I have enjoyed planning my son’s birthday parties the past four years, but the fun was always in the planning itself, not in the actual parties. It’s harder to come up with good party ideas for 11-year-olds than younger children, so this year I suggested an alternative.
Rather than inviting twenty children and having two or three show up, we would invite the one friend who always came. I would take them to the Putnam museum, including a movie at the IMAX theater. When I learned that How to Train Your Dragon would be showing this month, that clinched it for us.
As we don’t watch TV and rarely see movies in the theaters, I hadn’t seen a preview of the movie. Or, to be more precise, I had seen a preview of the movie, online, but as I generally keep the volume muted on my computer, I hadn’t heard the preview.
I knew the film was based on the book with the same title, so I read a description of the book. The images I had seen in the preview fit well enough with what I expected from reading about the book. So I thought I knew what movie I was going to see – about a boy finding a dragon to train, and his struggles with training it and proving himself.
Well, Hiccup does find a dragon and he does train it, and he is constantly struggling to prove himself, both to his village and to his father. But as the village is all about killing dragons, not training them, I was rather surprised by the way the story unfolded.
I was interested to read that author Cressida Cowell approved of the way the film adapted her book, saying that it still has “the same spirit as the book.” The basic themes of the book, about brains over brawn and about proving oneself are still there. And the character of Hiccup is apparently pretty similar (though slightly older).
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, certainly as much as the 11-year-olds with me. (And unlike them, I didn’t feel even a little bit choked up over any scenes, because I was confident things would turn out all right.) The 3D effects are fantastic. I don’t know how much it’s the 3D and how much the six-story-high IMAX screen, but the detailed texture of things – especially the Vikings’ bushy hair and beards – made the visuals feel very real.
I did find myself questioning the wisdom of yet another movie teaching kids that enemies can be made into friends if you just take the trouble to understand them and offer them friendship. It is a valuable lesson, and in many cases is true – but it’s a lesson that seems to be taught so much these days that it may surprise some kids to learn that it doesn’t always work that way.
In the end, though, the movie does show that there are times that you have to fight, and enemies that you have to defeat – or at least risk everything trying to defeat them. The lesson is more about using one’s brains to respond to a situation rather than just rushing in and counting on physical prowess alone.
And it’s about wanting to be accepted for who you are, rather than for what other people want you to be. It’s about loyalty to one’s friends, even at great cost. And it’s about understanding those who are different, and not accepting prejudiced opinions about them.
But mostly it’s a great story about a boy and a dragon.