How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review

Image result for how to train your dragon 3

This March saw the release of the third and apparently final instalment in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise in the form of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This franchise, which started in 2010 with the release of the first film and continued with a sequel and a number of television spinoffs, follows the story of Berk where young Viking Hiccup, son of the reputed chief Stoic, as he sets out to befriend the dragons, the vikings’ mortal enemy. In this film, Hiccup, now the chief of the settlement, looks desperately for a place to relocate the Berk as the integration of Berkians with dragons has made them a target for the rest of the world. Starring Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera among others, the film has been received well by long standing fans of the franchise as a fitting end to the tale.

I was so incredibly excited to see this film. I am, firstly, the most nostalgically sufferable individual you’ve ever met. Secondly, I absolutely love How to Train Your Dragon. The first film was a massive deal in my life (though as most who know me would tell you almost everything I watched at that time in my life was a big deal in my life). I liked the second film, a lot, and I even enjoyed what I saw of the TV series on Cartoon Network. Hiccup and Toothless are important to me, so when I heard that not only was there going to be a third film, but that the third film was supposed to be good, I was ready to go on opening day. I think my reaction could best be described as mild disappointment. It’s decent. It pays the appropriate amount of homage to the first film, but comes slightly short of being great on its own.

The humor falls flat a little too often, but when it lands it lands hard. There are some solid, top notch comic motifs (I’m looking at the beard jokes and I’m looking at Snotlout and Eret’s competition over Hiccup’s mom) which deserve credit where credit is due. The remaining, more moment to moment funnys are a little weak. It stems from some lazy writing at times, not up to DreamWorks’ high standards. One of the things that’s so incredible about these movies we watched as kids is how legitimately good they were. It was never screenplays for four year olds. Not that the writing on this film is anywhere near that bad, but it was flat to the point of neglect at times and that was just a little sad to see. The character development, in terms of the extrapolation over the four films, is quality. The internal struggle with Hiccup is very uncomfortable to watch, but that was entirely the point so fair play to them. I didn’t personally love the thing they did with Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship; the lack of belief was a little undercooked (more on that later).

The film’s villain, Grimmel, starts off as a charismatic, spooky antagonist that weaves really well into the main idea of the film. There’s a line of Hiccup’s, “Grimmel is just a sign of the times,” which puts well the link to this quest for the new world that obsesses Hiccup. Unfortunately, they tried to do too much. There was a really interesting dynamic with Hiccup and Grimmel, where Grimmel was essentially the anti-Hiccup who made the opposite choice when presented with the same situation of a Nightfury in the woods. That’s an interesting idea which they chose not to build on, and by the end of the film Grimmel was little more than a villain who had a lot of potential and was finally taken down way too easily.

I loved the last half hour though. Absolutely wonderful. The last half hour of this film pretty much makes up for the shortcomings of the first hour or so, paying sweet sweet homage and rounding the franchise off in exactly the way it deserves to. I might be driving the knife deeper than need be, okay I probably am, but I felt it could’ve been more heart-tugging. Touching though it was, I really expected to come out of this with tears in my eyes and I did not by any means. Once again, however, credit where credit it due for rounding the franchise off appropriately, lord knows a lot of others have fallen short on that count.

All in all, I’d say it was fine. I personally think this was probably the least good film of the franchise. It tried to do too much; it juggled too many dynamics and subplots, so much so that none of them felt especially potent. From Hiccup’s self belief to Toohtless’ question of loyalty to the actual quest to the hidden world, most everything in the film felt undercooked. A lot of potential, but lacking finesse in the execution. That having been said, this is a great franchise. My personal thanks to the cast and crew for a great ride that meant everything and more to a little boy who wished dragons were real.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 67/100                                                                                   Aryamaan’s Score –

Love, Death + Robots: Anthology Review

Love, Death + Robots

Everyone has a favourite

Love, Death & Robots is the new Netflix series that everyone is talking about. It is an anthology of animated short stories from the partnership of ‘Deadpool’ director Tim Miller and David Fincher. I just finished watching the whole anthology in one go and I am absolutely blown. I had been delaying watching this for a couple of days, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. The attention to detail – the three symbols before each episode that foreshadow what’s going to happen in the episode – is absolutely brilliant and just adds to the impact this has on the audience.

The binge-worthy title features 18 short stories, each with their own signature animation. This anthology has either been absolutely hated or absolutely loved, no middle ground, but I for one loved it.

