July 4, 2014

"The Book... no, I mean the Movie Was Better"

        The movie “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is not to be confused with the book How to Be a Pirate, the second in Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series, by which the movies were inspired.  About the only thing the books and the movies have in common is a few names.  Now, normally this really irritates me.  I’m always railing, “If you thought the book would make a good movie, make the movie follow the book.  And if you think the book won’t make a good enough movie, then don’t make it into one!  Go write your own movie script!”  Major pet peeve of mine, actually.  But in the case of “How to Train Your Dragon,” I find myself relaxing my rule for the simple reason that I actually like the movies better, different as they are from the books.
        I do like the book series.  Hiccup is a great character and his adventures are funny, convoluted (in a good way), and generally heartwarming when it comes down to it.  They illustrate the value of thinking, creativity, loyalty, and other Good Stuff.  They’re cleverly written.  They’re also aimed very squarely at a fairly narrow target audience of, say, 8 to 10 year old boys who find potty humor fabulously subversive and hilarious.  Since I am not, as it happens, an 8 to 10 year old boy who finds potty humor fabulously subversive and hilarious, I roll my eyes and do my best to tolerate those elements of the books, because I enjoy other elements.  But the movies have succeeded in making stories, characters, and situations that appeal to a much broader audience.  They succeed in emphasizing some of the deeper elements in the stories, while eliminating the gratuitous pee-pee-poo-poo stuff.  Also, Toothless in the books is just completely irritating, while Toothless in the movies is awesome.
        [WARNING: This paragraph may contain potential SPOILERS.]  The villain in “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is not Alvin the Treacherous, but a new-for-the-movie character called Drago.  But the worst actions are committed by Good Guys under mind control.  It turns out that dragons have no free will and are helpless to disobey the thoughts of an alpha dragon - a concept about which I’m definitely not best pleased.  I like free will.  But the yoke of evil was successfully thrown off - Yay! - so it was okay in the end.  There was one major plot element never explained (why should the evil alpha dragon do what Drago says, anyway?) and two plot pieces that D and I thought might have (and should have) gone a little differently.  We thought Astrid should have become the new chieftain of Berk, since according to Hiccup, she’s the one who’s actually good at that sort of thing.  And we thought something further should have happened with the deposed evil alpha dragon - redemption, banishment, penance… something.
        Anyway, our final review for “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is that it wasn’t as good as the first movie, which really is one of our top favorites, but still excellent.  P and T enjoyed it a lot, P despite the mind control, which is a plot element he utterly loathes.  We didn’t watch it in 3D, so all the soaring shots designed for maximum 3D spectacle were wasted on us, and seemed unnecessarily long, although they were still quite beautiful.  The scenes in the secret dragon cavern were absolutely lovely.  We recommend this movie with all eight of our family thumbs up.

[Pictures: Hiccup and Toothless;
Berk, images from the movie by DreamWorks, 2014.]

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