The Flight of Dragons
Out of all the many reasons I could recommend the movie How to Train Your Dragon 2, there is a single reason that made me happy sitting in the theater as I watched it- this is a movie with friggin’ dragons in it. Out of all the mythical creatures in cinema, especially with the Harry Potters and the Lord of the Rings and whatnot, dragons seem to get slighted a bit. Sure, we just had Smaug, but that makes the count one.
There are only a handful of movies where dragons take center stage. There was the old animated flick that gave this review its title. There was the Dennis Quaid/Sean Connery movie Dragonheart (which I Dragonheart). Despite hating the crud out of it, there was Eragon. It’s a pretty serious drought of content for creatures with so much potential. I can remember reading, back when I read, the Bruce Coville book Jeremy Thatcher: Dragon Hatcher, and a book of dragon poetry called The Dragons Are Singing Tonight.
I read those books, and imagined myself in the role of Jeremy Thatcher, and a world in which dragons coexisted with humans. I was always in awe of the fantastical creatures, soaring above and through the clouds. And that feeling is echoed throughout HtTYD2. From the opening, with a dragon game of what amounts to Quidditch with sheep, to the solo flight of the Night Fury known as Toothless and his human companion Hiccup, the movie makes you feel as though you are in furious, fluid flight with a beautiful, intelligent animal. Not only are there a few dragons who are the focus of the movie, but there are literally hundreds swirling around in a winged symphony.
My biggest confession is that I only sort of remember the specifics of the first movie. I know it was about a boy who reluctantly participated in his people’s way of life, befriended a dragon, and after having taught his father and others the value of differences and friendship (among learning his own lessons), he brought Vikings and dragons together in a peaceful society. And of course he got the girl.
The second installment picks up five years later with said games and flight, and a whole host of examples of how people and dragons coexist as friends and brothers-in-arms. Even though the dragons are basically given a little more than the personality of dogs, these creatures are not simply pets, and the humans are not their masters. It’s a consensual, reciprocating relationship.
Hiccup, like Professor X in Days of Future Past, sports longer hair and some stubble to show his age (just as his father and other adults now have some gray in the old beards). The would be successor as chief of his tribe is also adept at his peg leg by now (again, I don’t remember how it happened in the last one), and has constructed a suit for himself that allows him to glide with his dragon pal instead of just being a passenger.
And that may very well be our hero’s journey in this- becoming more than just a passenger in life. Sure, Hiccup and Toothless go exploring and charting maps of newly discovered lands, but the young guy still seems reluctant to take the reins of his place in Viking, or any, society. Through the discovery of a pretty ruthless son-of-a-gun called Drago, Hiccup is finally forced to nut up or shut up.
To his credit, the little guy’s pretty gun-ho about seeking out this scarred villain and talking some peace into him. Hiccup’s kind of like the civil rights leader for dragons. Though, and this realization is a part of his journey, his overbearing push for equality can blind him and be to his detriment.
Aside from a rehash of the “we can all get along despite of and because of our differences” messages (there’s also the obligatory march of friendship), there are other life lessons and nuggets of philosophy- they’re just not as focused or well done. But that’s okay, because they are packaged in an otherwise endearing and entertaining way.
Speaking of endearing, there are scenes in this movie, one in particular, that had more emotion and edge-of-your-seat feeling than most live action flicks I’ve seen so far this year. Not to give too much away, but it is a reunion of two people, and you could catch yourself holding your breath during it.
There is also a part of the climatic portion of the film that might just give you goosebumps and the urge to cheer because of the triumph involved in the moment.
Final Verdict- SEE IT. I can’t tell you to see it enough. And if you can afford it, see it in the 3D. I did not, but if I felt like I was among the clouds with the dragons in 2D, I can only imagine what the 3D is like (hell, maybe I’ll see it again). And really, besides just being a boatload of fun, the other great thing about How to Train Your Dragon 2 is that it lets you imagine much more than some other movies. It lets your imagination out, shakes hands with it, gives it a hug, buys it a drink, and reads it a bedtime story.