Rewatched the first How to Train Your Dragon after... I don’t even know... it’s been several years, maybe last time I watched it the full way through was 2015. And holy Thor this thing is such a masterpiece I was almost crying the full way through.
The CARE. The flipping CARE that goes into this movie. I’ve always seen the movie as impressively well-paced and structured, and my goodness, it’s one of the most brilliantly paced thing I’ve EVER seen.
The small moments. Stoick talking to Hiccup having returned from the voyage. All the awkward pauses, the built-up tension... before we realize the “dragon” Stoick’s talking about isn’t Toothless. Pacing is perfect to give us this moment of worried breathlessness with Hiccup as we think he’s been outed... then realize the communication split.
Another great small moment: Stoick kneels before Toothless in silence, believing his son is dead. The pause is the right length, long enough to give us that pain and quiet reflection of what (may have) happened in the battle. Every little pacing moment here amplifies emotions perfectly. Wow.
Length of camera angles. Character pauses. Dialogue delivery. It’s spotless.
The length of scenes. No scene in HTTYD feels too long or too short... nothing is rushed. I don’t want to use the word “leisurely” exactly, but we’re able to breathe and immerse in every moment. It’s especially amplified by the use of several scenes where there’s no music in the background, allowing us to think through dialogue... or moments where it’s instrumental alone and no words (giving us the time of bonding between Hiccup and Toothless in Forbidden Friendship, or See You Tomorrow, etc.). Whatever scene we’re looking at, whether it’s Hiccup reading the Dragon Manual, or the battle of the Red Death... scene choices are perfectly timed.
The transitions between scenes. These are brilliant and clever. There’s many instances where one line leads directly to the next. Gobber: He has this way with the beasts. Transition to: Hiccup riding on Toothless’ back. Gobber asking Stoick what his plan is to attack the dragon’s base. Next scene: Astrid asking Hiccup what his plan is to get to the dragon’s island.
And then the full scaffolding of the movie. The pacing of the whole is based on where one event is related to the other and in relation to the whole: it’s a game of mathematical proportions. When key moments are brought in, when the turning point is reached, when the hero’s low is hit, when the climax is reached - it’s important to how we experience movies, as they are a time-oriented art form. The time allotment and proportion of where key events happen to each other within the full length of this film is spotless.
And within that all is interwoven charming dialogue, memorable characters that we can comprehend in their complexity (oh goodness can we understand Stoick’s frustrations and struggle as a father, even while seeing Hiccup’s perspective as a teen going through his own difficulties), and little moments coming back through again later. Hiccup at the start saying Berk’s problems are the pests; Hiccup at the end saying Berk’s perks are the pets. One letter difference, brilliant. Hiccup at the start shutting the house door in fear of dragons attacking; Hiccup at the end shutting the house door when he first catches sight of a dragon, before realizing it’s now domesticated. Even the same dragon species - we’re that consistent. Hiccup looking at Toothless captured at the start murmuring “I did this”; Stoick looking at Toothless lying on his side after the battle’s end murmuring “I did this.” Everything is perfectly structured, logically sound, leads from one idea to the next, and even the smallest attention to details is brought around again to something meaningful.
Holy freaking fuck how do you get better than this movie.
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