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)
Show, don’t tell. There are other things to nitpick about, such as the rather cliché 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.