When you think about animation, the first thing that pops into people’s heads is Disney and fantasy and love and princesses, but that is so not true. This anthology stands strong to prove that wrong, targeted at an adult audience with beautifully written, intense storylines.

The animation is gorgeous, focusing on nearly every different kind you know; anime, traditional 2D to photo-real CGI. There are cyborg bounty hunters, space spiders, werewolves, Draculas, Hitler and even sentient dairy products! Fincher and Mille have definitely gone all out with this anthology. I mean, there were a few stories where I couldn’t even make out whether it was live action or animated. It took me about a good minute to figure this out stories like ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift,’ while “Good Hunting” is more of a gorgeous hand drawn, Japanese anime.

The story arcs are beautifully written, united under common themes such as the loss of innocence or the evil of men and so on, but each one guaranteeing you having a great time – whether it be for it making absolutely no sense or making you go “Holy shit!” For me, watching the anthology was almost like eating an 18-course meal, with starters, palate cleansers and main course, with an exceptionally beautiful desert. My favourite aspect about an anthology of short stories though, is the roller coaster of emotions you experience by simply watching episodes between 5-20 minutes in length rather than watching a full-length 2-hour movie. It is a brilliant combination of stories revolves around futuristic, mechanized settings not always conveying how the human spirit always rises out of the ashes. Many of the stories have heartbreaking ends, with much deeper inferences towards humanity portraying that in the end the human spirit can also be crushed.

Finch and Miller not only succeeded in provided some quality entertainment for their viewers but forced them to look at the world through a much broader perspective.

The 2 setbacks, for me, like most anthologies, was the uneven sequencing of the episodes. Yes, there were heavier stories followed by certain ‘palate cleansers’ but the overall feel of the anthology as a whole could probably have been much better if that was revised. The second one, though may not be as important to the content, was the title and the trailer. The reason why I didn’t want to watch this anthology in the beginning was cause who’d want to watch something called ‘Love, Death + Robots?’ Sounds like a movie for 10 year olds, not related to what the content is about. The trailer too, though did get me a little excited, being fast paced and full of action, however, could’ve been much better for the quality of content they had.

Overall, a brilliant piece of art that should be recognised and celebrated.

Overall, I really due hope that this series is renewed for another season and we get to see more art like this. I am so happy that this art form is becoming popular. I so wished it hadn’t ended with just 18 episode. Respect to all those who had some part in the production of this series.

Aryamaan’s Overall Rating – 90/100

 


The episodes:

SONNIE’S EDGE – 86/100

THREE ROBOTS – 70/100

THE WITNESS – 89/100

SUITS – 75/100

SUCKER OF SOULS – 73/100

BEYOND THE AQUILA RIFT – 91/100

GOOD HUNTING – 88/100

THE DUMP – 72/100

SHAPE SHIFTERS – 83/100

WHEN THE YOGURT TOOK OVER – 62/100

HELPING HAND – 86/100

FISH NIGHT – 74/100

LUCKY 13 – 86/100

ZIMA BLUE – 89/100

BLINDSPOT – 72/100

ICE AGE – 81/100

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – 65/100

THE SECRET WAR – 92/100


Watch the Trailer:

 

 

Love, Death + Robots: Anthology Review

Love, Death + Robots

Everyone has a favourite

Love, Death & Robots is the new Netflix series that everyone is talking about. It is an anthology of animated short stories from the partnership of ‘Deadpool’ director Tim Miller and David Fincher. I just finished watching the whole anthology in one go and I am absolutely blown. I had been delaying watching this for a couple of days, but once I started I just couldn’t stop.

The binge-worthy title features 18 short stories, each with their own signature animation. This anthology has either been absolutely hated or absolutely loved, no middle ground, but I for one loved it.

When you think about animation, the first thing that pops into people’s heads is Disney and fantasy and love and princesses, but that is so not true. This anthology stands strong to prove that wrong, targeted at an adult audience with beautifully written, intense storylines.

The animation is gorgeous, focusing on nearly every different kind you know; anime, traditional 2D to photo-real CGI. There are cyborg bounty hunters, space spiders, werewolves, Draculas, Hitler and even sentient dairy products! Fincher and Mille have definitely gone all out with this anthology. I mean, there were a few stories where I couldn’t even make out whether it was live action or animated. It took me about a good minute to figure this out stories like ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift,’ while “Good Hunting” is more of a gorgeous hand drawn, Japanese anime.

