?

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 9:33 a.m. CST

    Monsters Vs Aliens sucked

    by Series7

    Save for Seth Rogen actually his Blob saved the film from being unwatchable. He was a cool fun character and Seth FINALLY brought something to the table with his voice. The rest of the voice cast was wasted worse then the Furious Five. Hugh was hugh, Will was Will and Reese and Reese. Seth's dumbness elevated his character for once. <P> Its a decent rental with some cool action set pieces, but for my money I'd say go see Cloudy or Battle for Terra. Man last year was a good year for animation.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 9:36 a.m. CST

    Voice cast wasted WORSE than the Furious Five?

    by D.Vader

    No way. That takes the cake for the most ridiculous use of famous voices compared to the character development and amount of time featured onscreen.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 10:48 a.m. CST


    by Series7

    It was pretty close. I mean at least in Panda you got some development out of the main two, with Monsters Vs. Aliens no one goes anywhere.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 10:51 a.m. CST

    I thought the trailer had potential. Hope you're right...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...hope it's good.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 10:53 a.m. CST


    by critch

    They did the same thing with Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, and that ended up being the best animated film of last year. Not surprised that Ferguson is a highlight. Lost in the war of Conan vs. Jay is that Craig is consistently the funniest and best person working late nights, and deserves far more recognition than he gets.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 11:35 a.m. CST


    by philosophers

    Trailers are made for the broadest of audiences. They're not targeting you.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 1 p.m. CST

    kung fu panda was shit...

    by blckmgk13

    ...but lilo and stitch is one of the best animated movies ever. Right up there with Iron Giant and others. So count that as one ticket for how to train your dragon. Might be after Clash of the Titans though. Wife really seems to dig the trailers for that one.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 1:27 p.m. CST

    the Alien in Monsters vs Aliens was great

    by pipergates

    Him and his spaceships...the rest was really bland.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 1:29 p.m. CST

    The villain' escape in Kung Fu Panda was amazing

    by pipergates

    that film had some fantastic parts.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 2:07 p.m. CST

    Amen, pipergates . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    While I thought the movie as a hole was a bit weak, the first time I ever caught a glimpse of the movie outside of the trailer, was by flipping to that scene on HBOHD. It was pretty f'n cool.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 2:08 p.m. CST

    As a hole. Heh heh. Heh heh heh.

    by Nice Marmot

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 3 p.m. CST

    Yep, this movie looks good.

    by TooWhippy

    I'm glad to see Dreamworks doing something besides another Shrek movie.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 5:08 p.m. CST

    I found Kung Fu Panda boring.

    by Mahaloth

    I actually fell asleep at the end, which I've never done before.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 5:46 p.m. CST

    marmot, nice

    by pipergates

    if you had said something nasty to me i could have called you an "as a hole"...

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 6:17 p.m. CST

    God I'm glad

    by PlayerHater_of_the_year

    the Japanese are finally doing CG features to save s from this Hollywood dogshit.

  • Jan. 19, 2010, 9:38 p.m. CST

    Ebert thought Astro Boy was better than Kung Fu Panda

    by FeralAngel

    And it was. Hey, Harry, talk about an exhilirating flying scene, don't you remember when the little robot boy took his maiden flight through those gorgeous clouds at sunset? Diving and flipping and playfully punching clouds? Damn that was beautiful. Even the snottiest film critics liked that scene. Anyhoo, the dragon film looks pretty blah, I'll probably rent it. There was nothing in that trailer that made me excited to see it, and since you dissed Astro Boy (yep, broken record, sue me) I know I can't trust your judgement anymore. So Dragon Movie=pass. But it'll probably get looked at by other folks because it has the Dreamworks label slapped on it, and it's based on a kid's book series, which seems to be a winning formula for bad films (Where The Wild Things Are, Polar Express, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, etc.) Besides, the main dragon looks like Stitch, except that he isn't "cute and fuzzy".

  • Jan. 20, 2010, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Kung Fu Panda was great

    by GayVegetarian

    as good as any Pixar movie.

  • Jan. 21, 2010, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Im fucking amazed Harry

    by LargoJr

    I've been coming here reading your posts since the mid-late 90's, and one thing is inexplicably clear. <p> You still can't write for shit.... but at least your review confirmed this particular film's a keeper. Thanks!

  • Jan. 21, 2010, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Harry is of Nordic descent?

    by JayLenoTookMyJob

    Heh. Actually, there's an historic Viking king who Harry eerily resembles. Look it up here: Yep! "Ivar the Boneless". Huge guy, couldn't walk, his men carried him around on his shield. Proof of reincarnation? Or bizarro coincidence? You decide!

  • Jan. 22, 2010, 1:19 p.m. CST

    Hated Kung-Fu Panda...

    by Jaym3

    And I don't want this, which I assume will be better, because its from the L&S guys to be compared with it. I don't have much hope though. Saving Dreamworks now is like saving motherfucking Heroes. It's impossible shit.

  • Jan. 23, 2010, 2:34 p.m. CST

    Kung Fu Panda

    by EliteStance

    Was well made and had great sequences, but its themes and core where awful. The usual 'just want it and you'll get it nonsense' I dislike in certain US movies (sorry my US cousins). So someone who just 'dreams' of something becomes better than people who've actually been studying and practicing. Kung Fu Panda's central message is exactly the nonsesne that brought the global economy low - that you get what you want with no real effort or talent.

  • Jan. 26, 2010, 3:43 p.m. CST

    kung fu panda

    by redkamel

    I thought kung fu panda actually kind of sucked. The whole noodle joke was lame, the parents being chickens never really got played up (I was hoping they would let Panda know he was adopted in a huge reveal. Perfect gag for kids). The Dragon Scroll was lame, it should have been a training regimen. There was no good training. The only part Iiked was the Turtle guy. <p> The whole message of the movie was that if fat/incompetent people believe in themselves, they will be better than everyone else. They kind of left out the whole "I actually have to pay my dues beyond the normal work" bit.

  • Feb. 27, 2010, 5:05 a.m. CST

    If Wall-E ended

    by Squilookle

    at around the half hour mark it MIGHT have been oscar nom worthy, but Kung Fu Panda was robbed. It was a much more complete film in every way. Revealing Auto as a villain in Wall- E was just about the lamest thing ever.

  • April 2, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Very cute

    by Chakalak

    My first 3D movie since Vincent Price's "House of Wax" - consequently was blown away by it. The skin on those hairy Viking arms was so real my brain was tricked for a second. My kids enjoyed it as well - good uncomplicated story. Although personally I still prefer Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, don't know why exactly.

  • April 3, 2010, 6:41 p.m. CST

    Orcus might check this out then

    by orcus