Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon & First Impression of the 3D Gimmick

Yesterday, I went along with several classmates to watch what turned out to be a fantastic movie:  How To Train Your Dragon.  We got into the cinema as soon as we could and got decent seats, and I was among the group that went to see the movie in 3D; another group of classmates saw an earlier, 2D showing.  This was the first time I had seen a movie in 3D, but I'll get to my feelings on that later.  For now, a review.
Let's start with what was initially the only thing that caught my interest about the movie, voice talent.  In particular, Craig Ferguson playing a role gave me a decent reason to see the film.  The main protagonist, Hiccup, also had a very amusing vocal performance.  Admittedly, I've never heard of Jay Baruchel before just now looking up who Hiccup's voice belongs to.  Regardless, he performed brilliantly in the lead role of this flick.
Gerard Butler also gave a great performance as Stoick, Hiccup's definition-of-the-viking-way father.
The animation was very well-done, which has quickly become common-place in Dream Works' animated films.  The dragons in particular are exceptionally detailed, though a few aspects of the overall aesthetics didn't sit all that well with me.  I've always been a bit stubborn about how I feel dragons should look, but this enters an area too biased for reviewing purposes.  Aside from details on the models, the actual animation part of the animation was also pretty spectacular.  The people all have personalities well-distinguished in their body language and the different species of dragons show this as well.
Toothless, in particular, has a very clear and lovable personality that shows perfectly despite the character being unable to speak (being a dragon).  As a side-note, Toothless' personality connected the movie to me on a pretty personal level due to how cat-like the dragon acted; I have a cat of my own and I deeply care about him.  Hiccup's interactions with Toothless were quick to remind me of my own experiences.
What should probably get the most credit is the story's ability to make you really care about the characters, something you might not even realize until it comes to the slight 'tear-jerker' moments.  I can't say I found any part to be really depressing but I found myself choked a couple of times.
Looking at the story overall, it's pretty great.  The plot's only downfall, and in fact the only real fault I can find with the movie, is the occasionally awkward presentation.  Two noticeable scenes come to mind; both of these ended very abruptly and leave several questions as to what would've happened immediately following them.  In other words, there are two pretty prominent cases of "Why did that scene end there?".  Other than those, a few plot details are overstated and/or feel just a little drawn-out.  Hiccup's relationship with Toothless takes a surprisingly long time to fully develop, which isn't really a bad thing considering factors like Hiccup's upbringing but it still might make viewers a bit overanxious.

That looks to be all I have to say about the film.  See it.  Also, I recommend seeing it, and other films, in 2D.  Let's take a look at why I say that.

As mentioned above, How To Train Your Dragon is the first movie I ever watched in 3D.  Now having experienced the new only real impression of it is that it's simply a bad gimmick.
To get a personal matter out of the way, I wear glasses which I need to see anything distant properly.  My sight is functional without them to the point that I can get around no problem, but small details are effectively nonexistent.  Simply put, the movie would've looked like crap if I didn't wear my prescription glasses as well as the 3D glasses over top of them.  Wearing both pairs resulted in some very noticeable stress on my eyes, so much so that I occasionally just had to look down and really clam my eyelids closed for a couple seconds.
As for a more universal issue I take with the gimmick; the edge of the screen indefinitely ruins the illusion.  Yes, things do appear truly closer and further away...before you notice that all of it cuts off at the exact same spot in your field of vision.  Because of this, the gimmick ironically made me far more aware that I was just watching a movie (ironic because it's so often pushed as being able to "bring you into the movie").  There's really nothing else that needs to be said, if a gimmick is to succeed it needs to actually be effective and not be counterproductive to the experience.
Suffice to say, I'll be sticking to seeing movies in 2D from now on.

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