Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spreading the Awesome: Dreamwork's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

I was so inspired by Elana's idea to spread the joy of awesome new books that I decided to spread the awesome all week long. This week, I'm going to feature my recent most favorite movie, poem, song, and television show. Yay for spreading the awesome!

Today's Awesome Topic: Dreamwork's recent movie HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

(In case you live under a rock, here's the trailer.)

Here's why I didn't go see this movie. Look, a year ago, a movie in 3D was a big deal. I remember being able to convince my husband to see UP based on 3D alone. Now...not as big a deal. There have been too many movies (like UP) that relied more on 3D than on a good story to move the movie along. I thought the premise sounded cool...but I figured I'd wait for the DVD. Maybe.

Here's why I did go see this movie--at the last minute, and driving to the next town over to get there. Two of my students--the biggest, baddest, wrestling-team-captain, muscle-bound macho-guys--said they loved it. And more than half the class joined in.

I am so glad I went to see it.

Because it's brilliant.

You know how they say there's only something like five stories in the world, and we're constantly rewriting them? Well, this story is one of the five: outcast kid makes outcast friend and they save the world. Not that original.

But just like Harry Potter wasn't that original (Hero's Journey, anyone?) it's all about the execution. And the execution here--brilliant.

And I don't mean the execution of the CGI or animation. Because, let's be honest--most 3D films have been relying on the shiny outside to sell the movie. No--I mean the execution of the story.

Here's how I know a movie is brilliant: when I realize there's no way I could write the story, that the movie is the perfect medium for the story.

It's the little things: the way the dragon acts a little like a cat and a little like a dog and a little like something else. The way Astrid's eyes follow Hiccup's movements. The way Hiccup's father clenches his eyes and his teeth and his jaw when he thinks his son is dead.

And it's the big things: when Hiccup and Toothless face the huge monster of a dragon at the end, the camera pans down to the people on the ground, watching the battle in the clouds. And you can feel their helplessness, their hopelessness, and Hiccup's father's bitterness is something so real you can taste it. It's the way your heart leaps when Hiccup trains Toothless to fly again at the beginning of the movie, when you can feel the animal's longing for flight, and how the pain of the crash goes deeper than physical.

It's the end, when Hiccup isn't whole any more, because how can you be whole when you fight a dragon?

Do yourself a favor. Watch this movie. Then watch it again and again.

And if you still doubt me, know this: even my cartoon-hating, kid-movie-detesting husband thought it was all right.

So: Have you seen it yet? What are your thoughts?
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