The story arcs are beautifully written, united under common themes such as the loss of innocence or the evil of men and so on, but each one guaranteeing you having a great time – whether it be for it making absolutely no sense or making you go “Holy shit!” For me, watching the anthology was almost like eating an 18-course meal, with starters, palate cleansers and main course, with an exceptionally beautiful desert. My favourite aspect about an anthology of short stories though, is the roller coaster of emotions you experience by simply watching episodes between 5-20 minutes in length rather than watching a full-length 2-hour movie. It is a brilliant combination of stories revolves around futuristic, mechanized settings not always conveying how the human spirit always rises out of the ashes. Many of the stories have heartbreaking ends, with much deeper inferences towards humanity portraying that in the end the human spirit can also be crushed.

Finch and Miller not only succeeded in provided some quality entertainment for their viewers but forced them to look at the world through a much broader perspective.

The 2 setbacks, for me, like most anthologies, was the uneven sequencing of the episodes. Yes, there were heavier stories followed by certain ‘palate cleansers’ but the overall feel of the anthology as a whole could probably have been much better if that was revised. The second one, though may not be as important to the content, was the title and the trailer. The reason why I didn’t want to watch this anthology in the beginning was cause who’d want to watch something called ‘Love, Death + Robots?’ Sounds like a movie for 10 year olds, not related to what the content is about. The trailer too, though did get me a little excited, being fast paced and full of action, however, could’ve been much better for the quality of content they had.

Overall, a brilliant piece of art that should be recognised and celebrated.

Overall, I really due hope that this series is renewed for another season and we get to see more art like this. I am so happy that this art form is becoming popular. I so wished it hadn’t ended with just 18 episode. Respect to all those who had some part in the production of this series.

Aryamaan’s Overall Rating – 90/100

 


The episodes:

SONNIE’S EDGE – 86/100

THREE ROBOTS – 70/100

THE WITNESS – 89/100

SUITS – 75/100

SUCKER OF SOULS – 73/100

BEYOND THE AQUILA RIFT – 91/100

GOOD HUNTING – 88/100

THE DUMP – 72/100

SHAPE SHIFTERS – 83/100

WHEN THE YOGURT TOOK OVER – 62/100

HELPING HAND – 86/100

FISH NIGHT – 74/100

LUCKY 13 – 86/100

ZIMA BLUE – 89/100

BLINDSPOT – 72/100

ICE AGE – 81/100

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – 65/100

THE SECRET WAR – 92/100


 

THE SECRET WAR: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

The Secret War - Episode Review

This is the perfect ‘desert’ for this roller coaster of a meal, he perfect icing on the cake, he perfect way to close out the series on a high. Real high. ‘The Secret War’ steps up to the plate and delivers a phenomenal end to this phenomenal anthology. Set in the heart of Siberia, this absolutely gorgeous animated short depicts a ‘secret war’ between a band of soldiers in the red army, led by Lt. Nikolai Zakharov, and an alien force.

The short begins with the band of soldiers entering a village that has been run down by the alien creatures. The attention to detail and photo-realistic animation does brilliantly to introduce the setting of the short. Some of the images, the background score and the voice-overs amplify the intensity of this story that just keeps increasing as the plot progresses. The gory scenes of the village and the dialogues further help fortify this. The band then moves into the forest, where we are introduced to the first action sequence of the short. The colour scheme of black and red, with the loud, intense background score capture the audience into this world, gripping them. Eventually, this battle-hard band of soldiers finds themselves up against overwhelming odds as the true horror of the alien forces stare back at them. They make one final stand against these beasts, a spectacular display of bravely and courage. The episode ends, with reinforcements arriving and bombing the snow-capped valley engulfed in a fiery inferno as they bomb the area.

In terms of visuals, it is definitely one of the best in this anthology. The photo realistic animation, the darker colour schemes and the attention to detail, like the slight nods by Nikolai and the addition of the northern lights in the background simply amplify the intensity of this episode. The white settings with the blowing winds beautifully contrast the darkness of the forest and red of the blood, abundant in this film. The action sequences as well are beautifully conceptualized with brilliant camera work. This film is without a doubt one of the most visually gorgeous films I have seen to date.

The plot and story definitely justifies the animation. ‘A final stand’ story will never fail to move you and this definitely does. The effective backstory with well-written dialogues creates a beautiful foundation for this episode. The addition of new, young soldier adds so many more layers of innocence and youth to this piece, creating a complete circle of emotions. The music choice as well: The background music at the end is the same as in the scene where the young soldier is interrupted from playing music in the camp. There is some reason for action in this short. Similar to the other episodes in this anthology, this short too has a twist at the end, when the audience realizes that Nikolai is actually the young soldiers father. It adds a whole new perspective to this piece, bringing in so many more emotions.

