Monday, March 29, 2010

A Different Way To Train Your Dragon

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As I've stated, I loved the How To Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) movie. While watching the end credits, I noticed that it claimed to be based on a book. Given that I had become an instant HTTYD-fanboy, I decided to look into it.

It turns out there's a series of children's novels, and they've gotten good reviews on Amazon. What they are not, however, is the same as the movie. After a bit of research, it's very clear to me that the movie was more "inspired by" than "based on" the books.

There is common ground between them, but if you changed the names of the movie and its characters, I suspect the only significant things they'd have left in common is the presence of vikings and dragons. I have not read the books, so there may be subtle similarities that I am not aware of, but it really does sound like they're the apples and oranges of family friendly viking-themed dragon fiction (a genre I am certain is massive in stature).

I find this interesting, as book fans have historically been strongly opposed to movies that deviate heavily from the source material. There are Harry Potter fans who foam at the mouth with rage over the general lack of house elves in the movies and Lord Of The Ring fans who want the head of Peter Jackson, but those movies are guilty of very minor divergences relative to the HTTYD movie. Given the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the HTTYD movie, I wonder what fans of the books think. It also makes me wonder what the author of the books, Cressida Cowel, thinks.

Of course, these might not be like the Harry Potter books with readers of all ages. If it's mostly just kids reading them, I doubt there'd be as much fanboy rage in the face of unfaithful adaptations. I've also never seen a bookstore overflowing with people as a result of a HTTYD book release or people getting lynched for revealing HTTYD spoilers. Nonetheless, there's probably someone, somewhere out there who is gritting their teeth with rage over this movie.

Personally, I liked the movie as it was, and I'm glad they deviated from the source material as much as they did. It's a little weird to be saying that. I'm generally okay with movies deviating from their source material in order to make movies that, frankly, don't suck. What I usually do want to stay faithful, however, are the themes and the characters, and it doesn't sound like HTTYD did that.

That said, the movie is still awesome, and I still plot to see it in 3d.


  1. What bothers me most is when they advertise something as being an adaptation and it's more of an inspired by situation. In some cases, such as "Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep" and "Blade Runner" there is no way a movie adaptation could even be close.

    To me the most important thing when making an adaptation is to show respect for the source material and to keep as close to the original feel as possible.

    That said I find it very difficult to enjoy movies based on books I really like because of the inevitable changes.

  2. What bothers people about book-to-movie adaptations is when they make some effort to stay true to the books and heavily advertise it as being a movie version of the books...then change things. You don't often see people going into nerdrage over movies that are *loosely* based on or inspired by a book. (I can't think of any examples right now, but there are a fair few out there)

    That said, I liked the novel "How To Train Your Dragon The Hard Way" back when I picked it up years ago - it was short, cute, and fun. I haven't seen the HTTYD movie yet, but it also looks like a lot of fun - and to me, that's all that matters.

  3. It shoulda been named "How to Domesticate and Ruthlessly Exploit Your Dragon." XD

    Now excuse me, I need to go write a fanfic. Oh, wait. That would mean I'm disrespecting the source material too, wouldn't it? :-p

  4. I just saw the movie last night. Having never read the books, I cannot attest to any similarities to or divergences from the source material.

    What I can say, however, was that as its own thing, the movie was terrific. I enjoyed the cinematography, the character design, and the overall plot. I won't post any spoilers here, but things did not end as I expected them to, which is a rare thing in any movie these days.

    On the topic of "inspired by" vs "adapted from", I can vouch that I do generally dislike a product if I've already read its source. For example, I didn't care for Where The Wild Things Are, pretty much any of the Dr. Seuss movie adaptations, and I can't bring myself to enjoy "The Legend of the Seeker". And I did pick apart Jurassic Park when I saw it in theaters...when I was 14, even. Haha.

    I'm not sure if this adds anything to your viewpoint, simply adding my two cents.

  5. Yay! I got a special mention as "someone...who is gritting their teeth with rage over this movie."

  6. I read one of the HTTYD books (the first one) when I was younger and liked it so I'm waiting for the film to come out on dvd before I see it.
    Not out of spite towards changes but rather because I consider it a different entity to the book, if I felt like it was an actual adaptation for screen I would see it in cinemas.

    Some of the changes were pretty clearly to pander to certain audiences while others were more baffiling in their motivation; he can't understand toothless anymore? Why, toothles had some great lines!

    And the aging up of characters and inclusion of a STRONG FEMALE LEAD only for a LOVE INTEREST pissed me off. It was such a shallow move on Dreamworks behalf and one that is in way too many series.

    IT looks like a fun movie in it's own right but I don't like a lot of the changes, usually I'm not too fussed if changes are made if they're good ones, but I still wanna see it.

  7. I've actually found that children are more rabid in their fandoms than most adult fanboys I know. The difference is that adults have more power than children when it comes to getting their opinions known or counted.

    I have nieces and nephews who cry, kick, and scream if I get the voices wrong in stories, or if I don't tell them the way that Mommy does. My fanboy friends just rant and rave about how the adaptation has lost the spirit of things and then they write angry posts on IMDB.

