What I really should be doing at this moment is working on a review for Beautiful Redemption (and then Dangerous Dream and Dangerous Creatures), but I cannot concentrate on it. I am too overwhelmed with emotion. So instead, here is another rant. I know, it’s probably going to be a lot like the rant I did after watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and you can feel free to skip it. Or you can keep you reading. This one is going to be written more from the depression side than the rage side (though I’m entirely sure there will be a few rage-filled moments). So, here I go. Before you move on, know 2 things:
1. This will container spoilers for the film How To Train Your Dragon 2
2. There may be swearing. I’m not sure how much or what level because I don’t swear as much when I’m depressed as I do when I’m angry, but it still may happen.
Knowing those things, you may proceed.
Let me start with a little background. When I saw the preview for How To Train You Dragon, I wasn’t overly excited. It looked cute, but it wasn’t something I was dying to see. But it was playing at the drive-in with another film that looked interesting, so I went, I saw, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. It was epic and amazing and it is now easily one of my top 5 animated movies ever. Maybe even one of my top 5 movies period. I have watched that movie more times in the few years it has been out than I have watch Beauty And The Beast (another favorite of mine) in my entire lifetime. Hiccup is brave, Toothless is adorable, and the pair is an unbeatable match. So, when I heard about a sequel, I was ecstatic. Had you asked me at the beginning of the year, what movie I was most excited to see this year, I would have said How To Train Your Dragon 2. Sure, I was excited about The Lego Movie, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and even Veronica Mars (though I would have been a close call between VMars & HTTYD2), but this movie was it. My excitement for this film reached a level I didn’t know was possible. I impatiently awaited the release. I literally bounced with joy every time I saw the preview. I sat in the theater waiting for it to start just hoping it would be half as good as the previous one.
And that’s really the hard thing for me, but take out the few things I have issues with and it was amazing. The animation is gorgeous, the characters have all grown up a bit, and the story was pretty interesting…at least up until the part that I had problems with because I more or less stopped watching there and starting crying. Seriously crying, like shoulders shaking, gasping for air, ugly cry.
But, before that point, this movie had so much promise and it was living up to it. Even the bit I saw of the end through the tears was great. Toothless gets even more epic with the blueness and defeats the evil alpha. But it’s all overshadowed by that moment that kills me. Okay, people, the spoilers are next, so if you don’t want to read them, leave and leave now.
The story starts out well enough, with the village playing Dragon Races and Stoick trying to convince Hiccup it’s time for him to take over as Chief of the village. Hiccup is naturally resistant to this and goes off exploring, coming across a group of dragon trappers who collect dragons for a man named Drago Bludvist who is supposedly a dragon master. He escapes and flies back to Berk to warn his father and the village. Stoick wants to close the village and more or less hide because Drago is a crazy asshat who can’t be reasoned with. Hiccup wants to find Drago and try to reason with him. Stoick says no and Hiccup disobeys and flies off with Toothless. He finds a dragon nest and meets his mother and the Alpha dragon that protects the nest. He learns about his mother and the past and all that nonsense. And then Drago attacks the dragon nest. And all hell (and my emotions) break loose.
The dragons and the Alpha, along with Hiccup and his gang of compatriots and his dad and Gobber go out to face Drago and defend their nest. Fighting happens, but they are more or less winning, until Drago brings out his own Alpha. A new part of lure is introduced here, stating that a dragon must obey the Alpha. He has no choice and no will and he must do as he is commanded. We will get to my issues with this momentarily, but first, the death scene(s). The two Alphas fight for dominance, with Drago’s Alpha winning. This is the first scene I had issues with. Drago’s Alpha, who I am going to refer to as DA from this point on, gets the other Alpha, who I am just going to refer to as Alpha, onto his side and rams him with his tusks. This is the only shot we get of this “death.” I say that in quotation marks because I don’t understand the death. DA ramming Alpha is clearly the killing hit, yet when he pulls back there is not blood coming from Alpha, no blood on the ground around Alpha, and no blood on DA’s tusks. You know the tusks that were just rammed inside Alpha? So how exactly does Alpha die? And it’s heavily implied he dies because Hiccup’s mom is super-sad and we never see him again. Does he die from the shame of being pushed over? I realize that this is a kids movie so they can’t really show the gored remains with having to bump the rating to PG-13, but there in lies my point. If you want to make the film adult enough to have this kind of death, then at least have the balls to show the effects.
Alpha’s death was heartbreaking enough, but they don’t stop there. Hiccup flies down to try to talk some sense into Drago, which is a useless endeavor. Drago commands DA to use his “Alpha mind control” abilities to take control of Toothless and attack Hiccup. Toothless fights momentarily before giving in and relinquishing control to DA. From there on, things deteriorate rather quickly. Hiccup tries to talk Toothless out of his haze, but is unsuccessful. Toothless fires a plasma fireball thing-y at Hiccup but Stoick jumps in the way and bye bye Stoick the Vast. Toothless snaps out of it but Hiccup pushes him away in grief. Drago captures Toothless and rides off.