Given the amount of action here, it’s surprising that ‘The Secret War’ is somewhat somber and reflective, largely due the pockets of silence between the dialogues and the dark, contrasting colour schemes. This works really well to drive home the emotional weight of the characters before closing out, with one final, breathtaking action sequence.

In all aspects, ‘The Secret War’ is a fantastic way to end the anthology, definitely justifying this beautiful piece of art. It showcases the artistic prowess of different animation styles and conveys the how effective animation can actually be. T.V. shows like this are required to portray the beauty of this underrated art. With a strong plot and stunning visuals, this short can easily be turned into a feature film but I do not think that it would justify the emotions that are felt in this short. It is easily one of the best episodes in the anthology, very literary finishing the series off with a ‘bang.’ (Sorry… I had to)

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 92/100

ICE AGE: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Ice Age - Episode Review

‘Ice Age’ was one of the more light-hearted episodes of the anthology. Though it may have a cliché, unoriginal concept, it is visually satisfying and thematically does very well. The prevalent theme of the ‘possible future’ is consistent throughout this episode as well.

In many ways, ‘Ice Age’ isn’t like the other episodes in the anthology. It is the only episode that consists of a live action aspect. It revolves around a young couple, moving into their new apartment. An old fridge lies in their kitchen and when they open it, they reveal a whole civilization at work. Through time-lapse animation, we see a civilization evolve from the Ice Age to the industrial revolution, modern cities and eventually global warfare. From the ashes arises a new, futuristic city, which eventually vanishes with a blast of magical lights and colours.

As everything seems to have disappeared, the couple switches off the fridge and goes to bed. However, when they open the fridge again the next morning they see ‘a whole new world’ evolving. The episode ends with a T-rex hunting a group of monkeys.

In terms of visuals, the animation was remarkably satisfying for some reason, peaking my curiosity as to how it may look next. The evolution from the factories and smoke to flying cars is beautifully conceptualized, especially as it technically all happening in a fridge compartment. The couple’s acting is quite cheesy, a little over at times I might add. For some reason finding a whole miniature civilization in the fridge is quite a normal thing to them, but that’s how the story plays out. The animation does more than make up for it though.

Thematically, it is quite an interesting movie, showing possibilities of where our future might lead. The aspect of these regular, newly moved-in couple being the ‘overseers’ of this civilization proves to be a thought-provoking concept in this episode, which may be overlooked. This whole episode could possible be a foreshadowing of what may even happen to us, allowing the audience to dwell upon the fact if we too may follow this path.

Overall, ‘Ice Age’ is thematically and conceptually one of the stronger episodes in the anthology, conveying its ideas in an interesting manner. The story, combined with the remarkably satisfying animation lays the foundation for another interesting episode. The idea of seeing our world being created from ground up creates the premise if another successful episode in this anthology.

 

Aryaman’s Rating – 81/100

BLINDSPOT: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Blindspot - Episode Review

‘Blinspot’ gives a very need for speed type feel. Relatively, this episode doesn’t have much to offer in terms of substance but it does use colour, lighting and camera angles to portray a high-speed, action-packed car chase.

The story revolves around a dysfunctional gang of cyborg bandits, in pursuit of robbing a microchip from an armoured convoy vehicle. The episode captures the tension as the suicide mission continues, until it is eventually completed.

The art style is quirky and the dialogues do entertain. The bright colours with smooth camera transition, highlight the intense violence in the episode, which does provide majority of the entertainment in the episode.

The plot is quite simple and straightforward, resulting in the episode not matching up to some others in the anthology. Although there is a plot twist, it doesn’t deliver anything particularly outstanding.

Hence, unlike some of the other episodes, ‘Blindspot’ doesn’t have any underlying theme or purpose to its action. The episode is simple and does prove to be an enjoyable watch. However, for me it was largely a filler after a heavier episode like ‘Zima Blue.’

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 72/100

ZIMA BLUE: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Zima Blue - Episode Review

One episode that stands out as a ‘piece of art.’ The idea of finding the meaning of life being explored in an animated short story is surprisingly profound. The idea, that is conveyed through the medium of art is highlighted by the beautiful plot twist towards the end which works perfectly here.

