Sunday, September 04, 2011

Review: How To Train Your Dragon

At WorldCon, there was a panel entitled "The Real Revenge of the Nerds", where the theme was the recent spate of movies where the hero is a nerd and indeed gets the girl. How To Train Your Dragon would be exhibit #2 in that discussion. Exhibit #1 properly belongs to The Social Network, not only because it single-handedly raised CS enrollment nation-wide, but also because the antagonists, the Winklevosses, are classic good looking athletes.

The story revolves around Hiccup, who's the lone weakling in his village whose only hope of achieving social acceptance is to kill a dragon. When he finally gets a chance, he finds that he's too much of a wuss to do so... and to say more would be to spoil the story.

The animation is so-so, though the animators have cleverly avoided the uncanny valley. What's great is that our hero doesn't succeed through brawn: he succeeds through a combination of clever engineering, intelligent observation of critters, and ultimately, with kindness. To say that there is a total lack of such examples in typical children's movies (especially with male protagonists) would be under-stating it. In fact, it's the heroine of the story who supplies the brawn.

What's more, the protagonist sacrifices something real at the end of the movie in order to achieve his results. While everything does end well, the sacrifice makes it feel real in a way that recent Pixar movies (for instance) do not.

Highly recommended if you're a nerd.
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