How to Revisit Your Dragon
The first time I watched How to Train Your Dragon, on its cinema release in 2010, I found it an adequate, second-tier cartoon adventure with good visuals and voices.
The second time I saw it, a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed and appreciated it quite a bit more, taking in more of the terrific score and embracing the central relationship between boy and dragon.
There are a couple of reasons I decided now was the time to revisit the film. Partly it’s because it was on the telly, and a lot has to do with the sequel coming out in a few weeks. But mostly it’s because my good friends Steven and Nathanael both adore it, and even though their opinions can occasionally be, shall we say, special, I needed to see what the fuss was about.
The third time I watched it, today, I fell in love with it.
I already knew it was a film about acceptance, but didn’t quite grasp how deeply it ran; between Hiccup and Toothless, obviously, but also Hiccup and the village, humans and dragons and especially between Hiccup and his father. More than that, it’s about learning to accept yourself and be true to who you are.
I knew it looked and sounded fantastic. On top of some of the most exquisite character design, facial expressions and body language you’ll see in an animated film, several jaw-dropping flight and fight sequences and John Powell’s majestic score are the grace notes that take it from great to wondrous.
But the element I really hadn’t appreciated enough was a tight screenplay where every little detail counts. A central section where Hiccup and Toothless bond intercuts with Hiccup learning how to fight dragons, and what I had dismissed as repetition was actually a smart link between the training and their burgeoning alliance. Developing, as friendships are wont to do, from initial reserve into growing trust and love, it’s one of cinema’s greats, up there with Andy and Red, Frodo and Sam, Woody and Buzz.
Time and again I was struck by the combination of the animation, the music, the emotion and the thematic resonance, and several times I had to brush away a manly tear. How to Train Your Dragon is a wonderful film, and Steven and Nat were right about it.
To paraphrase the aforementioned Red from The Greatest Movie Ever Made ™, I hope I'm with them to see the sequel. I hope to see my friends and shake their hands. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.