Tell the Characters to Shut Up!

Taking a break from the posts about A House for Marge to discuss another movie. One we didn’t make. One I saw last night. I’m speaking of the much-accoladed How to Train Your Dragon.

I had read glowing reviews of this film for months before the DVD release, some even going so far as to say that Pixar has been equaled or surpassed in the animated film field. My family saw it last night and one thing really stuck out to me:

The characters talk too much. Rather than showing us the story beats, the filmmakers were giving us action-accented dialogue scenes to tell us the next beat (Referred to in Save the Cat as the “Pope in the Pool” technique. And well-used here. The first time, that is.)

Which, of course, is a direct contradiction of the golden rule of screenwriting of show, don’t tell. Contrast a scene from How to Train Your Dragon with one from Pixar’s Up:


Character 1: Yakyakyakyakyakyakyakyakyakyak.

Character 2: Blahblahblahblahblahblahblah.

Character 1: Wow, really?

Audience: He’ll use that piece of information in the next scene, I’m sure.


Character 1: (Silence)

Character 2: (Silence)

Audience: *sniffle*

Show, don’t tell. There are other things to nitpick about, such as the rather clichĂ© storyline, the pacing of the opening scene not matching the rest of the film, and how all the grownups have Scottish accents while the teens talk like Americans, but the absence of showing is the sore thumb to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon and I’d certainly see it again. The cinematography is brilliant (wish I’d seen it in 3D), the soundtrack is spectacular (one of my favorites), and the movie does shine in the few areas where the filmmakers remembered that golden rule.

But it’s not the Pixar-killer the critics have labeled it.

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4 comments on “Tell the Characters to Shut Up!

  1. Very interesting! Fun review. I hope to see this movie sometime.

    That is a hilarious comparison between this film and UP. The three sections of UP that are the most tear-worthy (in my opinion) are all silent. Not one word. Good point…

  2. There is a problem worse then talking too much. Not doing anything. I watched a ten minutes of a film (No idea what one. Ten minutes was all I could take.) Where this guy and girl were together sitting down. And they were not talking. If it had been agressive, or porposable silence of some sort. I could let it past, but they were just sitting there. The girl was just siting there, and then she says somehing very quiet. Not to hide information or privacy, but just soemthing whimsacal. The camera was just pointing at her. Like you were suppose to be thinking she is kind of cute, ohh and wow the lighting is very complex. Oh purple with speckales of yellow.
    It was silence without reason. The audience did not know eiher the girl or the boy very much at all yet. To be honest I think It was silence to be artistic. (Or for the cinetographer to get another gig.)
    The shot lasted for more then 40 seconds. At that legnth, I left the room. Please don’t do that.
    Basically I understand, but the extreme is worse the other way.

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