How to Train Your Dragon

I finally got to see How to Train Your Dragon a few days ago. Talk about a cute movie. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to see this movie since I first heard about it, but things just kept getting in the way. To the point where I lost some of the desire to see it, almost. Almost.

The story is all about being yourself, and not being afraid of thinking differently from everyone around you. The main character is a scrawny kid named Hiccup, who is smaller and weaker than just about every other person in his village. His village of Vikings. In fact, his father is the chief (chief?) of the village.

His people are in constant battle with dragons. Dragons come, burn their homes and steal their livestock, so the Vikings are akin to fighting them—and killing them. As Hiccup tells you at the start of the film, you’re nobody if you don’t kill a dragon. Hiccup gets a chance to kill his own dragon, thanks to his invention that has let him bring one out of the sky, but he just can’t do it. Still, he’s injured the dragon’s tail, so now this fearsome dragon can’t fly.

Eventually Hiccup and the dragon become friends, and Hiccup helps the dragon learn how to fly again—which ends up leading to repercussions when his pet is found out.

In the end, Hiccup and his friends save the day and teach the older villagers how to think differently, so that they and the dragons can co-exist happily.

The movie does have a darker moment or two, both in terms of violence and also in emotional hits (Hiccup’s father basically disowns him at one point). Still, I don’t think it’s too harsh for younger audiences. And the dragons are so cute. So. Cute. I don’t know if this movie is likely to have a sequel or not, but I’d definitely watch it if there were one.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Other than fantastic effects, I really didn’t know what to expect going into this movie.  My older brother said it was fantastic, but he gets caught up in visual effects anyhow.  My sister found it particularly disturbing.  She said that it was gory and violent.  From the previews, personally, I found it to be very pastel.  But I went and saw it at a little dollar theater in Salt Lake the other night, and I have to admit, I enjoyed it.

It really was very dark and violent, something I don’t think I’d be comfortable with little kids seeing, but as a friend who saw it with me reminded me, so was The Secret of Nimh*, a movie that I watched as a young child (though, now that I think about it, I never really liked The Secret of Nimh).  It was much darker, for example, than the first Harry Potter film, and more disturbing in its darkness than the more recent Potter‘s, because on the surface it’s this cute, kid’s movie where all the characters are owls.  It sold itself as an adventure, and it certainly was, but it was an adventure with particularly cruel and sinister bad guys, along with ghastly betrayals by friends and brothers alike.

Why then, can I say that I enjoyed it?  Well, firstly, I liked some of the messages involved, especially the idea that stories are so important—that they inspire us to, both to dream and to act.  What I wasn’t so impressed with was how there seemed to be no chance for redemption for any of the bad characters.  Once you chose the wrong side, there’s no turning back from it, and you’ll probably suffer horrifically for it at some point.  At least once.

Maybe I’m judging harshly, or at least prematurely.  Maybe the story is much more gray-scale in the books, and there’s eventual redemption worked in.  Or maybe not.  Can anybody tell me?

*Also, both of these are movies based on books. Are kids’ books more acceptable in darkness than movies, maybe?  Or is it just that dark kids’ adventure books get turned into movies? I wonder….