MPAA Rating: PG
USCCB Rating: A-I
Reel Rating: (4 Reels out of 5)
How animation has grown up! Early animated features like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty
with their simple plots, catchy tunes, and happy endings were clearly
meant for children, but as the medium progressed and developed it became
more mature. Whether dealing with anxiety (Frozen), social impotence (The Incredibles), miscarriage (Up), or the inevitable fact of our own mortality (Toy Story 2, yikes!), animated features are becoming more and more adult. The How to Train Your Dragon series demonstrates this perfectly.
his first outing, Hiccup was out simply to prove his own worth. He made
his dad proud, saved the day, and everyone got an easy, happy ending.
Here, Hiccup realizes the fiercest dragons are within and must find a
delicate balance between giving up his childish dreams yet not losing
faith in those he loves. It’s a magnificent adventure with brilliant
visuals, a fantastic story, and important themes seamlessly weaved
throughout. Dreamworks, in short, made a Pixar film.
five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) established peace between his
homeland and the dragons, and this third-rate dweeb has turned into a
handsome, confident explorer who his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard
Butler), hopes will succeed him as village chief. On a routine
cartography mission, he is ambushed by a band of dragon trappers led by
Erit (Kit Harington) who promptly announce that Drago Bludvist (Djimon
Hounsou) intends on stealing all the world’s dragons to create an army.
Luckily, Hiccup finds an unlikely ally when he discovers his estranged
mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett), a Jane Goodall recluse who avoids humans
and lives with thousands of dragons in a secret hideaway.
point, they should team up, defeat Drago, and live happily ever after
in dragon paradise. Yet, this is only the setup to a much more complex
and tragic tale that ends in a spectacular dragon fest to rival the best
live-action fantasy movies.
Fresh off his success in converting
his father to his dragon-loving ways, Hiccup’s first approach to solving
the Drago dilemma is negotiation and diplomacya strange response from a
Viking but a familiar one to political science majors. If only Drago
could see that dragons are kind, loyal creatures who respond to love
rather than dominance, there would be no need to capture and subjugate
them. Hiccup is completely missing the point. Drago’s desire is not just
for control of dragons but of humans through dragons. Stoick
tries to dissuade his wayward son. “Drago is a madman,” he retorts. “A
chief protects his own.”
In a heart-wrenching scene, Hiccup realizes
that his father was right this time, and while anyone can change, some
people simply choose evil. Hiccup assumes responsibility and leads the
attack against Drago. Throughout the centuries, theologians have tried
to reconcile “turning the other cheek” with “sell your cloak and buy a
sword,” culminating in the Just War Theory. Dragon 2 is a great illustration of this.
of Hiccup’s initial naïve personality is a lack of proper respect for
natural laws. Despite their anthropomorphic traits, dragons are still
animals. Valka explains to Hiccup that they operate on a hive instinct
under the protection and guidance of an Alpha dragon. In a case of
extreme dimorphism, the Alphas are the size of skyscrapersperhaps a
distant cousin of Godzilla. Drago uses this trait to force otherwise
loyal dragons to follow him. Hiccup refuses to believe that his faithful
dragon Toothless could turn on him, a stance that has devastating
results. While Toothless’ loyalty eventually returns, Hiccup must learn
to use this instinct to his advantage rather than fight a dragon’s
nature. Many of Catholicism’s controversial teachings come from a
realistic view of the natural laws inherent in the world. You can’t
fight humanor dragonnature. However, you can use nature in a holy
As the sophistication of writing increases and the cost of
production decreases, there will be more animated films like this in
the future, maybe even with PG-13 or R content. How to Train Your Dragon 2 does not fit with most other animated films but finds its place among the great coming-of-age stories like The Sandlot, Old Yeller,
or the Eighties films of John Hughes. Hiccup finds his true self, not
on his own, but as part of a community that includes a responsibility to
others. This self-discovery comes not from rejecting his family but
seeing it completed with the return of his mother.
film has the courage to show that growing up is hard and often fraught
with pain and suffering. Pro-family. Pro-stewardship.
Pro-responsibility. Pro-awesome dragon fights. What more could you ask