Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Write Your Viking Script

I'd seen the cardboard standee in the hall of the Reading Cinemas Courtenay, the multiplex in downtown Wellington, and given it no further thought. Then, a phone call from a friend came in, and he, knowing that I'm "mad" about Vikings, revealed that How to Train Your Dragon is about Vikings. Well.

We checked the times, there was a showing in 90 minutes, enough to eat dinner beforehand, and off we went.

I can't say I was expecting much. This was an animated film aimed at children (and perhaps also those adults accompanying them) and the ostensible concept, high though it might be, stated emphatically that the story would be a fantasy.

And it was. However, it was also the most exhilarating and, dare I say, touching feature I've seen in a long time. There's always a magic to seeing a film of which you've had no prior knowledge, no expectation--and when such a film delivers the goods the experience is all the richer. (The music and animation are also superb.)

What's more, How to Train Your Dragon is the best Viking film to date. As a friend of mine (also a screenwriter) likes to put it, Hollywood has been intent on finding and exploiting all the various ways of getting Viking films wrong. This movie found one way to do it well.

Sure, the Vikings speak with Scottish accents, wear their crazy horned helmets, and swing preposterously oversized battle axes. Normally, this would drive me nuts. But in this telling there's also a respect, at a most basic level, for the ethos of the North: of the toughness and sinew forged in an unforgiving environment, the fatalistic humor borne of unremitting hardship, the elegance of the design and craft. Mel Gibson, are you listening?

Here, the adventures of a cerebrotonic Viking lad with a knack for scientific method provide a splendid source of entertainment as well as entry into a realm that's been willfully misunderstood for a thousand years. See it.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Brett said...

outstanding news

7:46 PM  
Blogger Jack M. said...

Have you seen the Japanese animated feature "Taiyo no oji: Horusu no daiboken" (1968) (aka "Horus", aka "Prince of the Sun", aka "Little Norse Prince Valiant", aka etc..)...

It's an interesting one as well - plays in approximate viking age in Scandinavia (unspecified exactly where), and was decidedly not hollywoodish...

It's also interesting in that one of the scene designers and key animators was Miyazaki Hayao, of Studio Ghibli...

- Jack

1:45 AM  
Blogger Jack M. said...

Oh, and don't forget the 2008 movie Outlander - vikings and aliens! Whoop!

- Jack

4:09 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Jack - something tells me I'll be seeing a certain Japanese film very soon. Thanks!

And Outlander I quite enjoyed as well, though I'd classify that one as sci-fi.

5:23 PM  

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