Just finished watching How To Train Your Dragon 2 for the second time; I really meant to see it more than once in theaters, but at least it’s out on blu-ray now. I really, really love these movies, both the first one and this year’s sequel (and am immensely excited that it’s going to be a trilogy eventually). This isn’t a proper review so much as me rambling about that, so I’ll put the rest under a cut in case of spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen them yet. (In which case, what is wrong with you, go watch them right now.)
At heart, I think these are stories about learning and growing, and they are (to me at least) really wonderfully and believably portrayed. In the first one, Hiccup has to learn that everything he and his people think that they know about dragons is incorrect…and that they know very little to begin with. Being the curious, inquisitive person that he is, and already outside the mold of his village, this isn’t a particularly difficult mental transition for Hiccup to make. It’s a very hard transition for the rest of Berk, though, and especially his father. In the first movie, Stoick and the people of Berk are the ones who have to come to the much more difficult understanding that they were wrong about something, and then grow to accept the error and move beyond it. It’s not a smooth transition, of course, and Hiccup nearly loses his father over it. Fortunately, once provided with very concrete proof of Hiccup’s claims (that the dragons are not raiding the village by choice, and that there is great potential for them to be allies of Berk), then his father and the villagers begin to accept the truth…and see life in their village drastically improve because of it.
The second movie (set five years later), is a bit different, because this time it is Hiccup himself who has the difficult lesson to learn. In the first story, learning the truth about dragons was an exciting thing for him, something he wanted to do and was at ease with. He did have more difficult growth to do, but the difficulty was in dealing with his father, his friends and the people of Berk, and taking responsibility for the changes that he was trying to bring and the events set in motion by his actions. In the second movie, his difficult lesson is in learning that words – even ones as persuasive as Hiccup’s – do not solve all problems. Some people cannot be reasoned with; after convincing the entirety of his once-dragon-hating village to accept dragons into their lives and homes, it’s understandable why Hiccup feels that reasoning can (and should) be able to solve any conflict. The lesson that he learns is that some people choose force instead of reason as their method of dealing with others. Drago is just such a person; while the villain claims that his actions are taken to keep people safe from the dragons, Hiccup astutely points out that he is actually looking for control over other people, and wants the power to eliminate any who will not submit. Hiccup then learns (very painfully, though I won’t spoil that part) that men who choose force in this way cannot be won over with reason. Accepting that truth, he and Toothless proceed to show Drago that force with a reasoning mind behind it will always win over sheer brute strength (and even over brute strength of will). It is an important lesson for the young man as he takes over leadership of his village, helping his people rebuild and preparing for a future of leading and protecting them.
So, I enjoy the stories very much, and I think there are some good, important lessons/messages to be taken from them. They portray a world and characters whose lives get better when they accept truths (even hard truths), admit when they have made mistakes, learn from their errors and then grow beyond them. They show that it’s not always easy to do that, and mistakes can cost you dearly…but that the learning and growing are always worthwhile, and do make life better.
But my favorite parts of both movies are simply the scenes where Hiccup and Toothless are out flying together, because those scenes portray this pure, unadulterated, exultant joy, and it is impossible to have too much of that. To watch two beings who love each other sharing that joy of flight, that joy of freedom, that joy of life.
I’ve already watched the first one more times than I can count, and will never get tired of it, and the second will be just the same.