Feel I need to take a moment and commemorate this. Two years ago my favourite movie was released. Technically it was yesterday – but I hadn’t realised until a helpful Tumblr post reminded me of its significance.
Yes, if the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, my favourite movie by a mile is Dreamwork’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. And just to make it even more suitable, last week was the season finale of Dragons: Riders of Berk, the spin off cartoon that has been airing this year.
If you’ve never seen this movie, then you’ve been missing out on a pretty incredible bit of cinema. The basic plot is as follows: The Vikings of Berk are constantly under siege by dragons. Hiccup, the son of the chief, has always been a bit of a disappointment since he’s skinny, smart and more than slightly sarcastic in a village of very big, very strong, and not particularly smart men. He intends to fix this problem by shooting down the rarest dragon of all with one of his inventions – which he does. But when he finds the dragon injured in the woods, he finds he can’t kill it – and befriends it instead.
The first time I heard about this movie, I just rolled my eyes and dismissed it. I wasn’t a big fan of Dreamworks back then, and the title sounded ridiculous. Then I found the trailers…
I must have watched that thing 100 times in the lead up to the release. That, and the preview clips released…there was just something about this movie’s advertising that had me hooked. The movie itself didn’t disappoint either – my one complaint was that when the final scene began and you could practically hear the credits rolling, I was begging it not to stop, because I hated the thought of not having more movie to enjoy.
Overall, before this movie left the cinema I’d seen it a grand total of 14 times. Including one trip to Glasgow to see it on an IMAX screen. When the DVD came out, I bought that, then came home and downloaded the iTunes copy for my iPod too. Think it’s safe to say I’m something of a big fan, so one would assume I was watching the TV series with baited breath.
Don’t get me wrong. I watched it and enjoyed it, but after nearly 2 years of waiting and waiting and having no new information, (minus a handful of short movies that were actually really good) anyone’s interest in something is going to wane. At first I tried to wait until it was being aired over here so I could watch it properly (or at least download it via iTunes), then it aired and the Internet happened. My own sanity was dependent on my watching the show as it was released, or ignoring anything to do with HTTYD. I chose that option…right up until a few weeks ago when I ended up watching the series while getting through 3 weeks of ironing – had started watching a sentai series, but that was turning into torture so looked this up as an alternative.
The series essentially takes off where the film left off. Needless to say if you haven’t watched it (and have somehow managed to not figure out how it’s inevitably going to end) you should stop reading now, but the Vikings of Berk are living in harmony with the dragons. Of course, having giant fire breathing reptiles hanging around your village is going to cause some problems – and the series is mostly dedicated to Hiccup and the cast trying to keep the dragons and Vikings happy as each problem crops up.
So what did I like?
First off, the animation quality cannot be praised enough. It’s hardly movie quality, but the sheer detail that has been kept is nothing short of beautiful. When you think of Dreamwork’s previous TV shows, it’s astonishing just how much better Dragons looks.
Secondly, the voice acting. Most of the original cast reprised their roles, and those who didn’t were casted voices that did everything in their power to sound as much like the movie cast as possible. The voice actor for Snotlout immediately comes to mind – I honestly thought they’d gotten Jonah Hill back for a good chunk of the series. And of course, I could listen to Jay Baruchel’s voice all day.
Third, the season finale. An episode whose plot I saw coming an episode away…but managed to completely blindside me by spending the entire episode proving that what I thought would happen wouldn’t happen, then giving me a bait and switch at the very last moment. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s genius, or just plain evil.
However…I found my biggest problem with the series often hindered my enjoyment. The plots of the episodes. To be fair, a lot of them were great ideas – but nothing was particularly new or solved in a way you didn’t see coming 5 minutes in. It is a show for children yes, but considering the short movies released earlier managed to be very creative, it was kind of disappointing that the writers never tried to challenge themselves. To be fair, the series is supposedly considered canon, which means nothing can happen in it that could directly contradict the movie sequels. This means relationships stay in holding patterns (what was considered an almost established relationship in the movie has been reduced to a ‘will they won’t they’ friendship), character development had to be handled with kid gloves to make sure characters don’t change too much, and any new dragons probably don’t show up for too long.
It’s frustrating, especially since the news is How to Train Your Dragon 2, released next year will be set several years into the future, after season 2 of Dragons. Meaning another season with more of the same. Or not – the finale’s cliff-hanger does promise an interesting shake up of dynamics that doesn’t necessarily damage the sequels. Hoping that after a season to get comfortable, the creators of Dragons can take more risks with season 2, ‘Defenders of Berk’.
Course…I now have to wait until August for this…joy…