In Berk, the only way you can be taken seriously, is you must have killed a Dragon. The dragons are dangerous creatures, taking sheep, destroying homes, and breathing fire onto anything in their path. The worst and most dangerous of them all however, is the Nightfury. It is Hiccup’s dream to kill the Nightfury and finally prove to the village he is one of them. This scrawny young adult, actually succeeds in injuring the Nightfury. Instead of killing it however, Hiccup takes it captive. In captivity he realizes the best thing to do is not to kill this dragon and be accepted into the village…
But to rebel against tradition, and train it.
Things I Liked
Hiccup is the cliche unlikely hero. He is skinny, small, and weak in terms of physical strength. On the outside, he is pathetic and show to be so. Like many heros though, his strength comes from his heart. Hiccup is different from the other vikings. He is different in that he embodies principles the other vikings ignore or lack. Compassion, mercy, and more are just some values he embodies. When he realizes what the vikings are doing is wrong, he stands against it. Even when he realizes he will be alienated for doing so. This was good to see.
Hiccup and his father have an extremely strained relationship, because his father is trying to make him a viking. Even though he clearly is not made for that job. Through the movie we see the struggle turn from rejection, to denial, to acceptance. Not based upon rebellion, but upon realization of fact.
There is also a strong message of being willing to forgive one another. Both sides have to forgive offenses and wrongs done against one another, and both are willing to forgive and move on. Astrid is a friend who sticks with Hiccup, even when everyone else has turned their back. Themes of loyalty, camaraderie, and sacrifice are all present as well.
Things I Didn’t Like
Hiccup disrespects his father many times in disagreements. He hides the fact he is keeping a dragon alive and training it, because he knows his father would disapprove. On the one hand, we know what would happen if his father found out, but on the other, deceit is not a biblical trait to ever be approved of. This double edged sword is definitely something, if watching with younger kids, which should be discussed afterwards. The lack of trust is apparent between Hiccup and his father, and it is not an enjoyable thing to watch.
Crude humor is prevalent in the movie. References to “undies” and messing them are made. Other times the posterior is mentioned in an attempt to elicit a few laughs from the younger audience. Hiccup’s mother’s breastplate is given to him for use as a helmet. Many of the young teen vikings make comments which imply actions of love making, and hit on each other, both verbally and physically. Astrid kisses Hiccup a few times.
While there is no human death seen in the movie, I think it is worth mentioning some of the battle scenes between dragons and humans can be intense for the younger audience. There is a huge dragon which is the equivalent of the Star Wars Rancor, so be sure to take that into consideration when watching it with your kids.
“It is not so much what you look like, but it is the inside he can’t stand. The point is, stop trying so hard to be something you’re not.” ~Gobber~
“I just wanna be like you guys!” ~Hiccup~
The overarching theme of this film is about finding a place. Hiccup isn’t like the other vikings, and we see throughout the movie how that causes strife and frustration as he tries to fit himself into that box. If anything can be taken away from this movie, it is to “be yourself”.
Now, that theme is a dangerous one to be sure. We’ve seen many films of the past show rebellion, justification, and more all in the name of “being yourself”. The Little Mermaid anyone? So what makes this one different? This message not only takes a disadvantage in the physical sense, but goes deeper and addresses the heart. Hiccup doesn’t want to rebel against his father, we watch him over and over strive to fit in and be like his dad. Which results in disaster after disaster. The difference is, Hiccup act not in a way of selfishness, but in a matter of conscience. He acts according to conviction, not tradition. Which is rare, and applaudable.
This movie has its flaws too. There is disrespect to adults, some crude humour, and a bit of teen innuendo. These should be recognized and not dismissed by any means.
“How to Train your Dragon” reminds and teaches us just because something is done the same way year after year, doesn’t make it right. And if one stands against something according to principle, not self, it is worth fighting against indeed, no matter what the cost.