From this point on, my ability to recall the film dwindles considerably because I stopped paying attention. I feel into a short rage about how all the character deaths lately piss me off and quickly fell into a sobbing depression. And I mean that literally. I truly spent that moment and everyone after it sobbing until after it ended. I have been told that this was a wholly irrational reaction to a fictional character death and I see that side, I do. But that’s only part of the reason for my depression. At that moment, all I could think about was how this asshats at Dreamworks were ruining one of my favorite stories and taking these characters I love like real people on a journey they never should have gone on. That was another reason I was sobbing. I love these characters. LOVE. They feel real in a lot of ways even though I logically know they are fictional. Haven’t you ever felt that kind of connection with fictional characters? Be it from a film or a show or a novel, that soul-deep bond with a character? I have, on several occasions and the first film and to have the film makers make this mockery of that love devastated me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I make no secret of the fact that stories need to be character driven for me to truly get into them and this had that in spades, and then brutally ripped out my heart.
This was worse than Gwen Stacey’s death in so many ways. At least with The
Awful Amazing Spider-Man 2, the actions leading to Gwen’s death were believable. Gwen was stubborn and insists on helping, regardless of what Peter says, so it makes a certain sense that she would follow him into danger and die. The Green Goblin was off his rocker and would have no qualms causing the situation leading to her death or killing her himself. But I have an impossibly difficult time believing Toothless would attack Hiccup. I can’t. My brain refuses to acknowledge that it is even a possibility. Toothless is completely loyal to Hiccup, as Hiccup is to him and the idea that Toothless would attack him is utterly preposterous to me. That would never happen. Ever. I don’t care what kind of argument you throw at me about the Alpha and that bullshit, just fucking no!
THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN! Not ever, not in any reality, in any lifetime, in any convoluted plot. Never. Toothless would never hurt Hiccup. Period. Is that irrational? Fuck off, I don’t care. I just don’t believe it and if I don’t believe it, how am I supposed to connect with the story?
This is my main issue with the film and from the comments I’ve been reading on the almighty interwebs, no one else really gives a damn. This bothers no one but me and a handful of others. And I’m at a complete loss as to why. How does this not bother you? If I hear one more comment about how it was obvious one of the parents was going to die or how it makes it more realistic, I’m going to go on a murderous rampage.
A: Just because you can feel it coming doesn’t mean it’s the right move for the film to make. As with everything else, I hope that the filmmakers are about such petty shenanigans.
B: Why is death realistic? Killing everyone off is no more truly realistic that letting everyone ride off into the sunset. I hate how the term “realistic” has become a synonym for “death” when that isn’t at all what makes things life-like! Life is a mix of the good and the bad, not strictly either or.
I think I’ve harped a lot on the fact that the point is to take the journey with the characters, but I’ve had a lot of people who tell me that this type of reaction is plain-out stupid and so I feel compelled to explain again. Maybe I’m different? For me, part of the beauty of any form of storytelling is it introduces you to new “people” and allows you to go on an adventure with them. In order to care about how good or bad this adventure goes, we have to first care about the characters, yes? Is it such as stretch to say you start to love them? You celebrate their triumphs and lament their defeats and experience every range of emotion as they do.
There have to be some fangirls out there who understand this concept? Supernatural fans, imagine Dean dying. Really dying, no cross-roads deal, angel intervention, or demon resurrection, but truly dying. How do you feel? Depression? Rage? Then you understand. Furthermore, why are you angry? Because Dean’s dead obviously, but maybe also at the writer’s for bringing us to this point? For not only allowing it to happen, but actively seeking it out because the writer has all the power? They could have steered the story in a different direction, but this is the path they chose and you have to live with it. You understanding my anger a bit more now? Sorry for all the SN references, but it’s a fandom I understand well enough to make analogies.
ANYWAY, back to my original point of being angry (and sad). This has put me in an awful position. I want to like the movie. I do, but I don’t think I can. How am I supposed to just get over it? How am I supposed to let it go? I don’t know how to do that! I don’t know how to not be affected by Stoick’s death at Toothless’s hands. And I’m not mad at Toothless but I’m furious at the writers and the producers and whoever else was involved in letting this get into the film. Does no one care about Stoick? I can’t be the only one!
Okay, I realize I’ve started talking in circles now, but it’s a product of how upset I am by this. Now, a full 24 hours after seeing the film, I am still at a loss for how to move past it. This movie broke my heart and spit in my face and I…just…
I kinda feel like I’ve rambled and not cleared anything up at all, but I feel a bit better putting my thoughts out into the universe. Maybe someone else out there feels the same as me and will know they aren’t alone after reading this. It is okay to have intense reactions to films. It is not stupid to get attached to the characters and wish for their well-being. If I’m being honest, I think I will try to watch it again and see if I can let it go and that alone is a testament to how much I love Toothless because I have no intention of ever watching Sherlock Holmes 2 or The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ever again. But I want to like this. There was so much epic amazing-ness in it and as much as I’d like to hate it on principle, I’d rather like it some. Maybe I can get over it? Maybe? I’ll try again, but not in the immediate future and I make no promises as to the reaction. I love Toothless enough to give it one more shot, but after that I’m done. Let’s hope it’s at least a tiny bit better and I don’t end up crying again.