The story revolves around an AI Zima who is search of the meaning of life through the medium of art. We see how his artwork evolves as this ‘meaning’ develops according to his understanding. As the plot progresses, Zima’s origin story is revealed about how he has evolved from something as simple as a swimming pool cleaning robot to an AI bot in search of the true meaning of life. With an impactful twist in the end, Zima unveils his final art piece, which portrays his true meaning of life.

At a thematic level, ‘Zima Blue’ is a beautifully written, symbolic story that describes a certain perspective about the meaning of life: probably as simple as going back home.

The episode uses the colour blue to really illustrate its point, resulting in a real thought-provoking contemplation when the final credits role.

The art is quite unique too compared to the other episodes, with bold lines and colours. The paintings do seem to have some form of clarity and meaning to them as well. I could not think of any other aesthetic that could match what they have in this episode.

Overall, this thought-provoking, symbolic episode stands out, allowing the audience dwell upon the true meaning of life and if it may be that simple.

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 89/100

LUCKY 13: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Lucky 13 - Episode Review

‘Lucky 13’ combines a short, intense, action-packed episode with beautiful photo-realistic animation again. It is extremely well written and the camera angles are highlighted throughout the episode.

The plot revolves around a plane, ‘Unlucky 13, that is until rookie pilot Lieutenant Colby is handed its keys. Stacking up consecutive successful missions, the impression of this flight soon changes to that of ‘Lucky 13.’ As the episode progresses, Colby grows more and more attached to her plane. However, towards the end, a missile hits 13 and to escape Colby has to pull the self-destruct switch. As the detonation sequence reaches zero, the remains standing and eventually blows up at the optimum time to save them all.

Visually this episode is stunning with photo-realistic animation and an effective colour scheme. The steel grey of the army base, contrasting with the rusty, grey-brown of the planet highlighted with loud, big yellow blasts create nothing less than a visual spectacle. The conceptualisation of the first air chase of using the flares to destroy the enemy ship was nothing less than brilliant as well.

In terms of plot, the story describes how machines may have feelings too and create a deeper bond with humans than we may think. This highlights our relationship with technology and reliance on them to succeed, which is personified throughout the episode.

The beautiful camera work, visuals and tightly knit story line result in one of the strongest episodes in the anthology.

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 86/100

FISH NIGHT: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Fish Night - Episode Review

‘Fish Night’ is an interesting watch, following the animation techniques of a ‘Scooby Doo’ or ‘Telltale Games.’ For me, though it had an interesting concept, with a good implicit meaning to it, it was more about the animation me rather than the plot.

The plot is set in the future where the oceans have all dried up. It revolves around two salesmen, who are stranded down a desert road in the middle of nowhere. With their car broken down, they decide to stay there that night. As the sun sets, the sky is illuminated with spirits of fish and marine species as the audience learn that the desert was once an ocean floor. This eventually leads to the death of the young man, who gets carried away in his feelings.

With a beautiful concept and animation, ‘Fish Night’ is an enjoyable watch, however, it probably lacks in substance and leaves many questions unanswered. Almost as if this short story is only a short scene from ‘The Life of Pi.’

Thematically, there isn’t much to cling on but one could draw a conclusion that it is about wisdom and constraint, set a possible future scenario. The stark contrast between the characters further describes the difference in behaiour as generations pass, adding another layer to the plot.

Hence, ‘Fish Night,’ you could say, does effectively serve its purpose of being an effective, beautiful representation of the themes of wisdom and over-indulgence.

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 74/100

HELPING HAND: Episode Review – Love, Death + Robots

Helping Hand - Episode Review

Your first thought when you look at this episode is that it feels like an animated tribute to the motion picture ‘Gravity.’ It is about a solitary character trapped in the vast expanse of space, alone. Alexandria, an astronaut working in space, has to make sacrifices to escape from a situation she finds herself in.

The plot is intense and has a morbid turn of events that does make you go, “Holy shit!” more than once.

The cinematography, the transitions of camera angles between the a close up to the face and the vast expanse of space, and the intense background score trap the audience into Alexandria’s world.

Visually, the episode looks great, and the colours are morbid but stunning. The thin silvers of light falling on the photo-realistic animation highlight the astronaut’s expressions of pain and fright.

Overall, “Helping Hand” is definitely a trademark to show how far animation has really come from its inception. It is probably one of the few episodes to capture such intensity without the use of unnecessary nudity and vulgarity. It definitely caps another successful episode in the anthology.

 

Aryamaan’s Rating – 86/100