  8. Seriously, I liked the movie, and I didn't know there were novels.

    I think movie adaptations of books need to be done carefully...and if possible, with the author of the book having some creative control or role in scripting. Example: Jurassic Park. Crichton not only wrote the source novel, he was one of the scriptwriters. IMHO, he kept the essence of the story, even though he made concessions converting it to a screenplay. On the other hand, there's Congo...Crichton basically gave the studio free reign over creativity...and produced an epic fail. Even Crichton was angry at the result.

    Eragon: a horrible example of book to movie adaptation. While the CGI was cool and casting Rachel Weisz to voice Saphira was an awesome move, one CGI dragon does not make a movie. Arya was supposed to be an elf...and even if the ears weren't pointy, she acted about as human as every other human. Culture, depleted. Script? It's like they reduced it down to every fantasy trope without any of the cultural nuances Paolini included that added what unique flavor the book had. It makes me wonder if the producers had a vendetta against Paolini and intended to sink the franchise before it even got into production.

    Sometimes, the movie works accidentally. Relic, for example, basicaly was the reader's digest version of the novel. I have a feeling that at the time, Preston and Child hadn't considered the sequel yet, so certain characters were nonessential. Retconning might be needed if they did try to write the sequel for the screen.

    Sometimes details matter. Imagine Dreamworks picking up El Goonish Shive...and voice-casting Richard Simmons for Elliot, Fran Drescher for Grace, or Leonardo DiCapprio for any role whatsoever.

  9. One thing I can definitely picture is someone being annoyed over how they justify keeping the name "Toothless" for the dragon ^^;

  10. Over the years I have seen this, as long as the spirit of the book is kept I am ok with it. It is why I say The Punisher is a great movie that kept to the spirit of the comics.

    A movie needs to work on telling the same idea while at the same time being enjoyable. How to kill a Mockingbird deviated a whole lot from the book, but if it had kept to true to the book, what worked in the book wouldn't of worked on screen.

    The same is true for turning a video game into a series. The Super Mario Brothers show now where near as enjoyable as the games but it made it work so well because of the changes.

    As long as the spirit is kept, the rest kind of doesn't matter. Jumanji is proof of that.

  11. I think when adapting to another medium, you need to do something that works for that medium and not just stick to the original even if it won't work.
    On the other hand, I'm sick of movies claiming to be adaptation of famous books to drive fans in, but that actually have almost nothing to do with said book.

    At least be honest and say "inspired by" rather than "based on".

  12. Yeah, I had the same problem with "Howl's Moving Castle" - it's based on a book of the same title by Diana Wynne Jones. Found out about the book after seeing the credits for the movie. Basics of the characters are in the movie, but except for the basic love story, the movie and book are quite different. Personally, I'd love to see "Howl's Moving Castle" adapted into a live-action film that's more true to the book, but I don't see that actually happening. ^^;

    I don't know if I'll ever read the books, but I still plot to see "How to Train Your Dragon," simply because it looks fun. :)

    I see your dragon burped some flame on you. ^^ Amusing picture and expressions, but try to have him do so on marshmallows or a hot-dog next time. ;)

  13. IMHO, you have to accept beforehand that it will be worse than the original; then you'll usually be fine as long as the adaptation at least respects the source material.
    Being a Tolkien fanboy, my expectation for the LotR movies was that they would suck compared to the books (they did), but still be the best movies ever (they were). I actually think Peter Jackson did a good job. Sure, there are a lot of omissions (pretty much all of them, I guess ^_^) I don't agree with, but the movies basically stayed as faithful to the books as could reasonably be expected, and the extended versions surprised me a lot positively with stuff like the mention of Morgoth.

  14. I enjoyed the last Matrix movie thanks to assuming it would be the absolute worst thing I'd ever see ever. That doesn't mean it was good, but low expectations can save a bad film.

    I had pretty high expectations going into HTTYD, however. I've been looking forward to it ever since I saw previews for it months ago, so I'm glad it didn't disappoint me. I actually expected it to be worse and have a lot of pop culture junk littered throughout, but it dodged that bullet.

  15. One movie that was actually an improvement over its book was The Secret of NIMH.

  16. I bought the books specifically because I wanted to see the movie, and read the first 3. The books were good, cute stories where dragons are companions.

    I saw the movie (in 3d, which was great, definitely see it in 3d if possible) and I liked the movie a lot. BUT... it really is nothing like the books. The companion aspect isn't there until the end, which is part of why I liked the books in the first place. Even the similarities, such as names, aren't actually similar in the end. The characters using the same names? Totally different.

    That said, since they are so so very different, it didn't upset me at all. I hated parts of LOTR, because they changed things that interrupted the story I know and love, and then went back to the real story. just... weird and annoying. This didn't have that problem because it's basically a whole new story, and it never really met up with the story in the books.

  17. This is kinda late, but I'd actually read the first three volumes of the series before the movie came out. I saw the preview and realized that there were going to be vast difference between the books and the movie, and went into the theatre with this in mind. And there was indeed a vast difference. As I've been telling people, if you're going by how accurate the movie was to the books, the movie was maybe about 96% wrong. AND I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!! The movie is very different from the original plotline, but I still think it's excellent. And there were just enough bits that were true to the story to make my inner fangirl cheer!

  18. I thought the books were amazing.
    I thought the movie was amazing.
    I thought they weren't even close to the same thing.
    But I loved them both.