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“How to Train Your Dragon” — A Look Back

Nicholas Biglin, Staff Writer

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When most people hear someone mention How to Train Your Dragon, they think of two kids’ movies and don’t give them a second thought. Yet, upon closer inspection, one realizes How to Train Your Dragon is much more than that.

How to Train Your Dragon was released in 2010 and was loosely based off the 2003 book of the same name. It tells the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a young Viking boy who wants to slay a dragon in order to prove his worth as a member of the tribe.

During a dragon attack on his village, he shoots down a Night Fury, an extremely rare and dangerous species of dragon. In a surprising turn of events, he befriends the dragon and names it Toothless. However, the village soon discovers Hiccup’s friendship with Toothless, prompting Hiccup’s father Stoick (Gerard Butler), the chief of the village, to use his son to find the dragon’s nest to defeat the dragon once and for all.

As the vikings approach the nest and begin to attack it, they wake the Red Death, a monstrous dragon larger than the rest. Hiccup arrives and rescues Toothless, and together they save the day. Although Hiccup loses his leg during the fight and faces almost certain death, he wakes up at Berk to find himself a hero, with vikings and dragons living together in peace.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 was released in 2014. Five years after the events of the first film, the dragons and vikings are living together in harmony, and Hiccup is now 20. His father is pressuring him to become chieftain, but Hiccup is unsure.

While Hiccup and Toothless are exploring, they meet a dragon trapper who is working for a man named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), an insane conqueror who is amassing an army of dragons under his control. Hiccup warns Stoick about the invasion, and he orders preparations for defending Berk to be made.

Hiccup, on the other hand, believes he can end the conflict without lost lives, and flies off to talk to him. Drago then learns of Berk’s dragons and attacks the nest, where it is revealed he has an Alpha dragon that can take hypnotic control of the other dragons.

Hiccup tries to convince Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders Toothless to kill him. Toothless fires a blast at him, but Stoick steps in the way and is killed. Drago then flies to Berk with the adult dragons. Hiccup and the others fly back to Berk on baby dragons to find that Drago has conquered the village and their dragons. Hiccup confronts Toothless, and releases him from Drago’s control.

Together, Toothless and Hiccup defeat the Alpha, allowing Toothless to assume the role of Alpha and free the dragons from Drago’s control. Drago escapes and Berk repairs itself, knowing themselves to be safe with their dragons.

The first How to Train Your Dragon film blew my mind when I first saw it as a small child, and it still holds up as an amazing film today. People often write it off as “just some kids’ movie,” but that is a huge mistake, as it is truly so much more than that.

It tells a deep and poignant story about friendship and family. It is an epic tale that can be appreciated by all ages, and doesn’t shy away from darker moments. Stoick disowns his own son at one point, which is a heavy topic for a movie that is supposedly aimed at a younger age group.

Another defining moment is when Hiccup loses his foot. Children’s movies don’t usually contain such high stakes or lasting consequences. Because of this, it frustrates me when people refer to How to Train Your Dragon as just another children’s film franchise. I cannot impress upon you how much deeper than that this movie is.

Technically, the movie is nearly flawless. The animation is stunning, and the world it creates is intriguing. The idea of Vikings and dragons living together in this Norse world interested me as a young child, and still does.

The greatest thing about these movies, however, is the score, composed by John Powell, notable for his partnerships with the legendary Hans Zimmer (best known for the Dark Knight Trilogy, The Lion King, and Pirates of the Caribbean). Powell’s exciting and epic score contains immense emotional depth.The Nordic style matches the movie’s world perfectly by incorporating instruments such as fiddles, bagpipes, and harpsichords.

I loved the first How to Train Your Dragon, so I was hopeful when I saw the second one. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. It surpassed all of my expectations by far, going above and beyond anything I was anticipated.

Later, I found that I was alone in the opinion that the second film was better than the first. However, I still think the second is greater; it is a darker, more mature film, as writer/director Dean DeBlois, wanted to create a follow-up similar in tone to The Empire Strikes Back.

He built the world in new and interesting ways, digging deeper into the premise of Vikings and dragons. He introduced new characters and built upon the old ones. He did everything a sequel should do, and it shows. It is amazing.

One of the things that elevates this movie for me is the villain. Drago is truly terrifying and creepy, and to me, having a human villain is better than just the Red Death from the first film. One could argue that Stoick was the antagonist from the first film, but he wasn’t truly evil in the way that Drago is.

Furthermore, the death of Stoick is truly gut-wrenching. Again, this shows How to Train Your Dragon’s willingness to take risks and delivery of a great experience for doing so.

I look forward to the release of the third film, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third and final How to Train Your Dragon film. It is slated for release in February 2019. I am beyond excited for this film. From the teaser and clip we’ve seen so far, the animation looks beautiful, the music is amazing (as always), and the greatness we have come to expect from the story, characters, and writing looks as though it will be returning in full force.

I believe that with this final installment, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise will cement itself as one of cinema’s all-time greats, and I look forward to its conclusion.

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